by Rachel Goodchild
BEFORE we become parents, we just know that those sleepless nights other parents have would not happen to us. Oh no, our children would know who is boss right from the word go.
When they are put to bed, they would go to sleep and around a decent time in the morning, they would wake up and say: "Thank you for putting me to bed. I am so well rested now. May I have some breakfast?"
And then, of course, the dream is shattered by actually having children.
If you're struggling to win the war on bedtimes, there are some solutions at hand. However, it is going to take a concerted effort to fix it.
If you are a two-parent family, or live in an extended family situation, your biggest problem often isn't the children, but the other adults in the house undermining your rules and authority.
The very first thing you need to do is work out with all the adults what the rules are. If everyone is providing an united front, then half the battle is already won.
Bedtimes battles are generally far more about control than anything else. If a child sees you and the other adults are not agreeing, they'll use that to dodge the bedtime bullet.
Once you have the adults on your side, you can create an environment that's going to get your children sleeping like, well, babies.
All through this process, it is very important to remember that you're the grown-up here. Stay calm and loving, keep positive and follow through with the new rules.
* Sticking to bedtime
Things happen from time to time that can throw this out the window but children thrive on routine. With younger children, especially, you have to make the rule and stick to it.
You can give your child the power to choose his/her own bedtime, making the second option only 15 minutes or so later than the first.
If you have older children, you may decide to let them stay up longer on weekends as a treat.
Teenagers would not like having lights out early, but you can tell them they are expected to be in their own rooms by a certain time.
* Make it consistent
Develop a bedtime routine that leads up to going to bed every night and stick to it. It helps everyone to wind down and get ready and gives you a routine that becomes familiar with time.
* Time's up
Give them a warning around an hour or so before bedtime, so they have plenty of time to start winding down. If they have chores to do before bed or homework, they may need a bit more notice. This isn't about creating tension but about making things easier for everyone.
* Staying in bed
Sometimes your children are just not going to be tired. It can be referred to as adult time, but even so, children need to remain in bed during this period.
Older children may want to read, younger children may want to play. Everything is okay, as long as they are in bed, playing or reading quietly. It's their wind-down time.
* Set down the rules
If they are coming out for drinks, give them a bottle water to take into their bedroom. If they are popping to the toilet, then say it is permissible only if they do not talk to anybody.
Keep all post bedtime interactions to a bare minimum when they are up.
* Plan your evening
If you set it up, this could be the beginning of some lovely quiet time for you too. Take back your evenings, and enjoy both the benefits of a well-rested child, and a well-rested you.
the art of parenting
Tuesday March 24 2009