Watch your languageIf your little one struggles at bedtime, you will certainly want to avoid sending them to bed as a punishment. But even so it is easy to talk about sleep negatively. Here are some things most of us have said at one time or another, that may not give the impression we had intended:
"That behaviour tells me you need an early night"
"You have to have a nap, then we can go to the park"
"We can't stay any longer, you need to go to bed."
"That's enough now, stop being silly and go to sleep."
"I need a coffee, I stayed up late watching a film last night."
In each case the parent is accidentally suggesting that bedtime is a punishment for poor behaviour, or something that gets in the way of fun. Alternative things to say might include:
"Are you tired? You can have a nice early night, then you will feel better."
"It's time to go home so you can snuggle with teddy and have a nap."
"I'm looking forward to curling up under my duvet and reading my book, what's your favourite bit of bedtime?"
"I'm tired, I would like to have a sleep!"
Leave plenty of time
Children sense when bedtime is rushed and you just want to get it out of the way, which is why they are so much more likely to cause problems on the one night you have booked a babysitter! Plan your bedtime routine to last about 30 or 40 minutes and leave plenty of time to get through it, more on a day when you have a deadline. You want to exude a sense of relaxed calm to soothe your child towards sleep, not anxious clock watching.
Everything in your bedtime routine should be enjoyable, so it's a part of the day that you and your child can both look forward to. That means your routine may look nothing like anyone else's! Provided everything is calm and relaxing it really doesn't matter if you don't include a bath or story time, or if your child wants to sit nearby instead of on your lap to read a book. Things like getting clean and developing literacy are important but they can happen at any time of day. The point of bedtime is to connect with your child, share a loving bond, relax and slow down ready for sleep. Don't be afraid to create your own routine to achieve that, just be consistent once you have.
If you have enjoyed this post, why not download my free ebook Seven steps to Easy Bedtimes, which will take you through the process of creating a bedtime routine that really works for your unique family.