Bedtime Resistance

Getting your child to settle down and go to sleep is a very common problem in young children. Almost 20 percent of kids aged one through three and approximately 10 percent of children aged four and five have these sleep problems. These problems—and the lack of sleep that comes with them—are often linked to several other problem behaviors, and they affect how the family functions and frequently negatively affect a parent's health.

The first step in handling bedtime resistance is to provide your child with a bedtime routine. Nighttime routines are critical to helping your child feel like you are a safe harbor. These should last about 30 to 40 minutes and can include taking a bath, brush ing teeth, reading stories, talking in a darkened bedroom, saying prayers, singing gentle songs, and so on. You should also choose whether the bedtime routine includes an open or closed door when you leave, whether the lights are on or off during this time, and other things of this sort. You must be consistent whenever possible—sticking to the prescribed routine creates a safe feeling in your child. You must decide all these factors ahead of time and then tell your child what the rules are. Explain that if he does not stick with the rules, you will cut short the routine for that night (leaving before the time you agreed you would stay in the room, reading fewer books, etc.). A security object (also referred to as a snuggley, lovey, comfort toy, etc.) makes a wonderful transition object that can bring enormous comfort to your young child. A security object is a healthy tool for your child and should be encouraged and never ridiculed. He can use this security object when he is or feels alone, when he needs to find his own comfort, or when he needs a special companion. Your child's security object can be an indispensable part of the bedtime routine. For example, you can say to your toddler, "Go and get your special friend and hug him while we read. Then when I leave the room, you can hug him instead of me until I return in the morning."

If you decide that your child's bedtime routine includes your staying with him until he is asleep, be sure to lie down on or beside his bed fully clothed and on top of the covers. This will allow him to understand that you are merely staying until your agreed on departure time and that you do not plan to stay all night. Do not promise or imply otherwise. If you do, he might feel that you have abandoned him if he wakes and you are not there.

You must make it clear to your child that after you have finished your bedtime routine you view it as unacceptable if your child leaves his bedroom, turns on the light to play, or wanders around the house. Of course the parent can explain to the child that in the case of an emergency or sudden onset of illness, these rules do not apply. However, it is best to incorporate requests like "I want a drink of water" or "I have to go to the bathroom" into the nighttime routine. This will avoid the child's ability to manipulate or control the situation after the parent has said goodnight. Describe to your child what a good sleeper is, and that you know that he can sleep through the night.

If your toddler deliberately wants to stay awake in his bed after you have completed your bedtime routine, then that is his choice and you need to honor it. You can successfully tell a child to get into bed and stay there, but you can never command him to fall asleep. He may want to make a point to you that he is in charge of his body by humming, singing, sitting up, whistling, or otherwise insisting that he will not go to sleep. If he does this, just close the door so that his transgressions do not unnecessarily disturb the rest of the family. He will fall asleep soon enough, probably earlier if he is convinced that you are not bothered by his noises. To help him along, you may want to use a reward system, perhaps stickers for each night he does well that can be "cashed in" at a predetermined point for a special treat.

Confident Kids

Confident Kids

Although nobody gets a parenting manual or bible in the delivery room, it is our duty as parents to try to make our kids as well rounded, happy and confident as possible. It is a lot easier to bring up great kids than it is to try and fix problems caused by bad parenting, when our kids have become adults. Our children are all individuals - they are not our property but people in their own right.

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