My daughter just turned 3. But she’s quickly learning how to draaag out her bedtime. I need a hug (and how can you say “no” to that?), I need a drink of water, I have to go pee pee. It’s easily adding another 15 minutes to the bedtime routine. Which is why I was so happy to see this article in Psychology Today about how to have a successful bedtime. Enjoy!
By Kevin D. Arnold, Ph.D., ABPP, is the Director of the Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy of Greater Columbus and a Clinical Faculty member in the Dept. of Psychiatry at Ohio State University.
Putting Your Children to Bed: A Win-Win Proposition
Probably one of the most challenging things parents face is putting our children to bed…..and helping them stay there. When they are babies, they don’t have a routine way of sleeping. But, as they get older, around six months or so, they start to sleep with a regular pattern, several times each day. By the time children reach elementary school, they usually go to bed, fall asleep, and sleep al night.
But, some children do not go to bed so easily. They fight sleep and get up again and again. They become crankier and crankier, as we become more and more frustrated. It’s a recipe for disaster. We can easily forget that this exhausted, out-of-control tornado running down the hall is really just a very tired, little angel in disguise.
Four Tips to Help Children Stay in Bed
1. Don’t give negative attention: Parents can become as lost as their children in the tussle over going to sleep. When we lecture or raise our voice (“I said, ‘GO TO BED!'”), we might unintentionally reward our children with negative attention. I myself, even as a psychologist, must tap into my “wise” mind and remember the rule “All attention is attention.” Children thrive on attention, so when parents pay negative attention to getting out of bed, they can accidently teach their children to keep getting up.
2. Separate your child from the behaviors: Sometimes my frustration gets the best of me, and I only see my children misbehaving. I forget to see them as the little children they really are. We all can be better parents when we remind ourselves that our little boy or girl is the baby we rocked to sleep not-so-long-ago.
I use two strategies. First, I pick up my children and rock them the way I did when they were young. Not only are our children reminded of the calm they felt as babies, but so are we as parents. It reverses the cycle of frustration, promoting calm instead.
Second, I refocus my thoughts by silently reciting the lyrics to “I Loved Her First,” by Heartland: “But I loved her (him) first and I held her (him) first, And a place in my heart will always be hers (his), From the first breath she (he) breathed, When she (he) first smiled at me, I knew the love of a father runs deep.” I focus my mind on the love I feel for my children. I shift my thoughts away from the out-of-bed behaviors, filling my mind with ideas about teaching my children to calm down and fall asleep.
3. Pull, don’t push: In many martial arts, when someone attacks you, the idea is to pull their attack toward you and control their energy. The principal is also true for putting children to bed. When my children fight sleep, I do not fight back (push), I find some way to connect to them (pull). Often, they are not tired-being physically active in the winter is hard to do-so they are not physically ready to sleep. Instead of lecturing them about sleeping, keep them up a little longer by reading or playing with them. But-stay in their room while they tire themselves out.
To see more of this Psychology Today article, click HERE.