5 Tips to Take the Drama Out of Dream-Time
We’ve all been there – sleep deprived and irritable. Exhausted and irrational. Cranky and not at all our best selves. Step one? Forgive yourself. You’re human and a parent and both of those titles carry a heavy load at times. Step two? Put some practical strategies in place to help you and your kids get more shut-eye and more peace of mind. Like most parenting problems, getting beyond the dream-time drama starts with challenging and changing some behaviors – both theirs – and yours!
Let’s start here…
1. Stop making bedtime the bad guy. I love this advice. According to Heather Turgeon, co-author of The Happy Sleeper, we parents portray bedtime as a punishment, and why not? How many times over the years have you heard (or said), “Keep it up and you’ll go straight to bed”? (As adults you’d LOVE for someone to tell you that, right?) But to kids, it doesn’t feel like a good thing when bedtime is branded that way. Instead change your tune. Start talking about all the wonderful things that make bedtime special – such as stories, snuggling, a safe and warm place, and sweet dreams. When it feels more like a reward to them than a last resort, you’ll all rest easier.
2. Make sure their buckets are full. Here’s why a lot of kids struggle with bedtime – they feel like they haven’t gotten the “you-time” they needed that day and they aren’t ready to give up trying to get it. One of my favorite tools to bring out the best in your kids behavior (day and night) is called Mind, Body, and Soul Time. Giving your kids just 10-15 minutes a day of uninterrupted, one-on-one, all-about-them time can fill their emotional baskets in substantial ways. Fill those attention baskets during the day and your kids will be much less likely to demand your attention at night. (16 drinks of water, anyone?)
3. Stick to the routine. I know it’s not always easy, but do yourself and your kids a big favor by sticking to the same bedtime routine every night. If bedtime is 8 p.m. one night, 8:15 p.m. the next and 9 p.m. on weekends, there really is no bedtime and you'll forever be in negotiations. Bedtimes should be the same seven days a week because kids' bodies need a certain amount of sleep whether it's a Wednesday or a Saturday! Know that when you set a firm bedtime (and stick to it!), it’s because you are doing what’s best for growing minds and bodies – not because you’re the bad guy.
4. Practice some “When-Then” time. Another tip for bedtime bliss is the “When-Then Routine.” It’s a great motivator for kids and a parent favorite from The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic. Here’s a sample dialogue: “WHEN your pajamas are on, you’ve brushed your teeth, and we’ve picked out tomorrow’s clothes, THEN we’ll snuggle and read a bedtime story.” Stick to your guns, though. If your child is stalling and dragging his feet, then snuggles and story time will have to wait for another day. That will help kids realize the consequence and help them hustle the following night.
5. Put some of the control in their court. Let your child help create a nightly checklist using words or pictures and let them navigate through the steps. This is a fun and empowering practice for them and helps them become part of the process rather than fighting the bedtime mandate.
Hopefully these strategies will leave you less weary and more excited about using tools that work for both you and your kids. It’s a fast-paced world we live in and sleep is a precious commodity. Here’s to catching some Z’s and having a whole lot more fun in your family!
Amy McCready is the Founder of PositiveParentingSolutions.com and the author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic.
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