After several weeks in a row of bed-time mayhem with my three-year-old daughter, I decided to use Facebook as a means to troll my list of virtual friends for sympathetic ears. My status read as follows…
“Harry Tournemille is welcoming advice on how to get a 3 yr old to go to bed.”
The intent was to learn which parents were also struggling with bed times for their kids. I also wound up with an interesting spectrum of advice from different parents — all touting their fixes for getting their children to sleep.
No surprise the more interesting psychology lay in the parents’ reactions. Spectrum is the perfect word for the advice I received — and it’s important to note that in no way am I an advocate for any of it. The list is strictly for the sake of conversation and of course entertainment.
The Top 5 Responses:
- Holding the door shut with your child screaming in the other room. A quick prayer for a lock to appear on the door and kapow one appears.
- Vodka (not sure for whom).
- The “pick a treat” method.
- Toss ’em on a treadmill for half an hour so they get good and tired.
Of course, there’s a lot of context missing here, but what really stands out to me is the reactionary quality for most of these responses. They’re designed more to alleviate the discomfort of the adult than actually implement some proper behavioral tendencies in the child.
Nothing wrong with that per se, but something tells me we need to find a bit of a happy medium. The idea is to teach children how to calm themselves enough to settle in for the night.
Once bedtime rolls around, they’re often over-tired, antsy, and ready to tear the walls down. They’re also probably not interested in sleep because…well…it can be a bit boring when there’s so much going on in other rooms. My daughter will sit on the couch with her stuffies and literally bob in and out of consciousness, claiming the entire time that she’s not tired one bit.
As my sister — the behavior therapist — says, sleeping patterns are learned. Any child can be taught how to go to sleep.
So, instead of passing on a universal method for sleep — which I’m not sure exists, I will convey what worked for my daughter. Full credit, of course, going to my wife for actually implementing everything.
- Patterns – Whatever routine you choose, try to keep it as similar as possible each and every night.
- Winding Down – kids are stimulated throughout the day, and to expect them to simply switch off is erroneous. We wouldn’t do it ourselves. Help them establish ways to wind down. Reading books worked for us. Turning the damn television off is also crucial.
- Rewards – I know this is contentious. Some are adamantly opposed to rewarding. My approach is to keep it small, simple, and completely void of sugar. We made a chart, which Simone gets to put stickers on every time she goes to sleep well. After a certain number of consecutive stickers, we head to a craft store and find something for her art box. At the end of the day, it’s a bit like moving towards a goal.
- All Hail the Timer – Every stove has one. Kids love to milk the down-time before the lights go off. Setting the timer to 15-20 minutes give them a good chunk of pre-bed attention, and a clear signal of that time coming to an end.
- Consistency – This goes with the first point, really. But really try to stick to your word, and to the way the schedule has been set. Circumstances, on occasion, may require a modicum of compromise — but it’s best to not make this the norm.
With this routine, we went from 4 weeks straight of early evening hell to five nights in a row of relative ease. Not saying this will work for everyone, but it sure worked like a hot damn for us. At least so far.
Harry Tournemille values sleep more than he values food. Is that wrong?