Monday, September 5, 2011

Is You Child Refusing To Sleep At Night?

I had an amazing weekend and did not even think to log into the computer to check my email. I usually do this in the summers. However, this morning i logged in and checked my 152 emails (from 4 days worth) and read an email in regards to my toddler sleeping at night. It was very interesting and i would like to share it with you.

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Why preschoolers resist bedtime
If you're like most parents, you're all too familiar with this scenario: you put your child to bed at 7.30pm, hugging and kissing her and wishing her sweet dreams. It's been a long day, but still you've got washing-up to do, you have bills to pay, the cat needs to be fed, and you haven't had a spare moment to put your feet up. But instead of spending the rest of the evening catching up on your chores and spending some precious time winding down for the night, you're in and out of your child's room, cajoling her to sleep. She finally nods off – about three hours after she first went to bed.

Take heart: bedtime can be tough for a preschooler. On the one hand, she's learning to assert herself and her new found independence (hence the jack-in-the-box action on her bed). On the other hand, she's fearful of what it means to be on her own. Fighting sleep is a way to take control, but it's also a way to stave off fears that come with the night. Monsters under the bed, boogiemen in the closet, thunderstorms, creepy crawlies – those are pretty scary things to deal with when you're all alone in the dark! And even if she’s not scared, sleep can seem very boring to a preschooler compared to the excitement of the day.

What you can do about bedtime battles

Set aside some time to talk to your child about her day
Your preschooler may be fighting sleep simply because she needs to spend some time with you at the end of her day. Especially if you work long hours yourself, allot some time before bed to chat with her about goings-on at daycare and to find out the latest dramas in her social life. You may find that she's more amenable to sleep if she's had a chance to unburden herself.

Stick to a bedtime routine
Make a pictorial chart for your child to follow – including her bath, teeth brushing, bedtime story and goodnight kiss. Also include her usual (and reasonable) requests – like that second sip of water or a peek at the moon. Give her some notice before it's time to start the routine each night ("Sophie, five minutes before bath time!"). Try not to let her dawdle, or drag things out with activities that aren't part of the ritual – no third glass of water, for instance.

Motivate her
When your child goes to bed on time, the rewards for you are obvious. Make it clear what's in it for her too. The morning after she sticks with the routine, praise her and give her a sticker to put on a special chart. Offer her a reward – like a new book or a visit to her favourite playground – once she stays in bed three nights in a row. (Start small – for a preschooler, a few days is a long time to hang in there!)

Offer choices
Refusing to go to bed is a powerful way for your child to assert herself. So it might help to find an acceptable means of allowing her to be assertive. Let her decide whether she wants to hear some poems or a story before lights-out, for instance, or ask her if she'd like a sip of water before or after she climbs into bed. Be careful to offer only choices you can live with; if you ask "Want to go to bed now?" you probably won't like the answer you get.

Be calm but firm
Even if your youngster cries or pleads for an exception to the going-to-bed rule, stand your ground. If you're frustrated, don't engage in a power struggle. Speak calmly and quietly but insist that when time's up, time's up. If you give in to her request for "five more minutes, please," you'll only hear it again tomorrow night.

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