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Article: getting kids to bed


nightfalls
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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Forgeting,

Can you tell us more about the problems you have getting the kids to bed?

Also, do others have some suggestions about how to deal with this all too common problem?

Allan

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest ASchwartz

Dear Forgeting,

There are lots of people who have difficulty being firm about bed time once the kids start to cry.

Does anyone have helpful suggestions for forgeting?

Allan

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  • 2 weeks later...

One idea might be to start out with a little interval in which you don't respond (say 5 minutes) and then gradually increase it. Use a timer, so you aren't tempted to cheat. Here's an example- for 3 days, allow five minutes of crying. Then the next 3 days, go to 10 (or, if that's too much, go to 8). Keep gradually increasing the time. It also helps to block out the noise of the crying so the time period doesn't seem longer than it truly is. Put on some headphones or, go in a distant room so you can't hear the crying sound (or at least, the crying sound is less aversive). Also, rather than dwelling on the crying, try to read a book, watch t.v., or find something else that is pleasantly distracting while you increase the time to response.

I know this is very hard, but it is really an important skill for children to learn to be able to soothe themselves.

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  • 1 month later...

I too have major sleep issues when it comes to both of my children. My son, 5, and my daughter 3. I've tried scoulding, yelling, being stern, everything I can think of under the sun. I've let them cry it out. I've tried continously returning them to bed (about 20 times in a row). Hours, upon hours. Days and days of this, with no positive results. For the past 3 years I have been holding down 2 jobs, and returned to college to get my AAS Degree. Surprisingly enough, I graduated with honors this past May. But since graduation, I've noticed I have less patients, still can't get to sleep until late, and no progres with the kids. I've read and have had conversations as to what causes the children to not sleep and with that have learned what I have done so wrong, but know where have I found how to change it. What can I do! I need my life back. My youngest is the biggest problem. My son I can at least get him to stay in his room, but my 3 year old daughter is a complete opposite. If anyone has any suggestions, please, please forward them on. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Rebecca:eek:

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Hi-

You both must feel exhausted, frustrated and burnt out!!! Not to mention, I can't imagine the dark circles you must be cultivating. :)

It's hard for me to come up with a comprehensive plan to help, because I don't know your children and can't know exactly what goes on prior to and during the evening before bedtime in your homes. But here are some general rules to help kids sleep:

1) Look at your environment. Is there anything that prevents your kids from getting adequate sleep? Are they going to bed too early? Are they drinking/eating to close to bedtime? Is the house too noisy at this time? etc. etc., Also, look at what you do.... do you have a consistent bedtime routine? This sequence of events should both calm kids down and help them transition from daytime activity to nighttime sleep. So, you could do a bath, followed by a story, followed by a bit of snuggling, brushing teeth, and then lights out (or whatever sequence of events that you want to do in whatever order; that part doesn't matter). Do this in the same way, at the same time (as much as possible) each night. In the same vein, try to eliminate stimulating activities before starting the wind down period. For instance, don't start a fun game, or electronic stuff, or highly physical play right before starting the bedtime routine. Give them enough time to switch gears. You could even give them a "10 minute warning" before it's time to start the going to bed ritual.

2) Consider shifting your approach. If you aren't comfortable with letting them cry it out and not going to them repeatedly, then a positive reinforcement plan might be a more comfortable idea. This involves rewarding the behavior that you want them to do. Be realistic, though. A three year old who gets up five times in one night is not suddenly going to go to bed with no problem in 2 days. You have to start with small successes and build up to the big goal.

3) Also, you may have to work on and redefine your own definition of success. For some children, success might mean only needing 1 check in with the parent before sleeping thru the night. For others, it might mean that they wake up several times, but do not disturb others in the house (they look at books or play with a stuffed animal rather than yelling or getting you).

Probably the most concrete way to do a behavior plan for young children is to make a sticker chart (or some kind of chart). Explain to the children that you are having a contest, or playing a game, and then explain what they have to do to earn a sticker for each successful night. Have a separate chart for each child. Then, explain what they can do with the stickers (the stickers can then be traded for small prizes, extra play time, etc. etc; so for, example, 5 stickers means that the child gets ten extra minutes of playing outside, or whatever is highly rewarding to him or her).

The first few nights should be very modest goals so that the children can experience success. Then, gradually make the requirements for the stickers closer to the goal of sleeping thru the night.

The final part of the behavior plan should include what you will do if they do not follow the rules. That should also be very consistent, and planned out (and explained to the children) ahead of time. Screaming one night, sleeping on the floor the next, and then having them come into your bed on the third is only going to make it worse because it is confusing and ultimately, still getting them what they want.... attention from you. So, you will still need to figure out how to handle the getting up, calling for you, crying, etc.

This sounds a bit complicated, but it can be very successful. If you are truly at your wit's end, you might also consider going to see a child mental health professional with a behavioral therapy type approach. This type of professional can help you come up with a sleeping plan that is directly tailored to your children and your family, and can help you tweak it as you go along.

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