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Child Behavior Problems: My Child Won't Go to Bed!

Mar 11, 2008
It is often difficult to get your child to go to bed for two reasons. One, the child is in no mood to give up the activity and go to the quiet lonely bedroom and be deprived of the fun. Secondly, by the end of the day you are so tired that you long for some quiet moments all to yourself. Both of you are justified and that is where the clash of interest begins. The result is your child throws up a tantrum or comes up with some demand or the other that can postpone bedtime.

But it seems that over a third of children refuse to go to bed before their parents!

If you are one of the parents of such children for whom getting your child to go to bed is an arduous task, here are some tips that can help:

First, you need to establish how much sleep they actually need. Most children under 12 need about 10 to 12 hours sleep (the younger they are, the more they need). However, some kids just seem to need very little. If that is the case with yours, ie, they genuinely function well on, say, 6 or 8 hours sleep, there is just no point fighting with them to go to bed 4 hours before they need to - all that will happen is they get up four hours earlier and wake you up then, instead!

After you have established a reasonable bedtime, you should stick to it. Kids take advantage of any weakness. They will not miss a chance to manipulate you into giving them an extra hour. They have a fertile imagination and will concoct any and every tactic to wrangle that from you. They will ask for a drink or a question, or they will say they are scared or need to pee, anything! Some of them are so good at it that they might make you feel sorry for them so that you allow them to stay up later or sleep in your bed. Don't give in.

Once you have established the rules, you must implement them. Make a bedtime routine. It is very important, especially for the younger ones. As I said earlier, you cannot force sleep, but you can create a situation when sleep comes automatically. Follow the same bedtime routine day after day, and start well before the target bedtime leading them through the various steps, such as getting changed, doing teeth and bathroom, reading a story and switching off the lights. It pays to give them your full attention during this routine; they feel comfortable and secure.

Then, when it comes to lights out, be firm and calm. Make it clear that you expect them to stay in bed. Leave the door open or a night-light on if they need that. You could also put on some gentle, soothing music if they respond well to that.

The real challenge for parents is when the child gets out of bed after all that or calls for your attention. If the reason is genuine, attend to it without giving much attention otherwise he will use this excuse more often.

Children are inventive; they will invent excuses, problems. One way to tackle this is to set a timer and tell them that you will check on them in ten minutes, if they stay in bed. The trick is to begin with a small time and then gradually increase it. Make sure you live by your promise, but don't overstay. Just come and tuck them in, caress them and leave.

If necessary you can repeat this procedure, at gradually lengthening intervals, until they are asleep. Yes, it sounds like lot of work at first, but do this consistently and they will learn to stay in bed for longer and longer periods of time. Eventually they will learn to fall asleep before you next come to check on them.

Remember to be positive by praising your child for staying quietly in bed. Also, be very particular about keeping your promise by going to check exactly at the time fixed. This is where the timer comes in handy.

If your child gets up before your next check, you can do the following:

First, be firm and send him back to bed. Don't get flustered and don't shout; just make it clear that you are serious. Then remind him that you will be up to tuck him in again, but after the ten minutes which will start now. Having done that, just ignore him until the time for your next check.

Always remember to reward your child for success in staying nicely in bed. You may want to use a star chart or something like that.
About the Author
Fed up with your children's behavioral problems? Find some answers on Dr. Noel Swanson's Child Behavior Problems website and get a FREE one-hour audio packed with tips, tricks and advice.
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