Many parents really don’t realize the importance of a bedtime routine, and I was one of them!
We got into a habit of sleeping when Maddie would “allow” us to, and spending many nights singing, reading, rocking, feeding, and even crawling into her little toddler bed with her if we thought it would speed her to sleep!
Which, by the way, has taught me that there’s nothing quite as “esteem boosting” as having a small child tell you to get out because you’re “broking the bed”! Sigh…
Why did we do all this…because it was easy…for the time being.
After many nights spent exhausted by the time we got her to bed, and missing out on quality time for ourselves, we started doing some research.
In the process, we learned not only what we could do to help her fall asleep faster, but how doing things the right way could improve Maddie’s quality of sleep and keep her healthy!
The Mistakes We Made at Bedtime
1. We were on the “no plan” plan for a long time!
We played it by ear, went with the flow of the day, and figured at the end of the day she’d be tired and go to sleep, right?
By seeing how the day played out, there was no schedule, no routine, and no security for Maddie. When else, if not when a child is going to sleep, do they need that comfort and security?
We were missing that, and aren’t the only ones!
Just like adults, children need a way to wind down at the end of the day. Just being tired doesn’t cut it, they need that “relax time” most adults seek from that quiet time after the kids go to bed, whether it be through reading a book, watching a favorite TV show, or a quiet cup of tea, you’re winding down for the night.
2.Our second big error when it came to bedtime…giving in!
Once we would leave the room, if she were to start crying for us, we’d come a running! Not because we thought she actually needed us there, but because it was easy.
It was easier to get her back to sleep than listen to the crying for any longer than we had to.
By responding every time like this we were sending Maddie the message that it wasn’t actually bedtime, or we weren’t convinced it was anyway…so why should she be?
The Process Of Introducing A Bedtime Routine
This was far harder than I thought it would be, especially since everything involved with her new routine (except for the actual going to bed part!) are things she loves!
The truth is, we were completely changing her daily routine. It never occurred to us that being on a “no-routine” routine, was still a routine!
Needless to say, such a big change caused a bit of a power struggle, but since I refuse to hand leadership over to my two year old, we held our ground and kept the end result in mind…Maddie sleeping soundly and having the comfort and security of bedtime being a positive experience each night.
The first few days were the hardest. When we’d turn off the lights and leave she would cry and scream louder than I ever knew was possible! Seriously, it was almost impressive!
But since we knew she was safe and wasn’t hurt, we waited.
We’d wait 2 minutes before going into her room, and would calm her down (which didn’t take much more than walking in like she wanted…little actress!), get her back into bed, then say goodnight again and leave.
Once we’d leave again the crying would start up for the second time, but this time we would wait 5 minutes (make sure you set a timer because it can feel like a lot longer!) before going in, again to simply get her back into bed and leave.
This was to send the message that we are not coming in for “one more story” or “one more George”, as much as she cries we will continue to put her back to bed because that is what it was time for.
We’d proceed to 7 minutes, then 10, and luckily would never make it past 10 before she’d figure out what was going on and go to sleep.
This happened 3 nights in a row, then there were 2 more nights where we had to go in at the 2 minute mark…and it was smooth sailing from then on!
How Sleep Affects Your Child’s Development
Just as you can feel the difference in the morning after a bad night’s sleep, so can your child.
Sleeping is when your body’s battery is given a chance to recharge, so if you don’t get that time in and are running on a low battery, you’re not completely functioning!
Maddie is always running, and I dont mean “busy”, I mean physically RUNNING! I can’t tell you the number of people that have called her the “Energizer Bunny” and tell me “I don’t know how you keep up with her!”, and my response is always “Neither do I!”
Operating on a low battery turns “fun running” into “destructive running”.
She still wants to move move move, but is too tired to actually do what she wants, or can’t focus enough to figure out what that is, which causes frustration for her, and us!
Each child will react to a lack of sleep differently, but any lack of sleep is never good. You can find some great information on how much sleep your child needs from the Sleep Foundation.
Our Bedtime Issues Have Come To An End!
Once we were able to take a step back and be honest about what was going on, that it wasn’t Maddie having trouble with her bedtime…it was US…it allowed us to get a plan in motion and stick to it!
Our bedtime routine is a solid one that not only happens in the same order daily, but at the same time (or as close as possible).
We eat dinner, take a bath, brush our teeth, and she is allowed to watch one episode of Curious George (her favorite) before we head to her room. We also will remind her halfway through the show that “after George, we’re going to read a story” so there’s no “just one more!” arguments.
Once we get to her room, the lights are already dimmed so she knows what’s coming, we read a story, give our kisses, and it’s lights out.
What kind of bedtime issues have you had to tackle with your children?
How did you handle it? Comment Below!
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