Kids don’t want to go to bed, while adults long for bedtime. Oh the irony! And I think it is these contrasting bedtime goals that can make nights so challenging. But I have some easy tips that will remove the battle and will help your child stay in bed.
To begin, let me share a blog post I wrote on May 10, 2010. Little Man was almost 2 and in the thick of challenging behavior and lacking impulse control.
I write this post while listening to the baby monitor. Don’t mind me if I have to excuse myself every few minutes to go put my son back in bed. It has now been 65 minutes of “excusing” myself.
Last week, Little Man discovered that he could climb out of his crib. That fateful day meant crib time was over and Little Man was moved to the bottom bunk.
If you follow this blog, you know that Little Man is our spirited one. I have worked harder with him on discipline (not sensory) than the other two combined. Knowing that staying in bed would be a “hill for him to die on,” I started six months go training him to sit in a time-out chair. I believe this helps in the bedtime routine. It took six months, but Little Man now sits in a chair for two minutes. Let me reiterate – it took six months of diligent, consistent training for this to occur!
The first night, Little Man did really well. It took 20 times in 30 minutes of Daddy returning him to his bed. Then he stayed in bed all night. The next night was about the same. Last night, he had dirty diaper in the middle of the “going to bed” process which expanded the battle to 90 minutes.
Tonight – he is testing me for all it is worth (and of course Daddy is gone!). But after multiple tries for 1 hour and 26 minutes, through the monitor I now only hear the tree frogs outside.
I remember those battles like they were yesterday. And frankly, I don’t miss them as the exhaustion is real! But in rereading this 12-year-old blog post I realize that I have learned a few tips that I hope others will find helpful.
Before I jump into the tips, there are two points I want to make.
First, please understand that Little Man is extreme. I now see where his severe ADHD and Autism diagnoses come into play. But…and this is important…no matter his diagnoses, I wouldn’t change what we did and the expectations we had for him.
Second, children can be taught to stay in bed. It is not beyond their ability. Actually Dr. Jim Fay of Love and Logic states, “By the age of nine months, human babies are more intelligent than any other animal creature on the planet.” This mean that at 9 months, your child is more intelligent than the family dog who can be taught to sit, stay, roll over, and come.
Knowing this…how do we make it happen?
A solid bedtime routine sets the child up for success. For our family this consisted of a bath, brushing teeth, diaper/potty, a quality book and Bible story, and prayer. After a hug, kiss, and “goodnight,” we then left quickly without fanfare.
Keep the routine consistent and don’t fall for the drink-of-water or one-more-hug trick. And because kids are smart, there is no need to remind the child to stay in bed. He/She knows.
Consistently Remove All Communication
After the bedtime routine’s final hug and “goodnight,” all words and communication with the child are removed. No hugs, kisses, warnings, begging, or eye contact.
This is the biggest mistake that I see parents make as communication feeds the child’s desire to get out of bed. Remove eye contact because there is power in those chubby cheeks and adorable toddler eyes!
The only exception to this would be if you want to say “uh-oh” when returning the child to bed just as I suggest with behavior troubles during the day.
Consistently Return the Child to Bed
As soon as the child leaves the bed, take her hand and return her to her bed. Typically, it only takes a few times of consistently returning without communication for the child to decide the game of getting up isn’t fun.
Consistency is Key
I cannot stress this enough. Consistency is the key to ending this battle. Toddlers are smart. Preschoolers are smarter. Give an inch and they will take advantage of your exhaustion. In the child’s defense, inconsistency confuses the child. He becomes unsure of what you truly mean when he is told something.
Depending on your child’s personality and your consistency in daily discipline, this process should take no time, maybe a few nights, or a couple of weeks. But in the end, it will be worth it. As I always say, you can fight it for a few weeks or for several years to come. Knowing this will make the work seem like nothing.
Above are the three keys to keeping your child in bed. Come back in 2 weeks when I will dive deeper into this subject and provide 8 specific tips you can immediately implement. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss these helpful tips!
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