It’s the end of a long, busy day and you are looking forward to finishing up the dishes so you can sit down with your indulgence of choice and watch half a movie before you fall asleep on the couch and force yourself up to bed. Unfortunately your “me time” is being cut short by your persistent preschooler who just won’t let you leave the room.
“I’m thirsty”, and “I need to read another book”, and “where is X toy and Y person”. At first you humor them and give into their “one more hug” and their “I need a different blanket”, but then you start getting frustrated as the amount of chores that need doing start going through your head. One part of you wants to scream, but another part of you knows that it’s just a phase. Eventually they will grow out of it, but only with a little guidance. Don’t expect them to stop all the demands and nightly questions at once, simply help them get past the stalling in their routine by being consistent and calm.
Limit bedtime reading to only one or two books except for special occasions. If your child insists on having something different each night at bedtime, whether it be blanket or bear, give them a choice of two or three they get to choose between each night. This narrows down their choices and makes the decision process quicker. If you make it clear that only those options are available, or no option at all, they will eventually stop arguing and quickly make a choice. Even if you want to give them anything they want just to get them to go to sleep, you must not give in. Giving in will only lengthen the bedtime process because they know that if they ask enough times they will eventually get what they really want.
If asking for more to drink or eat is their stalling method make sure to offer both items before going to bed. Start getting ready a little earlier than usual so that you have time for them to get that last snack or beverage in their belly before it’s actually bedtime. This gives them time to get all their needs out of their system before the bedtime routine begins.
If your child is worried about ghosts, monsters, or scary animals, always do your best to comfort them in an honest way. Explain that ghosts and monsters are not real, and so on. If the conversation is not heading in the direction you want it to, try giving them something special; possibly something of yours that will keep them safe. This item could be a small stuffed toy you had as a child, a lucky coin or rock, or an article of clothing that keeps all scary things away. Let your child sleep with a night light or get them a flashlight they can keep in bed with them until they fall asleep. If your child is scared night after night be sure to give them the same reasons each night as to why they should not be afraid so that they do not become confused. Confusion can lead to a more prolonged bedtime ritual with more questions that need answering.
Who can deny their child one more hug or kiss at bedtime? While it is hard because you want your child to know your love for them is not limited, you must also explain that mommy’s and daddy’s have things they need to do, too. If you give your child a reason as to why they must go to bed instead of simply stating that’s what time it is, they are more willing to let you go. Tell them that you want to be able to spend all your extra time with them so you must do your chores after they go to sleep. You can be specific and say it’s laundry time or clean up time, but make sure they know there is a reason why you are leaving them. It’s always good for a child to know that mommy’s and daddy’s need some kid free time once in a while. Not because they don’t want to be around their children, but because it gives them a bunch more energy to play the next day. When your child is finally going to bed quickly each night and you get to eat that coffee ice cream that’s been calling your name, you will appreciate your time with your child that much more, because you are finally getting a little “me time.”
For more tips read Holly Robinson’s story and these 8 ways to get your child to bed.