Bedtime is a source of frustration and anxiety for some parents and children. Somehow, just when parents are ready to sit down and relax for the evening, children find their second wind and turn the house into a Nascar race track.
It can turn into an all-out war as children pull out their full arsenal complete with whining, complaining and time-wasting. Before anyone realizes what's happened, everyone's exhausted and grumpy from the bedtime war zone.
But there is an easier way. With a plan in place, parents can get the upper hand. Bedtime battles take time to fix, but it's possible with consistent effort. Here are three magic steps to help put a stop to the battles:
1. Move during the day
When your child says they're not sleepy, they really might not be sleepy. Your children may not be getting enough physical activity throughout the day, so don't be afraid to wear them out.
Take a walk as a family
It's funny - as soon as you try to take a family walk, your children suddenly don't have the energy to move. If your child resists, give him a paper bag to collect treasures in along the way. Turn the walk into a game by playing I spy, or create a scavenger hunt of objects or signs for them to spot along the way.
Go to the park
Take advantage of good weather and try out all your local parks. Before you know it, you and your child will have your favorites. Make it a play date and invite friends along.
Turn on music
If bad weather keeps you inside, look for ways to shake things up. Turn on lively music and have a dance party or invest in some children's exercise videos. Many gaming consoles have dance or fitness games that are fun for the family to play together, and they will get everyone off the couch.
Make sure to quiet things down about an hour before bedtime. Their minds and bodies need time to come back to a calm place.
2. Establish a consistent bedtime routine
Most children thrive on a routine. The brain and body know how to respond at bedtime when there's a consistent routine. The key is finding a routine that works for your family.
Reading books, changing into pajamas and brushing teeth are common elements of a good bedtime routine. Many children find a bath comforting at bedtime, but some children treat bath time like a day at the water park. In that case, a bath might not fit into a relaxing bedtime schedule.
Whatever activities you choose to include in the routine, make sure they help create a calm atmosphere. Avoid wrestling, tickling and other exciting activities during the hour before bedtime.
Start the routine around the same time each day. The longer you stick to a bedtime routine, the more readily your child's body will respond on its own. It may take a while for you to see results, but once you do, it's well worth it.
3. Turn off the technology
While your child may look calm and quiet when they're watching TV right before bed, that screen time can send their brain the wrong signal. Bright lights and movement from TV, cell phones and tablets can keep your children awake longer.
The body produces melatonin in order to sleep, and the glow from electronics can reduce it. Keep electronics out of their rooms so they can associate their room with sleeping, not playing. Ending their screen time an hour before bed will give them a chance to respond to their natural body rhythms.