From posts on Facebook, we've seen one question come up time and time again: "How do I get my kids to go to bed and stay there?"
During the first year or so, simply comfort them.
Emotional bonding and the development of trust are the critical emotional tasks during the first year of life. Therefore, parents of very young children are wisest to respond to crying by comforting and meeting needs…not by ignoring them or trying to apply consequences.
Create a calming routine.
Make the bedroom time routine as fun, loving, and predictable as possible.
Turn off the electronic stimulation.
Television, computer games, and other electronic stimulation make it much more difficult for children to calm down and get some rest.
Give plenty of choices.
Have you noticed that we use "bedroom time" rather than "bed time"? We can't force our kids to sleep and to stay in their beds, but we can give them plenty of choices about what they do as they remain in their rooms. Here are some possible choices: lights on or lights off, music on or music off, sleeping with their head at the top of the bed or at the bottom, playing quietly or going to sleep, etc.
Children take their emotional cues from the adults around them. When saying "good-night" make it quick and positive. Excessive reassurance simply elevates everyone's anxiety.
Enforce "bedroom time" without emotions or too many words.
After your kids reach their second birthday, it's okay to begin showing them that they'll be okay at night without being right next to you. This requires taking your child back to their room and lovingly informing them that the door will stay open as long as they stay inside. When they try to exit, close the door and remain outside of it, ensuring that they are safe and that they remain in their room. While upsetting in the moment, most parents find that staying firm actually allows their children to become far happier and confident in the long term.
In my DVD, Painless Parenting for the Preschool Years, I discuss how to do all of this in caring ways that leave kids feeling capable and loved.
Thanks for reading! Our goal is to help as many families as possible. If this is a benefit, forward it to a friend.
Dr. Charles Fay