Ten Tips to Winning Bedtime Battles

Parents, you know what we’re talking about when we say “bedtime battle.” It’s that struggle that happens when children don’t want to miss a thing and insist on staying up, not because they are not tired, but because, by nature, they are curious, energetic beings who often don’t know how to calm themselves. As parents, we don’t want to deter our children from wanting to explore, play and enjoy, but at a certain time, it’s time to say “it’s time” if we expect our children to rise refreshed and ready for another day of learning. How can you help your children be the best they can be the next day? Here are ten tips.

  1. Set a consistent time for bed. As we’ve said in other articles, children do best with structure. Knowing bedtime is coming can actually be a comfort to them as they feel secure in knowing what will happen next.
  2. Tell your children when bedtime is approaching. Children easily lose track of time, which is why it’s important to give reminders. Say things like, “Bedtime is in 30 minutes. You can play until then.”
  3. Set a pre-bedtime routine. Because children like structure, it’s important that they get physical signals as well as verbal indications that bedtime is coming. This is the time to get children changed, have them brush their teeth, cuddle with you, talk about their day, read a book with you, etc.
  4. Explain what will happen the next day and why we need sleep. This works especially well with older children who can understand the concept of time a little more. Talk about the things they will do at school and how important sleep is in helping them enjoy themselves.
  5. Give back rubs. We all like back rubs. Back rubs not only help relax the muscles, but they provide warm, physical touch that eases tension.
  6. Give a pre-bedtime bath. A bedtime bath can be used as part of a routine. However, at night, it’s important to limit the number of toys in the tub because you don’t want bath time to become one of stimulation. Let the warm water do its magic.
  7. Try warm milk. It really works because milk contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid that helps induce sleep. Couple this with warmth, which can decrease tension, and you might find your children are more ready for bed.
  8. Keep your cool. If you get upset with your children or engage in a struggle, they will feel your tension and become tense as well, which will deter sleep. Calm yourself first. Then use mellow tones to help your children settle down.
  9. Try soft music or audio books. Some children have difficulty shutting off their minds and physically calming their bodies. Soothing music or a simple book read in a quiet voice can help them feel they are not alone, give them something to focus on and get them to sleep.
  10. If your children try to get out of bed, put them back in bed. Don’t give in or they will know they can get away with putting off bedtime.

We all know in spite of our best efforts, there will be times when children still refuse to go to bed. The Baby Center in “Bedtime battles: How to nip them in the bud” says, “Even if your children cry or plead for an exception to the going-to-bed rule, stand your ground. If you\’re frustrated, don\’t engage in a power struggle. Speak calmly and quietly, but insist that when time\’s up, time\’s up.”

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