7 Tips for Bedtime Troubles

Sweet Jennifer, age 4, won’t go to bed without putting a fight. She has many tricks to put it off. She won’t get in her pajamas. She won’t brush her teeth. You read her stories but she always wants more. After you leave the room, she calls that she needs water, or pee-pee. It is driving you crazy.

Stop the madness! Call a professional- by that I mean, a behaviorist!

Most children give up their nap between ages three and four. Those kids that still take a nap may not be tired enough to sleep when you want them to.

Disclaimer: If your kid is persistent and loud, it will take persistence and patience on your part. With some kids the process of “going to bed” may take ten minutes. With others, 45. Just be ready. Do not expect your sweet Jennifer to go to sleep right away. And once you start the process, do not give up. Finish it without interruptions no matter how long it takes.

Here are some tips:

  • Always stick to bedtime times, even during weekends and Holidays.
  • Offer choices: “I can read you a book or we can make up stories.” “Do you want to walk to bed or jump like a bunny?” “You want to sleep in your bed or in the sleeping bag?” By providing choices, you give your child control. Now going to bed is her decision.
  • Ignore your child’s delays. Sit in her room and wait until she comes. She will. When she does you give her your full attention. No phones or chatting with other members of your family.
  • Praise each step to the terminal behavior. Don’t wait until she is in her pajamas and in bed to praise.
  • Give warnings: “In ten minutes we are going to bed.” When times comes, turn the TV and all lights you don’t need off. Start slowing down as much as possible and do something quiet to help your child “wind down.”
  • Change the lighting. Some children sleep better in the dark. Others prefer a night light.
  • Try a reward. Use a chart. If your child is in bed by 7 pm, she gets a star. When she has five stars, she gets a special treat or activity.

Don’t feel you are the only one with this problem! It’s pretty much universal. It’s just another phase, and you will survive!

Daniel Adatto, BCBA