As evening falls, a nightly battle of determination unfolds in kids’ bedrooms nationwide. Children, eager to stay up and not miss out on anything, are reluctant to go to bed. Meanwhile, parents, aware of the consequences of their children being overtired the next day, deploy every strategy they know to guarantee a restful night.

However, this situation doesn’t need to be a constant struggle!

1. Establish a routine

Children do better when they know what to expect. When any transition is chaotic or different each time, children can get stressed — and this can come out in the form of a tantrum or resistance.

The routine can include a bath, putting on PJ’s, brushing teeth, listening to two stories, a trip to the bathroom, a final kiss, and lights off. You can even post a timeline of the routine next to your child’s bed, and she can move a clothespin to show where you are in the routine.

2. Be consistent

Set a bedtime and stick to it as consistently as possible. Children get into a routine and their bodies send them cues when it’s time to go to sleep and time to wake up. If that time is missed, they often become overtired and find it difficult to settle down.

Consistency also means not giving in if a child insists on something like sleeping in your bed (if that isn’t the routine) or another drink of water. If you give in after 25 minutes of a tantrum, your child will learn that after that amount of time they will get what they want.

3. Give choices

Sometimes children resist bedtime as a way to exert power. Give your child small choices that don’t impact on the process. For example, “Do you want your red or blue pajamas tonight?” Or, “Which story do you want to read before bed?” Or, “Do you want to brush your teeth or put on your PJ’s first?” No matter what choice your child makes, you are moving toward the ultimate goal of sleep.
Be careful not to give choices you aren’t ready to hear the answer to. For example, “Are you ready to go to bed?”

4. Remove distractions

TVs, radios, and all sorts of electronics’ screens (tablets, phones, laptops) can send wake messages to your child, and lead them to resist sleep. Make your child’s bedroom a peaceful haven, free of these distractions. A small nightlight (if needed) and soft, gentle music can help your child sleep without stimulating them.

5. Use timers

If your child is resistant to sleep, you can set up a timer system. Set a timer for five minutes and tell your child if he stays in bed until the timer rings, you will come in for one more hug. Continue to set the timer for longer and longer so your child learns to stay in bed.

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