Bedtime battles: Sleep secrets to help you avoid a scene with your child at night

Children are a bundle of energy during the day and you'd think after all the activity, bedtime would be a breeze.

But often it doesn't work that way.

You probably know the different types.

The ones who are not good sleepers, the ones who want to climb in bed with mom and dad, the negotiators who want to negotiate bedtime and the ones who stall asking for another drink of water. They're all part of the bedtime battle.

 Dr. Carrie Leff, a pediatrician, says teaching good bedtime habits actually starts when they're babies, as young as four months old. She says parents should put them to bed drowsy, but not asleep, because of something called object permanence.

"If they see you there when they're sleeping and then they wake up and you're gone, then they're missing you.  If you put them to bed when they're awake, but they're drowsy, they know you've already left so they won't be scared when they wake up."

She says it's never too late to start a good consistent bedtime routine, and the most important time to do that is between the ages of two and six when the kids tend to run the show in the house.

She suggests first making the bedroom a place your child likes.

What Dr. Leff says what you don't want to do is make the bedroom synonymous with trouble.

"It's important to try and use those timeout times, maybe just anywhere in the house rather than the bedroom, because a child doesn't want to be in the bedroom because they're consistently being punished in there."
   
Dr. Leff also says pick an age-appropriate bedtime and work backwards.

"You want to start by making the household a little bit more quiet even an hour before they start going to sleep. That means not riling them up, not chasing them around, not playing wrestling with dad, like an hour before sleep"

"Also, factor in time for bath, brushing the teeth, maybe a story or two, a 20-45 minute routine, but remember you set the limits," she said.

Then kiss them goodnight, and be on your way.

Other tips:

Keep electronics out of your kids' rooms.

Since caffeine can affect sleep, Dr. Leff says no caffeine after noon.

Consider installing dimmers in the bedroom. Also a dim light can make your child more comfortable.

If your child ultimately ends up in your bed do your best to take them back to their own bed and comfort them and make sure they're not scared of anything there.

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