One of the gifts parents can give their children is teaching and developing the character quality of self-discipline. With young children, in particular, bedtime is a good place to start. Children often don’t want to go to bed and the continual battle night after night is draining, causing many parents to just give up and allow children to stay up later.
A bedtime for children is good for them as well as for their parents. Enforcing it though, means extra work for a while. Here are some suggestions for working with young children to make bedtimes work more effectively:
1) Start the bedtime routine earlier so that it doesn’t all get crammed into the last few minutes. If bedtime is 8:00pm, then start the routine at 7:30 by getting on pajamas and completing a bathroom routine. Then enjoy some relaxed time with children, reading or playing or just talking together.
2) At bedtime, tuck each child in individually. Use this time to continue to debrief about the day in preparation for a good night’s sleep and pleasant dreams. You may pray, sing, and hug your child. Different families do different things to make it fun and meaningful.
3) Enforce quietness. A child may not feel tired so lying quietly is all you need to require. You may have to sit in the doorway or just outside the door to make sure the child doesn’t get up, turn the light on, or start playing.
4) If a child gets up or calls out. Quickly, calmly, and firmly, get the child back in bed with as little dialogue as possible. One dad was surprised to find that the first night he had to take his three-year-old son back to bed over 20 times. After a few days, though, he saw tremendous improvement. His son realized that bedtime was nonnegotiable.
5) Hang in there, be consistent, and invest in the self-discipline development of your child. You and your children will benefit from the work you put into the process.
Bedtimes are opportunities to build relationship, but there comes a point where building self-discipline takes priority. Young children are happier and more pleasant to work with once they’ve learned self-discipline in their lives. It’s work but it’s worth it in the end.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN are authors of a large number of books and other resources on parenting and family life. You can visit them online and subscribe to their free parenting email newsletter at: http://effectiveparenting.org/
You can order their books online at:
“Home Improvement: Eight Tools for Effective Parenting”
“Say Goodbye to Whining and Complaining … In You and Your Kids!”