Dealing with a child that resists bedtime happens to probably all parents at one time or another. When every evening bedtime becomes a battle, it’s time to evaluate what may be the cause. It’s important to understand that a child may have a difficult time relaxing at night, due to several reasons. However, it’s good to know that many of these reasons are under the control of the parent. This means you can make changes immediately to improve the nightly bedtime ritual that ends with your child happily in bed and asleep.
How Much Sleep Do Children Need
Children at different ages need different average amounts of daily sleep, according to Rex Forehand and Nicholas Long, authors of “Parenting the Strong-Willed Child.” At age 2, they need about 11.5 hours of sleep, plus a 90-minute nap. At age 3, they need about 11 hours of sleep, plus a one hour nap. Ages 4 to 5 need about 12 hours at night, without a nap. Ages 6 to 7 need 10 to 11 hours at night, without a nap. The Kids Health website reports that school-age children need about 10 hours of sleep every night. Not getting enough sleep can cause behavioral problems, poor grades and lead to weight problems, according to the University of Michigan Health System.
The amount of television your child watches during the day and evening can contribute to problems at bedtime. In a 1999 study reported in the “Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics,” results showed that the more television a child watched, the more sleep problems the child had. This significantly increased with children who had televisions in their bedroom. To promote better bedtime habits, the University of Michigan Health System recommends no more than two hours of television a day, not to let your child watch any TV near bedtime and not to give your child a television for his bedroom.
Children thrive on routine and predictability. Not having a bedtime routine and a set bedtime creates problems with children going to bed, according to Forehand and Long. Create a routine that calms your child. Make it one you can stick to every night without rushing. Also, include time for the expected stall tactics, such as your child asking for a sip of water or needing to go to the bathroom again. This may mean starting the bedtime routine 30 to 60 minutes before the actual bedtime. An example of a bedroom routine would be bath time, teeth brushing, reading a book, getting a sip of water, going potty, singing a song and then into bed.
Fear of the Dark
The bedroom needs to feel safe for a child to fall asleep. Don’t ignore fears or feel that your child’s fear of the dark is ridiculous. The fear of the dark is a normal part of childhood and shows a healthy active imagination. Instead, do what you can to make the bedroom safe, and employ “magical monster spray” if needed. Magical monster spray is colored water in a spray bottle that parents use to protect a child’s bedroom from monsters.
Rewards and Consequences
Develop rewards and consequences geared toward your child’s likes and dislikes and age. Immediate rewards tend to work best for younger children. For example, if your child gets ready for bed easily and without stalling, she gets two books read before bedtime. If she doesn’t, then she loses one or both books before bed. Other reward ideas include a sticker chart that, when filled, gets traded in for a special outing or allows your child to select her pajamas for the night. A consequence of stalling may be that you select the pajamas.