Winning the Bedtime Battle: Insecurity and Distractions

Bedtime RoutinesIf you have a difficult time getting your child to go to bed at night, the first step is to figure out why your child says, "But I'm not tired!" Is he in need of more attention? Is he scared of the dark? Is he feeling the need to assert his independence? Or, the answer could be that he really isn't tired. Your child may have a natural inclination to be alert late at night. In order to reduce your child's resistance, think about his stage of maturation, his bedtime routine, and any important changes in his life, such as a divorce or death in the family.

Insecurity and Distractions
Many children are afraid of being alone in a dark room. According to Cliff Siegel, M.D., as quoted by Sarah Hutter in I'm Not Tired! (Working Mother, September 1995), "It leaves them to their own imaginations, and it's easy for them to envision monsters in the closet or under the bed."

Your child could also be experiencing a bit of separation anxiety. Does she have a hard time going to day care or the babysitter's? She could be feeling some of that same worry when she has to leave you to go to bed at night.

The continued noise and activity level in the house at your child's bedtime may be distracting her from falling asleep. She may be afraid she is missing out on the fun, and will maintain, "I'm not tired!"

In these circumstances, consider the following solutions:

1. Tackle fears.
Talk to her about her fears and kindly explain that she is safe and you won't let anything happen to her. Let her keep her door open a crack, and keep the hall light on. According to Sarah Hutter in the article mentioned above, you should not offer to stay by her side until she falls asleep. Dr. Siegel warns this could make your child become dependent on your presence every night.

2. Set routines.
Give your child at least half an hour to relax and get ready to go to bed. Comforting rituals include taking baths and reading bedtime stories. Hutter offers that ". . . predictability will increase your child's sense of security."

3. Establish a consistent bedtime.
Once you choose a bedtime that will give your child enough sleep (11 to 12 hours is the typical amount of sleep needed by a three- to five-year-old), be sure to enforce it. All children benefit from a regular sleep schedule.

Click to find solutions to common childhood problems.


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