Almost all children go through periods when they resist going to sleep. The best approach to conquering nighttime issues is by having strategies in place to help prevent problems before they start. Here are a couple of my favorite recommendations.
Establish a routine. Set times every day when your child will go to bed and get up in the morning. This is important during summer, too. Maintaining a routine helps a child become psychologically ready for sleep.
Have a period of quiet time before bed when rough-housing and projects are put aside. Consider shutting off the television about thirty minutes beforehand to help with the transition.
Give your child advance notice that bedtime is coming up in about 10 minutes. This allows your child to prepare for the transition.
Use bedtime to spend quality time together, like reading or lying in bed talking about the day. It gives you a chance to hear what’s on your little one’s mind.
Be prepared to manage your child’s behavior if he child pops in and out of his room every two minutes after you leave. One suggestion is to give your youngster five pennies or other item that he can “pay” you with every time he leaves his room or calls you back. If any are left in the morning, he earns a prize (e.g. quarters or anything else that motivates your child. Make sure he gets the reward first thing in the morning to reinforce how well he did. This system won’t stop him from leaving his room, but he may think more about leaving the room if he has to “pay.” Since your child has some control over the situation, he is much less likely to feel abandoned.
Do not use bedtime as a form of punishment. It is best to find other consequences to apply and to leave the bedtime routine intact.
Remember, a child’s resistance to going to bed is normal so establishing a routine will help prevent bedtime from becoming a power struggle between the two of you. Bedtime should be a time when your child can feel relaxed, safe and content.