Good sleep is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. Lack of sleep is harmful for your body and mind. It leads to memory problems, moodiness, energy deficiency, slow reflexes, weakened immune response, memory issues, and cognitive dysfunction amongst various other diseases. As a parent, you would want your child to have a healthy bedtime routine so that getting the right amount of sleep each night becomes a habit for him/her. Approximately eight hours of sleep every night will prove to be extremely beneficial for your child.
However, children (both toddlers and teens) are not all that easy to convince in this aspect. Many parents complain about their children’s reluctance in going to bed in time. To fix their routine appropriately, you need to look at long term goals and be patient. Your efforts will have to be persistent. The aim is to inculcate a good habit in a natural manner rather than having to enforce your will on your kids.
Here are the steps you need to take-
Set a good example
Children learn by observing. If your child sees you watching television until very late at night, or the lights being switched off well past bedtime, he/she will follow the same routine. Convincing them to sleep in time will be much easier if they feel (or are made to feel) that everyone in the house sleeps according to the fixed bedtime.
Switch off the Wi-Fi and all electronic gadgets
For the good of the child AND your whole family, refrain from using gadgets like mobile phones, laptops, television, gaming consoles etc. The mindless gaming and Facebook scrolling is only going to rob you off your sleep and precious time, nothing else. Enforce this rule for all.
Conduct fun bedtime activities
Help your children plan a fun routine before they go to bed. Let the hour before bedtime be the happiest one, wherein they look forward to wrapping up the day in a pleasant manner. Little things like a warm bath, a glass of their favourite milk, listening to soothing music, an honest prayer, story- telling, and lullabies can make the child look forward to bedtime. Use such rewards to train them. Remember to make this hour joyful by snuggling with them, having a heart to heart conversation, and bestowing bedtime kisses; they will feel comfortable and refreshed.
Talk to them
Children are very smart. They are also keen learners. If you maintain a good rapport with your children, you can have healthy conversations with them. You can talk to them, explaining why you feel they should maintain a bedtime routine for themselves. Once they realise the benefits of the same, and your concern for them, they might end up complying easily with the fixed routine.
Respect their needs
Allow a little bit of flexibility and individual space. Last moment work for a project, or a last break to the bathroom should be permissible. With a rigid control, children end up feeling that they have no freedom or no control. Provide them with a sense of independence and adjust the bedtimes once in a while to pacify their anxieties. Let them choose which story they wish to hear, or which pyjama they wish to wear, or whether they wish to drink the milk or not. Little bouts of such freedom allowed now and then will make them feel like they have a say in the routine.
It is very important to not let your exhaustion or moodiness affect the way you handle your kids before their bedtime. Do not let your personal issues creep into your bedtime hour with the child. This will lead to irritation and anger in your behaviour. Hurt by repeated chiding, the child will also start acting rebellious rather than being obedient. Most importantly, it is better if both the parents actively participate in this routine. If only one parent enforces these steps, it may become counter- productive. None of the parents needs to be the bad cop here.
With a little bit of patience and some pragmatic experiments, you can maintain a diligent bedtime routine for your kids. Understand their needs and customise your ways of making them understand the significance of the routine. Create flexible boundaries, not unyielding orders. You must work as a team with your child. The child should also be aware that no matter what the deadline for bedtime is, you will undoubtedly be available for him/her in case of an emergency, or if they experience any mental/physical discomfort. As mentioned earlier, the aim is not to impose a rule, but to formulate a good habit naturally.