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Got a tired tot who's always fighting sleep? (If only you had that much energy!) Check out these eight ways to beat bedtime battles.
Observe your child to learn when she's really tired. It's important that you help your child get to bed when she is tired, rather than too early or too late.
Make a plan. Talk through the bedtime routine before you are in the middle of it. Since everyone is tired by the time bedtime rolls around, it's easier to decide on a plan earlier in the day. Talk together with your spouse to come up with a time, a routine and a way to set limits, if necessary.
Create a routine that fits everyone's needs. Bedtime routines can include: bathing, teeth brushing, stories (books and story-telling), songs, cuddling, massage, listening to music, recalling events from the day, talking about feelings, laying down together until the child falls asleep, saying prayers, saying "good-nights" to people, talking about the next day, meditating, visualization or thinking about up-coming dreams. Once you've decided on your routine, tell your child what will be happening: "Tonight at bedtime, after you brush your teeth, you can choose a story to read and then I will rub your feet while I sing you a song. After that, it will be time for you to rest. Mommy and I will kiss you good-night and leave so you can go to sleep. Do you want your door open or closed?"
Help your child help herself. Talk to your child ahead of time about how she can help herself fall asleep. "If you're still awake after we leave the room, you could help yourself go to sleep by thinking of your favorite friend, or by holding your bear, or by singing yourself a song." If you think your child is experiencing separation anxiety, offer to put pictures of you around her bed or let her listen to a tape of you singing or telling her stories.
Decide on a plan for follow-through. Once you've completed your routine, your child will, no doubt, call for you, cry or get up out of bed. So be clear about how you're going to respond. When she calls you or cries, you can peek in once and remind her that it's bedtime and that she can help herself go to sleep. You can tell her that if she needs to keep calling or crying, she can, but you won’t be coming in any more. If she gets out of bed, you can gently, firmly and without anger, talking or fanfare, put her back in bed.
Teach her the importance of sleep. "Your body needs sleep so you can have energy to play tomorrow. Sleep helps you feel better, grow and be strong."
Make time to connect during the day and/or early evening hours. If you feel like you have had enough time with your kiddo, it'll be easier to be clear about bedtime and to give consistent messages that it is time to rest.