You can stop laughing now!! I know lots of people begrudge bedtime if they have a child that struggles with the bedtime ritual. I have had people flat out laugh at me when I have suggested making bedtime fun. How can you do that if your child resists the whole idea of bedtime? It is possible.
A few months ago, our son went through a period where he tested every single “trick” and tool I have to encourage an increased night sleep. I was beginning to feel like the biggest hypocrite out there. I then discovered the magic combination that worked for us.
The first obstacle that I needed to overcome was the complete distaste I was getting for bedtime. I was not enjoying it at all. A few weeks after we transitioned our little man into his big boy bed he began refusing to stay in his bed. He would run around trying to get our attention. When that did not work then the tears and tantrums began. This made bedtime later than he could tolerate which meant several night wakings. Yikes, that was not in my personal sleep plan!
Let the brainstorming begin! We began a family hug ritual. After Daddy finished the bath routine they would hide on Mommy. I then go on the hunt for the boys and we end with an awesome family hug ritual. We were all happy and willing to participate in the bedtime routine.
The second obstacle I had to overcome was the adults being in control of the routine. Our son is like most 3-year-olds and he wants to be independent. “I do it myself!!” So we began the next change in our routine. After family hugs, Daddy reads 3 stories and then the little man climbs into bed and “reads” his own stories. Then he either drifts off to sleep on his own before picking up a book or he will look at a book until we turn off the light a few minutes later.
Now bedtime is a blissful time in our house and the night wakings have diminished immensely. Let’s be honest, the little guy is potty trained so there are times when he needs to make a trip to the “bathroom”. He waits in his bed until his clock goes off in the morning. He has a toddler clock that shines when he can get out of bed. He then comes into our room and says “Morning!” I actually wake up refreshed and ready to start my day.
You may still think that this is not possible in your home. I strongly believe it is. Here are a few things that may help improve bedtime at your house as well.
- The actual bedtime is not negotiable but parts of the routine are negotiable. You can offer choices throughout the routine. For example: what pajamas they will wear; what books will be read; if they will walk or hop into the bed; or they can pick a special activity.
- Bedtime should be clear and consistent. A visual chart can help remind your child of the steps that are involved without you having to nag about it. If the bedtime ritual is changing your child will be confused. The added bonus to a consistent bedtime routine is that it helps your child naturally increase the bodies natural production of melatonin which helps them sleep!!
- Bedtime routines need to be long enough to prepare your child for sleep, but not too long or it will cause them to be overtired. The ideal length for bedtime is 20 to 45 minutes maximum.
- Even Toddlers can understand some clocks. There are many toddler clocks on the market. Personally, we have a Gro-Clock and our little man loves it. We turn it to the lowest setting for brightness at night but when it turns on in the morning the sun is bright and he knows he can get out of bed.
Here’s hoping you can bring some enjoyment back to bedtime with your young child. Hang in there! With persistence and consistency, things will improve.