If you've never heard the phrase, "Sleep begets sleep," let it now become your new parenting mantra. Replace sleep with any childlike behavior and it holds true: crankiness, giggles, flu... The list is endless and it always rings true.
If you're skeptical while reading the first paragraph, bear with me for a few more while I elaborate. The more they sleep, the more they will sleep. But that isn't much help when you're struggling to get your kids to actually get to sleep, right? Let my mistakes guide you through your sleepless nights, and in under two weeks I promise you** will feel like you've gotten a whole new lease on life!
Step 1: Establish a routine that works for your family, and one that you know you can follow through on. This is unique to every family, so don't ask your over - achieving next door neighbor what her routine is. What works for my family: 7 pm strict rule of teeth brushing, face washing or shower, one book per child, a good night song with a back rub, and a hug and kiss. Repeat nightly. Trust me on the repetition part. The first few nights will be fun, then you'll probably be met with some stalling or resistance. By the middle of the second week, your kids will understand that they can expect the same thing every night at bedtime, and it will have a positive impact on their sleep habits. I write a lot about repetition in parenting, mainly because I've discovered that it's the one thing that consistently works for my children. When they know what to expect, they are encouraged and look forward to following through.
Step 2: There isn't a step two. If you're giving them the same routine on a daily basis, it will become second nature for everyone involved in their bedtime habits. Just stick to it, and hang in there! Once the ball is rolling on your bedtime routine, they'll sleep like babies in no time (pause for laughter). One day, very soon, you'll want to tell all your friends how sleep really does beget sleep!
Exception: If bedtime isn't your issue, rather the kids are waking up or wandering after their imposed bedtime, consider trying the advice given to me by a long time developmental pediatrician. She suggested calmly taking your child back to their bed, giving
a gentle hug and kiss and walk out again without any talking or engaging. A whispered, "It's bedtime now, we love you," can be offered if they're crying but try to stick to the no engagement rule. It's not the easiest to do when all you want is to console your child, but it sets them up for other bad habits (not being able to trust their own ability to calm down, for example) if you aren't consistent.
If I still haven't convinced you, check out this article on AmeriSleep, where I was interviewed on how to give kids healthy sleep habits. Good luck and sweet dreams!
**Excluding medical issues. This post is for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.