Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bedtime Boogie

There is a rhythm to the night, a boogie if you will. To dance the dance to sleepy town is a wonderful thing, unless your bedtime boogie partner stops their motions and opts for hysterical screams and protests instead. Think less Dancing with the Stars and more World War III. If you have a preschooler the odds are you have experienced trouble getting your little one nighty night. Many parents deal with some type of sleep problems every evening, including trouble getting to sleep, frequent waking in the middle of the night, and having irregular sleep patterns. Every child is different and remember there are no right or wrong ways to put your little guys to sleep. If you and your child are happy with your current routine then you should stick to it, but it is not good if it turns into a struggle to put your child to bed. This especially applies if the tyke gets overly frustrated in the process, strongly resists being put to bed or if your little one is waking up so much that they or other family members end up not getting adequate sleep.

Helpful Hints

Here are some tips from parents and experts proven to help prevent problems at bedtime. The number one piece of advice is to develop a bedtime routine that you follow closely each night. Children love security and a routine can give structure. The routine can include taking a bath, brushing teeth, saying prayers, talking, and reading a book. A good way to end the routine is to read a book or story after your child is tucked into bed. You can warn that bedtime is near after the story is finished and then end the routine by turning the light off and saying goodnight. Remind them not to leave their bed until morning. Ignore any further requests or questions. Consider putting a night light in your child's room or having a special lovey or blanket that helps to smooth the transition to night.

Sleep Tight

Once your child has been put to bed, you should be strict about the rule of not leaving the bedroom. If they get up and come out, quickly return them to their room and give a gentle but firm reminder to sleep in their own bed. Ignore all protests or requests and keep interactions with your sleepy town warrior to a minimum. If they continue to leave the room give a warning that you will have to close the door. You should follow up on this warning if your child keeps leaving the room. Stand outside the door and let them know that you will open the door again if they get back in bed and stay there. You should also consider closing the bedroom door if there is more crying or protesting.

The Excuse Monster

Excuses like to lurk around at bedtime like a monster under the bed. This monster causes thirst, hunger, and a number of bathroom trips. The best way to deal with the Excuse Monster is to stand your ground. Once you realize that all of your child's basic needs have been met, practice standing firm with one simple phrase, "It's time to go to bed." You may have to say this 20 times, but eventually your little one will grow weary and the Excuse Monster will hopefully be vanquished.

Sleep Town Bound

While the first few nights of this treatment may be difficult and your child will probably cry and protest, they will quickly learn how to fall asleep on their own and sleep through the night. Other steps you can take to help with this process is to cut back on daytime naps and consider a later bedtime, since your child is less likely repeatedly wake up if they are tired. And remember to praise your child when they sleep through the night, stay in their own room or go to bed without protesting.

Night Night Right

Experts say children usually have bedtime problems because they are trying to test your limits or because of poor sleep habits. Some say these protests or problems are rarely caused by real fears, but you should comfort and reassure your child if they are truly afraid. In Banishing Bedtime Blues, Chick Moorman talks about helping your child conquer their bedtime fears.

Moorman says for some kids getting out of bed is related to fear. The may have just had a nightmare or remember one from the evening before. Perhaps they are scared of the dark or of being alone. Perhaps they feel insecure when you are out of sight. If fear is the issue, Moorman suggests asking your child, "What would help you feel safer?" Tell them that one of your main roles as a parent is to help them feel safe. Create a plan together. This could be turning on a fan if they are afraid of noises or turning on a light if they are afraid of the dark. Leave the door open if they are insecure or provide a comforting teddy bear to increase feelings of security. Perhaps you could allow the family dog to sleep in your child's room. One parent agreed to check on the child every half hour, "So you'll know I'm here," he told his daughter.

Bedtime Groove

Getting your bedtime ritual into a groove may not be easy, but it is possible. Not all techniques work for all children, but the key is to hang in for the long haul. Try new and different ways to create a pleasing environment that promotes sleep. By staying consistent and sticking to the security of a routine, you will hopefully be well on your way to dancing a beautiful boogie all the way to Sleepy Town.