At any other time of day, notions like reading, cuddling with a favourite stuffy, and snuggling with mom and dad, are likely high on your child’s list of Top 10 Most Fantastic Things to Do. But, attach any of these ideas to the dreaded “B” word, and you’ve just entered a whole other realm of dismay for many kids and their parents.
“Bedtime”: In many homes, it’s a four-letter word, with disaster striking the moment it’s uttered. So, how do you turn that around? Here are five ways to turn your child’s bedtime into an enjoyable event for your entire family (really, I swear – read on!):
Don’t use sleep as a discipline tactic: Threatening to send your child to her room – or, worse, to put her to bed early – as a consequence for negative behaviour, will only lessen your child’s desire to go to her room at any time of the day, including (and especially) at bedtime. Further, using sleep as a form of punishment places a negative connotation on something that should in fact be valued and upheld by you and your child as a vital part of a healthy life.
Don’t wait until your child is exhausted to start his bedtime routine: If your child is anything like mine, his too-exhausted-to-function state is not the state in which I want to be giving a bedtime reminder. Having a consistent, age-appropriate bedtime and sticking with it every day will facilitate a much calmer and more peaceful bedtime routine, and lead to far fewer midnight meltdowns than waiting until your child is already mid-fit-of-exhaustion to tell him it’s time for bed.
Make sleep fun! Bedtime does not have to be boring. Make the bath fun with toys that allow your child to be creative and use her imagination; let her pick out PJs adorned with her favourite pattern (rainbows? hearts? stars?) or TV character (Skye from Paw Patrol? Skye from Paw Patrol? Skye from Paw Patrol?); and take her to the library to pick out special books that will be just for bedtime, reminding her of these before bedtime approaches.
Give choices: Children love to make choices, and to be given creative license. Allowing your child to make choices throughout her bedtime routine makes her feel more in-control of the situation, which will make her much more likely to enjoy the process. Point out four books, and allow her to choose which two you will read. Offer two pairs of PJs (likely both adorned with Skye from Paw Patrol, of course), and allow her to make her own decision on which to wear. Making bedtime less of an imposition and more of a joint venture will help your child to see it as a fun and collaborative event.
Praise them for being awesome sleepers: Never underestimate the value of your praise, nor the level at which our children comprehend concepts we naively assume are out of their grasp. Talking to your child about the value of healthy sleep – and about the energy we gain from proper rest, and what that means for the rest of our day – is one of the best ways to ensure your child understands, values, and enjoys the blissful process of going to bed each night.