The term ‘bedtime’ is becoming a dreaded one in our home lately. As our toddler only gets older and is growing rather quickly into a big kid, he now knows all the right things to say or do to extend his bed time.
He just came home from a vacation that lasted a little over two-weeks with his mother. The first factor that has altered his sleeping pattern; early morning and late night plane trips, meeting new people, sleeping in a place that isn’t home- where he doesn’t have a room of his own or his bed that perfectly fits his tiny, yet big self. Factor two is simply his age. As he gets older he understands more but still doesn’t quite grasp the importance of sleep- something he won’t learn until he’s 25 with children and is in desperate need of just a five minute nap.
When he first arrived home he was overjoyed to see his room was still there as was Daddy, myself and of course sissy. He came home rather late, so we had to save most of our catching up for the next morning. We played and laughed, brushed our teeth and put on our pajamas. He knew bed time was approaching as I mentioned it was time to pick out a few books to read; he slightly fussed but quickly overcame his tiredness, marched up to our reading wall and grabbed his favorite books, Cars and Elmo. As a family we curled up in his tiny, big boy bed and read his books, each one twice. We all gave hugs, kisses and wished sweet dreams. Nightlight is on, he is ready for bed. Wait, not so fast.
Just as we were about to turn his door he reminds me I forgot our favorite nighttime routine, singing. Our favorite song to sing together (mostly me singing and him “correcting” the words) is Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas. I offered one last drink of water and a potty break. He declined the potty break surprise, surprise. He was finally ready for bed, but “I need just a little bit more of a drink” he whispers. Okay, I’ll be right back.
He had thought of everything possible to stay awake, all he wanted was to play fireman with Daddy and rescue his sissy from a ‘burning couch’. We couldn’t fault him for wanted to spend time with his family, he hadn’t seen us in his words “a very long time”. No matter how much we wanted to play and laugh the night away, he needed sleep much more than we needed to have a family night.
Routine is what’s best for him and any child his age. Dinner followed by his bath are at the same time each night. We give him about 30 minutes to play and unwind then we read books as a family, sing our songs, take a potty break and off he goes. Some nights he doesn’t want to follow the routine and others he’s leading us through the whole thing. But no matter what his mood, bedtime always goes the same way at our home.
It is important for children to know what’s coming next, they need to have boundaries and routines because without them, they end up lost and frustrated. I read a book recently about behavior issues in young children, and it said pretty much that; if you don’t set boundaries or simple routines for your child, they will just be left wondering what he/ she is expected to do, which most likely results in bad behavior habits. At a young age big decisions such as picking their own bedtime or their daily diet shouldn’t be left up to them. Their brains are just not matured enough to handle such a responsibility.
Will all that being said, each child is different, you should address boundaries and routines every few months, for each child in your home. You cannot expect an eight month old and a three year old to follow the same routines. Continuous communication not only between mommy and daddy, but between parent and child will help make clear what your child’s needs are during a particular time in his/her life. Remember to listen as much as you can to your child and pay close attention to their attitude throughout the day. Actions always speak louder than words.
If your child is fussy all day from the time he woke up, maybe he should go to bed a littler earlier or take an extra nap as he might be tired. Maybe your child is off the walls and misbehaving, consider his diet- did he have a lot of sugary juice today? Did he have enough nutrient filled foods? I suggest watering down all juice and offering fruit that is high in sugar only once a day. Your child will express what he or she needs, your just have to listen and watch carefully.