Getting a child to go to sleep at night can be one of the most frustrating parts of parenting. Setting up a bedtime routine that is consistently followed will help your children know what to expect each night, helping them to get the sleep they need for their growing bodies and easing your stress and frustration.
1. Set an Appropriate Bedtime for Your Child
Often parents let a child stay up later because he or she doesn’t seem tired. Once a child is over-tired, however, the body releases cortisol. This hormone can make it more difficult for your child to fall asleep and increase the likelihood of him or her waking up during the night and early in the morning. Sleep experts say that children need to following amounts of sleep as they age:
- Children ages one to three need 12 to 14 hours of sleep each day.
- Children ages three to six need 10 to 12 hours of sleep each day.
- Children ages seven to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night.
- Teenagers ages 13 to 18 need eight to nine hours of sleep each night.
Use your child’s age and nap schedule as a guideline to adjust their bedtime accordingly.
2. Write and Post Your Routine in a Central Location
Your family’s bedtime routine will be unique to your own family’s needs. Many bedtime routines include:
- Taking a bath.
- Brushing and flossing teeth.
- Preparing clothes and backpacks for school the next day.
- Reading books.
- Talking and reviewing the day.
- Tucking into bed.
Write out the list of your family’s bedtime routine. Post pictures and words for children who aren’t reading yet. Put the routine in a central location where everyone in the family can see and refer to it as they prepare for bed.
3. Offer a Reward
Children thrive on praise and rewards. Until the routine becomes a habit, try offering a reward for your children who happily follow it each night. Putting a sticker on a “Bedtime” chart and allowing your child to earn a small toy or date with mom or dad when so many stickers are earned. Remember to use meaningful praise when your child gets ready for bed without more than one reminder or brushes their teeth without complaint.
Establishing a routine can be stressful at first, but after a few days of consistently following it, your child will fall asleep faster and you will enjoy spending the last moments of the day with your child without stress or frustration.