Parenting Perspective: Bedtime challenges

April 2, 2010 7:54:15 AM PDT
When it comes to putting my 7-year-old son Nicholas to bed, I can be a big pushover. Unlike my wife (who's a little tougher) I usually acquiesce when Nicholas asks, "can I stay up a little later tonight? I'm not really tired yet." In fact putting Nicholas to bed is my wife's primary responsibility because I'm just not tough enough... and Nicholas knows it.

Experts say this is nothing unusual. Bedtime can be one of the most frustrating times for parents, because all too often the kids call the shots. But what I've learned through research, is that night-time may be the most important time for a mom or dad to be strong and un-bending. Children need our help during this major transition of their day -tired or not.

When it is my responsibility to put Nicholas to bed, I need to remind myself that I'm in charge. But to also remain positive and firm.

It can be easier said than done, so here's some tips that have proved helpful in my home:

    1. We prepare for bedtime by giving Nicholas notice. At 7:30 we tell him he has an hour before it's time to get ready for bed. By announcing in advance their bedtime, he can begin to mentally prepare for it, and hopefully become more receptive to it.

    2. A favorite stuffed animal is also helpful in the bedtime process. Nicholas prefers a large stuffed penguin. Experts say this helps the transition to sleep by making him feel more secure, and even symbolically reminding him of mom and dad. (I do resemble a penguin sometimes--especially when I'm wearing a tuxedo!)

    3. We've also developed a consistent routine for Nicholas at bed-time. From getting the jammies on, to washing his face, to brushing his teeth to the all-important bedtime helps him to adapt better.

Like many aspects of parenting, it can be a challenge. But the upside is I sleep a lot better too at night - because I'm usually exhausted after getting him to bed!