Putting a child to bed shouldn’t be difficult. If the child has had an active, enriching day and has had all his needs met – food, water, shelter, and love – then he should be more than ready for sleep. Yet, I hear time and time again of just the opposite. Children who want only to sleep in their parent’s bed, or who cry endlessly all through the night, or who refuse to stay in their beds. These are bad habits, and habits can be broken. Here are the ten most common mistakes parents make in putting their child to bed.
- Do not allow your child to play video games. These games tend to get children wired, not relaxed! I don’t believe children should ever play video games, but that’s a subject for another post.
- Do not play a story tape or music. It is okay to read your child a story – it is wonderful, in fact! Go ahead and sing your child a lullaby. But do not make the CD or cassette tape part of the routine. If you do, how will your child get to sleep when that is not available? It is okay, especially if you live on a noisy street or have older children, to play some white music in the background. You are not teaching a child to fall asleep listening to something, but rather, to try to let your child stay asleep by not being disturbed by noise.
- Do not rock your child to sleep. Rock your child! Love him, cuddle him. But put him to bed before he’s actually asleep. He needs to learn how to let himself fall asleep. Otherwise, if you rock a child to sleep, and he wakes up in the middle of the night, you will have to rock him to sleep again. And again. Children need to learn how to comfort themselves back to sleep. Also, children who fall asleep in swings or car seats or other movement, usually do not fall into deep sleep.
- Do not wait until your child is falling asleep before putting him to bed. Young children want to stay awake. They do not want to miss out on anything. They will spin around in circles, babble incoherently, wave their arms and jump – they will do anything to keep themselves awake. If you wait for a child to appear sleepy, then he is probably over-tired already.
- Do not put your child to bed with a cup or a bottle. This is hard on their teeth. They have the opportunity to eat at dinner, and if you chose to have an evening snack as part of your routine, then they can eat again. They can have a cup of water after brushing their teeth. They simply do not need more fluids at bedtime. Potty training may be more successful when the time comes if your child does not drink right before bedtime.
- Do not put a lot of toys, books, pillows, or blankies in your child’s bed. He may have one toy to cuddle, one book, and one special blankie. That is enough. More than that, and you encourage your child to stay awake.
- Do not move your young child out of the crib before you establish a solid bedtime routine. The cribs are called a six-year crib for a reason. Your child could stay in the crib until kindergarten. The toddler bed may not offer the same sense of security and comfort that the familiar crib does.
- Do not allow your child’s bedroom to become a war zone. Teach him or her to pick up toys daily. That should definitely be part of the bedtime routine! A messy room may be over stimulating, prolonging the time it takes your child to fall asleep. A clutter-free bedroom painted in muted tones can have a calming effect on even the most stubborn children.
- Do not allow your child to consume sugary foods in the evening. This should be obvious. Sugar gives us energy. You want your child to unwind, calm down, and sleep through the night. Giving him a cookie is like adding more logs to the fire. If you find it necessary to give your young child anything at all, it should be milk – warmed is even better. Milk contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid also found in meat and turkey, which is known to cause drowsiness. Some doctors are even prescribing tryptophan to treat insomnia.
- Do not send your child to bed. Take him there. These are your child’s last moments before sleep. Make them pleasant. Help him into bed, and cover him up. Fold his hands in yours and teach him to say a simple prayer of gratitude. Have him recall special events from the day, or whisper loving words in his ear. It is only a few moments of your time, but it is forever in his memory.
Tags: bedtime, bedtime routine, crying bedtime, daily schedule, energetic, home school, homeschooling preschool, lullaby, Preschool, Preschoolers, putting toddler to bed, routine, routines, spirited, toddlers, video games