Most parents of preschool or young elementary-aged kids have a love-hate relationship with their children’s bedtime. It’s easy to love the result – a quiet house to ourselves before we go to bed, but it’s also easy to hate the process – endless complaining, whining, bathroom trips and plenty of “I can’t fall asleep!”s.
Bedtime is one of the best opportunities for discussions and conversations with kids of any age. Don’t miss out on the possibilities! But, when it’s actually time for our children to go to sleep, how do we help them fall asleep quickly?
I’ve taken to preaching “four rules for falling asleep” for my kids. Whether it’s while I’m checking on them after putting them down, or just because I’m noticing rule violations after I’ve left the room, I’ve found that going back to these four rules have been helpful for my kids. It helps give them structure for how to behave while falling asleep. Perhaps they’ll help you as well.
When I’m kissing my kids goodnight, I usually repeat the four rules in a friendly manner: “Hey, do you remember the four steps for falling asleep? Which ones do you remember?” Then, as I observe violations, I’ll wander back in and point out the specific issue.
1. Close Your Eyes.
The most basic of the rules (and the one that’s almost certainly violated the most). Our kids just need to be encouraged to close their eyes when going to sleep. I generally breeze over this rule, simply because my youngest squeeze their eyes shut in a way that would keep them awake, and my older kids don’t care enough to actually listen. But it’s an essential part of falling asleep!
2. Lie Still.
This is a common rule violation. I’ll come in after kids have been kicking the walls, rearranging their sleeping situation or just generally thrashing around. Reinforcing this rule helps to remove distractions. Tucking kids in tightly helps to remind them of Rule 2 as well.
3. Stay Quiet.
Talking, singing or general potty noises (for my son) are the main culprits. Even though my children share rooms, we put them to bed in separate rooms. So they’re not talking with each other – they’re mostly just talking to themselves. A gentle reminder that silence leads to sleep usually helps them quiet down.
This is the step (or rule) that serves as the golden catch-all. It’s my fabulous answer to the age old question, “Dad, how do I fall asleep???? I’ve been lying there forever!!! (translated – 2 minutes)” I’m able to respond, “Are you closing your eyes?” “Yup!” (probably a lie) “Are you lying still?” “Yup!” “Are you being quiet?” “Yup!”
“Well, then, sweetie, you just need to wait. Sleep will come!”
It’s the final, wonderful step that adds patience and longevity to the other three steps.
Bedtime is a journey (or full out warfare). What other ideas or steps do you use for helping your children fall asleep? We would all appreciate the help!