My 1 year-old daughter has no problems going to bed. She is content to drink her milk during story time, brush her teeth, and then quietly suck her thumb into a REM cycle.
My son, well, he’s another story.
We’ve struggled with him at bedtime since the first day he arrived home from the hospital. Now at age three he is a master manipulator and, as a result, our pre-bedtime ritual is rigid. Brush teeth, pajamas on, read three books, off to bed with his stuffed monkey.
Then I wait.
“Moooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmy,” he calls.
Sound familiar? Here are some of the tricks I’ve found to be especially effective in easing him into quiet at night:
1. “One more.” Since you’ve already chosen the time he is expected to go to sleep, the place where he is to rest his head, and even his name for-the-love-of-all-things-important, empower your child with something small at bedtime. After the light is off and he’s all tucked in I will ask, “Would you like one more story (make something up)?” Or how about a song (we love ‘You Are My Sunshine’)? Allowing for “just one more” gives your child the feeling that he has input in his life; it also gives you the confidence to be firm in drawing the line. “We said one more song, now it’s bedtime.” End of story.
2. Counting. You can’t exactly throw your young child in a room and tell him to count sheep, but that old trick works wonders on relaxing your child. So help him out. “When I count to 100 it’s time for sleep,” I explain. A year ago I began this ritual counting alone, but now we alternate numbers between us. [practical note: take all the multiples of 10 for yourself (20, 30, 40, etc.) and be patient; they catch on when they realize every number in between is just like counting to ten.]
Trust me, by the number 99 I am ready to hit the sack myself. *yawn*
3. Recounting. Sometimes after a busy day, your child may need a little more soothing to fall asleep. My son loves it when I recount the day to him. No item is too mundane for my 3-year-old. “First we woke up, then we ate yogurt.” He loves to ask “what else?” at the end of every sentence. Make every silly detail sound exciting. It’s also a great way to introduce the concept of the days of the week. Whenever I use this tactic, he rolls over with a huge smile on his face as I leave the room.
4. Music. I admit this method of soothing no longer works alone (without a story or a day’s recap), but it was a huge hit between the ages of 1 and 3. Our favorite: Rockabye Baby (lullaby versions of your favorite rock songs).
5. Lights. Unlike music alone, the Cloud b Twilight Turtle grows with your child. He went from enjoying the comfort of a night-light to marveling at the dots splattered across his ceiling. We have graduated from simply “finding the moon” to talking about constellations. For the younger set, my 1-year-old loves the Fisher-Price Go ‘N Glow Musical Turtle. It is much smaller and goes off after 15 minutes (as opposed to the 45 minutes of the Cloud b versions).
Remember, whatever you choose to aid your children’s journey towards slumber, be consistent and patient, yet firm. Don’t let your guilt or frustration get the best of the situation. It’s your task as parent to create positive sleep associations.
What are your children’s bedtime rituals? Bedtime struggles? Tell us in the comments below.