Bedtime. It can be one of the biggest and most stressful power struggles a parent has with their child. It’s one of my biggest struggles, and based on my Facebook feed and conversations with friends, I know that I am not alone. For a variety of reasons, lots of kids just don’t want to go to sleep at night. But as parents, we know kids need ample rest, and it is our job to make sure they get the rest they need.
It’s easy to find endless expert advice about what kids need before, during and after bedtime. Things like:
- Establishing a consistent, quiet, and calm bedtime routine
- Training kids to drift off to sleep on their own
- Acknowledging and easing fears
- Being the leader but offering choices
- Rewarding good bedtime behavior
But what about the exhausted parents who are trying to employ these seemingly perfect strategies, but instead find themselves reduced to begging, pleading, bribing, negotiating, or at times, yelling? What strategies can be used when the approaches listed above aren’t working as intended?
I’ve tried a lot of different bedtime strategies, and I’m living proof that you need more than a story and a sticker chart. Despite my best efforts, both of my kids still fight bedtime and the routine associated with it. Whether it’s because they are over tired, over stimulated, scared of the dark, or simply want control, the bottom line is that sleep-deprived kids breed sleep-deprived parents, and it can be difficult for a sleep-deprived parent to win a bedtime battle. For divorced parents sharing custody, winning these battles can be an even greater challenge because it’s easy to lose traction when establishing a consistent bedtime routine while the kids are with their other parent.
I’m hopeful that one day I’ll win the bedtime war, but in the meantime, I’m going to focus on winning each battle. To keep me on track, I’ve been reminding myself of these keys to success that are often forgotten when in the throes of it.
Be Diligent. Diligence is about focusing on the task at hand, removing distractions, and devoting yourself to the cause. At bedtime, this means, forgetting about the dishes and laundry waiting for me downstairs or my own comfortable bed down the hallway.
Be Patient. Patience is the capacity to accept delay or trouble without getting angry or upset. I know bedtime doesn’t always go as planned so expecting, anticipating, and welcoming delays (within reason, of course) is now part of MY night time routine.
Persevere. Persistence is the quality that enables continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. My kids are persistent at bedtime but now, so am I. I am lovingly standing my ground at bedtime. No television. No sugary sweets. No sleeping in mom’s bed.
Stay Focused on Love. I love my kids, and it is my job to do what’s best for them, even if they don’t like it. So during the most difficult nights, I am staying focused on love, kindness, and understanding.