Child Behavior Problems: Getting Your Child to Go to Bed

Dr. Noel Swanson.

gotobed_pic1After a fully-packed day looking after the children, you long for bedtime. But, your child just doesn’t like the idea of going to bed before his parents. This is a common experience of most parents. You want a bit of peace and quiet at the end of a day spent in feeding them, washing clothes, clearing their mess, putting up with temper tantrums, and many other things. You ask them to go to bed, but that’s exactly what they don’t like to do.

One out of three children just refuses to go to bed before their parents!

If you are one of the parents of such children for whom getting your child to go to bed is an arduous task, here are some tips that can help:

First, you need to establish how much sleep they actually need. Most children under 12 need about 10 to 12 hours sleep (the younger they are, the more they need). However, some kids just seem to need very little. If that is the case with yours, ie, they genuinely function well on, say, 6 or 8 hours sleep, there is just no point fighting with them to go to bed 4 hours before they need to – all that will happen is they get up four hours earlier and wake you up then, instead!

gotobed_pic2After a few days you will get a fairly good idea how much is your child’s genuine requirement of sleep. Then make sure he/she gets that much despite all odds. Kids will try to stretch their waking hours and they will keep pulling up one tactic or another to manipulate you to delay bedtime. For instance, they will ask for a drink or some such thing. They have a way of making you feel guilty or sorry for them. Don’t fall into the trap. You have given enough attention to them; now, it is their turn to observe bed time rules.

Clear about the rules? Okay, the third step is to put this into practice. Establish a bedtime routine. Again, the younger they are, the more important this is. Start well before the target bedtime and lead them through the steps: getting changed, doing teeth and bathroom, reading a story, lights out. Be willing to give them your full attention during this routine.

The last step of the routine is to put the lights out. You will face strong opposition to it. Be prepared for it, but remain firm and calm. You can allow minor concessions such as leaving the door open or a night-light on if they need that. To soothe the nerves of your child, you could also put on some soft music if that helps.

The real challenge for parents is when the child gets out of bed after all that or calls for your attention. If the reason is genuine, attend to it without giving much attention otherwise he will use this excuse more often.

gotobed_pic3Children are inventive; they will invent excuses, problems. One way to tackle this is to set a timer and tell them that you will check on them in ten minutes, if they stay in bed. The trick is to begin with a small time and then gradually increase it. Make sure you live by your promise, but don’t overstay. Just come and tuck them in, caress them and leave.

For your own peace of mind, you may want to go on checking till they are asleep. You might find this very tiring in the beginning, but remember, habits are not formed in a day. You need to put in some effort to get your child into a bedtime routine.

Remember to be positive by praising your child for staying quietly in bed. Also, be very particular about keeping your promise by going to check exactly at the time fixed. This is where the timer comes in handy.

Finally, if your child gets up before your next check, you could do the following:

First, be firm and send him back to bed. Don’t get flustered and don’t shout; just make it clear that you are serious. Then remind him that you will be up to tuck him in again, but after the ten minutes which will start now. Having done that, just ignore him until the time for your next check.

Always remember to reward your child for success in staying nicely in bed. You may want to use a star chart or something like that. Child Behavior Problems can be solved! To find out how, visit Dr. Swanson’s ( ) Child Behavior Problems website and check out his acclaimed manual, The GOOD CHILD Guide.