We all know that compromising with an articulate tot can feel like negotiating the eurozone crisis at an EU summit. At two, three and even six years children have an unnerving ability to be resolute in their demands and opinions. As described by Jean Piaget (the famous child psychologist) during this stage, children are able to represent the world with words and images, but they’re still not able to use true logical reasoning. For example – there is no point in trying to reason with your child that if they don’t go to sleep now they will be cranky in the morning. Why should that matter to them? At this stage the child also has no ability to go back in time and reason. If you miss your opportunity to explain or punish when something happens – forget it, because they have. Just remember when you’re dealing with a 2 – 6 year old everything is black or white and they don’t like waiting!
At this stage children judge everything on the “me” basis How does it affect “me”? Do “I” like it? It’s not their fault – just the stage they “are at”.
Get the idea?
It’s important for parents to absolutely “know” that they are setting boundaries in their child’s best interest. And that means both of you! Many times parents contact us about sleep refusal. When we dig a little deeper we find out that when dad is working late mum is only too happy to let the child stay up. This inconsistency is bound to be confusing for the child.
So – how do you keep a tot in bed? Here are our top 10 suggestions.
- Children love predictability and routines. Make a VISUAL CHART of your child’s bedtime routine. Encourage your child to help and have fun finding pictures in magazines, cutting them out and sticking them onto a large poster for the bedroom wall. Follow the visual chart each night. Make it fun for your child – but not overstimulating. The last picture on the chart could be a photograph of your child sleeping peacefully. Tell him/her that you expect them to be asleep like the photograph.
- Cognitively, many children aren’t ready for a “big bed” until they are nearer three years of age. At two years the new found freedom of being in a bed is too hard to resist.
- The safety of your child is paramount. Remember to use bedguards and stairgates to keep your child in a safe environment. A stairgate at the bedroom door will also prevent your child climbing into your bed in the middle of the night.
- If your child get’s out of bed tell him/her firmly but patiently “it’s time for bed”. Do this 3 times but on the fourth escape say nothing except lead him/her back to bed again. (You many need to do this again and again).
- Don’t forget that older children will also benefit from “wind down” time. Small children should never have television/DVD’s in the bedroom. In fact we recommend no television for at least 30 – 60 minutes before bedtime.
- A wake up light will help to give your child a visual cue of “wake up” time. No need to buy a special, expensive clock. Many DIY stores sell devices for around £5 that will turn a lamp on at a pre-set time.
- Pre-empt your child’s requests. So – if they always call out for a wee or a drink 10 minutes after light’s out make sure you have a drink by the bed and end the bedtime routine with a trip to the loo.
- If your child calls out for another kiss/cuddle try giving their teddy or favourite “cuddly” lot’s of kisses and cuddles before you leave the bedroom. And say, ” I’ve given teddy all my kisses and cuddles and he can give them back to you”.
- If your child has difficulty going to sleep but then is slow to wake in the morning try putting your child to bed at the latest time he normally falls to sleep and reduce this by 15 minutes every 2-3 days. So – If he normally falls to sleep at 9pm – try putting him to bed at 8.45 for a few nights, then 8.30 for a few nights etc. You are encouraging your child to fall to sleep quickly – not spend hours processing his thoughts.
- Always wake your child at around the same time each morning. This sets the body clock for the day and hence – night time sleep.