How to Overcome Bedtime Battles with Your Kids
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What if there were no bedtime battles in your home? What if every evening your child was able to calmly transition to night time and go to sleep without any whining or complaining?
And what if you could do this without having to sacrifice your principals as a Gentle Parent – I’m talking without threats, mommy tantrums, sticker charts or locking their door and praying they’ll just fall asleep!
There are plenty of Gentle Parenting approved ways to help overcome to bedtime battles and I’m going to share them with you, because let’s face it, and the end of the day we’re just running on empty waiting for a moment to our self!
Why are there Bedtime Battles?
Bedtime battles, meaning your little one refuses to go to sleep, throws a fit when you even mention bedtime, or maybe just constantly gets up out of bed asking for a million things could come up for a variety of reasons and we are going to look at those.
1. The child feels insecure – perhaps they are scared of the dark, they feel like you’re too far away from them, or their curtains just have a really unsettling appearance to them at night time.
2. The child still has a lot of energy and it’s hard for their body to slow down.
3. The child still needs a warm connection with their parent.
4. The child hasn’t had adequate time to transition.
These are just a few reasons why you might be facing bedtime battles.
What do you think is causing the issue in your home? Understanding why your child is resisting bedtime so much might help you to know which of the possible solutions will work best for you.
We are going to address how to overcome the bedtime battles and I hope your evenings will become much calmer very soon.
Overcoming the Bedtime Battles – Prevention During the Day
Believe it or not, there might be a lot you can do during the day to help bedtime go smoother in the evening. If your child still has a lot of energy at night then they would probably benefit from more physical activities during the day, especially outdoor activities.
If your child is in daycare it might be good to find out how much time is being spent outside, or if you’re a SAHM or WAHM you can try to increase their outdoor time. You don’t want to just get your child outside more, but you want that time to be very physical. Give your child safe opportunities to run, climb, jump, catch, roll etc to burn all their excess energy. This is great for their development, not just to help them sleep at night. I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to outdoor playtime ideas so you can check that out here for more ideas.
In the evening your child may have a hard time going to bed because they just need more time with mom and dad, especially 1 on 1 fully focused time. You can try to intentionally give them with time during the day to decrease the issue in the evening. 1 on 1 time should be totally distraction free, no phone, TV or while cooking dinner. That warm connection can give your child more security to make the transition to bedtime easier.
Besides those two suggestions, it’s also a good idea to talk to your child about any new bedtime routines way before it’s even bedtime. If bedtime is an emotional time for your child the may need a heads up before you start doing anything different. If your child is old enough it could also be a good idea to ask them why it’s so difficult for them to go to bed at night. Ask them what you could do ahead of time to make them feel more comfortable. Including children in the plans (when they’re developmentally ready to do so) can always be very beneficial.
Overcoming the Bedtime Battles – Evening Preparation
One word: routine.
Routines have a profound effect on children and gives them their much needed predictably.
For children, a lot of things can happen that they don’t expect unless we communicate it to them. Imagine going into work every day and every minute your boss tells you what to do and every day it’s in a different order and you never know what you will have to do next. Yo, that would be exhausting so I totally sympathize with children on this one. They need a good, strong routine.
When I’m talking about routine I don’t even just mean bedtime routine, but even before that.
Eating dinner at the same time every day, and doing the same thing after dinner every day can help your child.
If they know that after dinner we usually play a little bit before bath it will make it much easier for them to wind down at the end of the day. Predictability might be “boring” for us moms, but it will create a sense of peace and control for our little ones.
If your child is old enough, it’s also great to give them “time warnings” when the activity is about to end. Very young children cannot understand something like “5 more minutes” and how much time that really is. You might find better success to tell them what they can do, like “Let’s build
this tower one more time and then you can go for your bath.” That is something much more physical which they can understand. If they know that they will be having a bath after they play it won’t be a surprise though which will help with the transition. You can also sing a song, or make up a game that involves going to the bath to help with the transition.
Overall, in the evenings we want to respect our children by keeping in mind that they might not understand the natural order of events for the evening unless we give them a predictable routine. We can empower them by making a routine chart together with them, and taking pictures of them doing that thing as a reminder. Let the routine chart dictate what is next.
Again, having something physical like that will be helpful to your child. Empower them as much as you can to be part of the “going to bed” process to eliminate some of your bedtime battles.
Overcoming the Bedtime Battles – Into Bed
With the evening wrapping up it’s time to head to bed! A lot of children will sleep better if they have a bath before bed, and of course things like going to the bathroom and having every important stuffed animal can also be good to get out of the way right away.
Once your child is in bed I think it is important that you spend time with them there. As we know, needing a connection with you can be a reason that they end up getting out of bed a lot and why it’s hard for them to settle down for the evening. Make bedtime something enjoyable that they can look forward to, and not only will it help them sleep but it can strengthen your relationship. I think it’s important to have a routine for this portion of the evening as well. You can make a routine that works best for you, but as a suggestion, you could first tuck them in, read 3 books, and then pray over them. If they know this is the order of things they may be less likely to request a lot more out of you.
The longer you’re able to stay with your child at night the BETTER. Now of course not everyone is going to agree with us on this one, some will say that you are spoiling them or they need to learn how to fall asleep on their own. Trust me, a 21 year old isn’t still going to need mommy to help them fall asleep, but that’s because a 21 year old is very different from a 3 year old. The warm attachment between mother and child has actually been linked to better brain development, so you’re actually helping their future, not hindering it.
This goodnight routine might take a long time, and I know you might be itching for that moment alone when the kids are finally asleep after a long day, but you’re less likely to be interrupted by a restless little one if you can give them a good bedtime experience. You could, of course, make bedtime earlier to make up for the extra time you’re going to spend in their room.
This quality time will help them feel safe and relaxed, this will help their bodies to wind down. Reading books is a great addition to bedtime, it will help them relax to sleep and books are wonderful! After the books, you can then pray for them for awhile to help them relax and I would even say lay with them until they fall asleep which would ideally be in under 30 minutes. This might not work for everyone but it could be great for your child and they will be able to fall asleep without you before you know it.
To help your child relax as you’re saying goodnight it can be helpful to speak in a calm, soft voice. Using this tone will help them relax. If your child is trying to jump out of bed or starts asking for glasses of water and things like that, it’s important to remain calm. If you threaten them with some sort of punishment then it will stress them out and make it difficult for them to settle down. You can absolutely set firm boundaries, but it’s important to be reasonable and setting the routine will help eliminate some of these extra nighttime requests.
If you find yourself getting impatient with your kids and dealing with anger I have 6 tips to help you overcome that. And to go with is free positive mom affirmation cards to keep you going!
Before or after you leave their room you could also consider turning on a fan or white noise machine, this will help them tune out any other distant noises. You might also consider a nightlight, but all humans sleep best in total darkness so you might eventually want to wean off of that.
Can you overcome the bedtime battles?
I hope these suggestions, which have worked for other moms, can work for you. It might take some trial and error but once you can have a drama-free bedtime it will create so much peace in your home, and I think even you will have a better sleep!
What has worked in your home to overcome bedtime battles? What definitely hasn’t worked? Tell me in the comments and maybe we can find a way to work it out.
And if you’re totally new to Gentle Parenting and want a quick way to start implementing it in your home, be sure to sign up for the Gentle Foundations for Parenting course for a free kickstart into a happier home.
The Moving Mama
Lizzy Mash is an experienced early childhood educator now living in Africa as a missionary working with children and families.
She teaches Christian moms how to take a more respectful and Christ-like approach to motherhood by using Gentle Parenting strategies.
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