Behaviour problems at bedtime really can be the worst. Ain't nobody got time for that when you're counting down the minutes to clock off from a long day. Like most childhood behaviour hurdles, they're common and all part of the course.
Here, I've outlined some research-based and proven tips to help you keep your cool when your dealing with the craziness that is a kid trying to fulfil their ultimate-mega-must-complete-to-do-list before going to sleep or suffering standard bedtime FOMO.
Okay you've heard it all before but consistency is king. This helps a child feel secure. They know the drill, they know when they go to bed. Children resist routines and boundaries, but really it does help them to feel safe and secure.
- Consistent bedtime and routine. Yep sometimes its not possible but keep it all together for most of the time and it will help them when they're not keeping it together
- Calming and wind down routine. An hour before bed this should start, keep the order and as much as possible facilitate their engine to move down a few gears
- Always give warnings. You will do this for years to come! For younger children "when-then" works well. So, when you have had dinner, then you have bottle and bed. Small children don't have a great concept of time in minutes. Children five years and up do okay with time warnings. A 15 or 10 and then a 5-minute warning works well.
- Be confident and clear with your expectations. If there are protests, ignore unless they're unwell. Overtime, with consistency the protests will reduce in duration. Let them know that you understand they might need to lay in bed or play quietly or look at stories for half an hour.
- Check in on your child at intervals you decide on. It could be 5 min or 10 min for first check in. Go in and this rewards quiet behaviour and it also helps them know you will come back to stop them crying out and working themselves up to see you.
- Set up a sticker programme to help encourage positive bedtime behaviour.
- If your child comes out, take them back to their room. Avoid conversation, telling off or engaging and eye contact and return them to bed.
B.A, M.Ed, PgDip ChFamPsych