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Dealing with Bedtime Struggles

Dealing with Bedtime Struggles

Bedtime struggles are a common problem with toddlers and preschoolers. It can be exhausting and frustrating when your child refuses to go to bed at the end of a long day. The good news is that there is usually a solution. The key is figuring out what the problem is and why your child is refusing to go to bed. Even though it might be a daily struggle that most children do, there can be a different reason on different nights with different children.
Here are some common reasons for bedtime struggles and why your child may not be going to bed, what you can do and finally general guidelines to peaceful bedtime.

1.Rushed or Chaotic Bedtime, if bedtime is rushed or loud it can be hard for your child to go from playing to falling asleep in a few minutes. Other distractions like the TV being on or older siblings playing in another room are a constant reminder to your child that others are still up and “playing”. Naturally, he still wants to be a part of that and will refuse to go to bed or will find it hard to fall asleep.

  • What you can do:
    make sure you give bedtime the time it deserves. It might be tough after a long day but making time before bedtime can save you a lot of time and energy and help you avoid the power struggle at bedtime. Make sure bedtime is a quiet time, give your child some notice that bedtime is near, try to establish a bedtime routine to prepare your child for bed. Turn off the TV and put away all toys in the last hour before bedtime. Dim the lights and try to have the family do quiet activities like reading. Make sure that bedtime is as boring as possible.

2. Your Child doesn’t want to Go or Stay in Bed, If your child doesn’t want to go to bed he may be distracted by other sounds in the house or just not exhausted enough to go to bed.

  • What you can do:
    Like the example above, make sure bedtime is a quiet time. If your child keeps on bouncing in and out of bed and is full of energy, he might not be getting enough activity during the day to tire him out. Make sure he gets enough physical activity during the day, scale back daytime naps or wake him up a bit earlier in the morning. Remember that quiet time is important. If your child is very active before bedtime make sure to give him some extra time to wind down. Don’t turn bedtime into a power struggle, if your child keeps getting out of bed simply put him back into bed, wait a few minutes and assure him you will be back to check on him in a few minutes. Check on your child from the doorway every few minutes and tell him what a good job he’s doing falling asleep. After a few times when he feels safe and reassured he’ll start to fall asleep.

3.Your child won’t go to sleep alone, Your child may also find it difficult to sleep alone and may need some extra comfort to go to bed. He might not want to fall asleep on his own because he feels insecure. At this age children have a very active imagination and shadows and sounds can be scary.

  • What you can do:
    Encourage your child to fall asleep alone.  You can help him  feel secure by giving him a favorite comfort object like a stuffed animal to sleep with. You can leave a night light on or keep the bedroom door open. If your child is afraid of “monsters under the bed” take these fear seriously and  play along by “kicking the monsters out” of the room. This can sometimes be more effective than saying that there are no such things as monsters. Remember to start with a calming bedtime routine. You can also promise your child to check in on him every few minutes like the example above.

4. Your Child wakes up during the night,most children wake up during the night and fall back asleep. If your child is having difficult falling back asleep during the night it might be because he is too stressed by the time his cries reach you. Usually by the time a child’s cries reach the parent he’s already gone through a series of anxious reactions. The initial part of waking up and being alone, then waiting for the parent’s attention, then probably some mild stress and crying which would be easier to comfort then finally full stressful cries that reach the parent. By this time can make it more difficult for him to calm down quickly.

  • What you can do: If you want you can give your child access to get out of bed and come to you during the night. If your child wakes up during the night and needs reassurance he can simply come over to your room and will usually fall asleep without too much fuss. If you can’t do that then try to install a baby monitor so you can hear his initial cries, give him a couple of minutes to settle himself back to sleep. If you feel he is reaching that stressful point then try to go comfort him. You can first try by just being at the doorway so your child doesn’t try to get out of bed and offer reassurance that you are there and can hear him. If that isn’t comforting enough then try standing by your child’s bed, offer reassurance and remind him softly that it’s time for bed. It will take a few times till your child develops a pattern of  secure experiences and feels OK when he wakes up alone.

Suggested Bedtime Routine

  1. Try to have a similar routine every night. Not only is the routine important but it’s important to stick to the time schedule so that your child’s biological clock gets used to it. Remember that your child is still growing so his sleep routines and patterns will need adjusting. He may need to wake up earlier or need to stop napping to sleep through the night.
  2. Give your child a heads up that bedtime is after your last evening activity; dinner, playtime, etc.
  3. Make sure the TV is off and the house is quiet within the hour before bedtime. Most importantly make sure you are calm and not rushed. Children can pick up easily on adults’ emotions.
  4. You can give a warm bath or read a story in bed before bedtime to calm down your child. Each child is different, you need to figure out which activity calms your child best.
  5. Spend a few minutes next to your child just lying there. Make sure bedtime is as boring as possible. Put away any toys or distractions from the bed. You can try humming some songs or softly speaking to your child about his day. This can help him relax and fall asleep.
  6. Make sure your child has his favorite security toy next to him in case he wakes up or leave the door open. Use which ever method you choose that works best to help him fall back asleep. If you don’t mind letting him come to your bed at night then make sure he can easily get out of his own bed and walk to your room if he wakes up.
  7. Remember be consistent and patient. If you give in that sends a message to your child that if he whines or cries long enough then he gets his way. It can be hard and exhausting, try to approach each day with a new perspective, there could be a different reason why he’s having trouble going to bed. Figuring out the problem can help you save time and energy to avoid a power struggle and bedtime tears.

Suggested Bedtime Reading

Goodnight Moon

Goodnight moon is a classic and the perfect book for bedtime. Say goodnight to everything in little rabbit’s room; the mittens, the mouse, the  porridge and the moon. You can include your own goodnights to things in your child’s own room or people who were with you in your day.

Photo from isayx3

Article reference from Mayo Clinic

5 Reasons Children Misbehave and What You Can Do

5 Reasons Children Misbehave and What You Can Do

Every parent reaches their wits end when dealing with children’s misbehavior. Just remember that your child isn’t “out to get you”, there are often very explainable and preventable reasons for misbehavior.
The most common reasons for misbehavior are:

1. Your child’s basic needs aren’t being met, he is tired, cranky or hungry which makes all his emotions magnified and little problems difficult to handle.

  • What you can do: make sure your child is fed and rested before venturing out. Make sure you don’t skip a meal or your child’s nap time. It can take some compromise on your part as a parent to make sure you’re child finds a place to take his nap while you’re out but it will make both of you happy in the long term.

2. Seeking attention, your child may be trying to get your attention and learned that getting attention through misbehavior is easier and more effective.

  • What you can do:  Try to ignore unwanted attention seeking behavior as long as your child isn’t harming himself or others. Make sure you praise positive behavior so your child realizes there is an alternative way to get your attention. With repetition your child will learn he can do positive things instead of misbehaving to get your attention.

3. Displaying inadequacy,children who feel inadequate will refuse to try new things and give up easily.

  • What you can do: Offer your child encouragement when approaching a task. Use encouraging words and phrases like “you can do it!”. Try to offer your child toys or activities that are within your child’s developmental abilities with a bit of challenge to help in learn but not cause frustration. Remember to  give him the space and  independence to do it on his own but be close by in case he asks for help.

4. Controlling, children who want to be in control refuse to follow direct requests, lash out when reprimanded and refuse to do what their parents request.

  • What you can do: Don’t get yourself into a power struggle, simply state expectations and consequences in advance. If your child does not follow through (cleaning up) then follow with the consequence (can’t go out to play). With repetition and time your child will learn to avoid consequences with minimal conflict. As a parent make sure you do not insist on everything as well. It’s best to keep firm rules down to a few that mainly have to do with safety like crossing the street or not touching the oven. This gives you room to compromise and revisit other rules as your child grows and has different developmental needs and capabilities.

5. Revenge seeking behavior is when your child shows mean behavior like saying “i don’t love you” or breaking another child’s toy. This behavior reflects that your child feels he has no value or little worth.

  • What you can do: There is usually an underlying reason why children lash out with hurtful words and phrases. Sometimes a simple incident like leaving a birthday before seeing the clown can seem like the end of the world for your child with such intense emotions. The best way to handle this is to avoid consequences that might be viewed as retaliation, instead help him make amends like fixing the friend’s toy or make sure to explain why you had to leave the birthday at that time and acknowledge your child’s feelings. Most importantly remind your child that you LOVE him even when he is misbehaving. This can be hard but will help him stop acting out for revenge.

Photo from Mariam El Mofty