Bedtime Can Be 1-2-3
By Tracy Mayor
You've brushed, you've washed, you've played the tickle game, read "Guess How Much I Love You" three times through (once in the silly voice), found the pacifier, the blankie and Mr. BooBoo, and said goodnight to the dog, the cat, and the beta fish. With one last kiss, your child is finally tucked in. Only problem: it's more than an hour past bedtime!
Bedtimes can become so long and drawn out that somebody, sometimes even Mom or Dad, is in tears by the time it's over. But it doesn't have to be that way, pediatric experts say.
First and foremost, parents should remember that children need sleep for healthy growth and development. The process of falling asleep is learned behavior, which parents can and should teach their children, just as they teach them to eat with a spoon or catch a ball. Done right, a simple, uncomplicated bedtime routine signals sleep to a tired child just as much as a high chair and bib signal dinnertime.
Children have an inclination to fight bedtime, simply because they don't want the day to end, acknowledges Jane Nelsen, EdD, author of the Positive Discipline series of parenting books and Web site (www.positivediscipline.com). Parents can best defuse that power struggle by establishing a consistent bedtime routine and then sticking to it.
"Be kind, but firm," advises Nelsen. "Decide how much time you want to spend on bedtime in total, then divide activities into what you need to do and what you'd like to do." For most families, bathing and teeth-brushing are on the "must do" list, while a game of checkers, a few lullabies in the rocking chair, or a story are nice, but optional.
A bedtime chart is a wonderful way to neutralize fights and keep the good-night process on track, Nelsen says. Even young toddlers will respond to simple pictures -- a rubber duck for the tub, for instance. And older children, who help make the chart by drawing pictures or writing simple words, will feel more in control of the bedtime process.
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