Tips on Getting Kids to Bed (and Keeping Them in Bed)

by Candi Wingate

Bedtime can be a nightly battle of wills. You want your kids to go to bed on a schedule so that they aren’t cranky the next day.  Your kids want to stay up late.  What can you do to peacefully get your kids to go to bed at their scheduled bedtime?  And what can you do to help them stay tucked in bed?

BEFORE BEDTIME

• Ensure that your kids' rooms are dark, quiet, comfortable, and 68 - 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

• If possible, ensure that your home (not just the kids' rooms) is the same as described above (dark, quiet, etc.) so that your kids don't have a major transition from a brightly lit living room that invites fun activity to a dark bedroom that invites sleep.

• Establish and consistently carry out a winding-down-oriented pre-bedtime ritual, lasting approximately a half hour, which may include activities such as pottying, bathing, reading a book, cuddling, etc. (note that television, video games, etc. are not on this list).

• Do not allow your kids to consume sugars, starches, caffeine, or more than 8 oz. of fluids before bedtime.

• Inspire your kids to look forward to bedtime as a bonding, nurturing experience with you.

• Ensure your babysitter knows the rules as well; so you can stick with your routine, even when you are not there.

BEDTIME

• Tuck your kids in bed, tell them that you love them, give them hugs and kisses, and state that you will see them in the morning.

• Ensure that "lights-out" occurs at the same time every night (Getting your kids on a regular sleep cycle-consistent sleep and wake times-is essential for peaceful bedtime routines).

• While it may seem heartless or difficult to do, walk away from your kids’ rooms after lights-out even though your kids may be begging for "five more minutes."

NIGHT TIME (AFTER BEDTIME)

• Take your kids back to bed if they get up during the night.

• Comfort your kids, but keep them in bed, if they wake up terrified from a nightmare (you may cuddle your kids and speak reassuringly to help them return to sleep post-nightmare but be watchful for behaviors that twist your arm to stay with them rather than just seeking comfort after the nightmare).

• Deny your kids' requests to get up in the middle of the night unless there is a true need to get up (i.e., having to potty). Then, ensure that your kids are back to bed as quickly as possible.

• If there are frequent requests to get up in the middle of the night for a specific need (i.e. your kids need to potty a lot at night), consider a medical examination to ensure that there are no underlying medical concerns (If there are not, then perhaps your kids really don't need to potty that frequently at night but are just using that excuse to get up often. If so, deny those requests).

• Deny your kids' requests to sleep in your bed with you.

• Don't sleep in your kids' beds with them - not even when they beg you to after they’ve had nightmares.

• Don't allow your kids to sleep late in the morning: maintaining the regular sleep cycle (consistent bed and wake times) is essential.

By following these tips, you can minimize nightly struggles to get your kids to bed and keep them there. Eventually, the struggles will fade as your kids come to accept the rules, and bedtime will become routinely peaceful.

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