Older Children and Bedtime Routines

With life-styles today, it is difficult to maintain a regular sleeping schedule for a child, but it is important to try to have a reasonably consistent bedtime schedule. Illness, vacations, visitors, and other extenuating circumstances will sometimes interfere with the bedtime schedule. However, there are a few generalizations that can be made which will oftentimes clarify bedtime habits and relieve bedtime tension. A child should never be told that his bedtime is ALWAYS at a specific time; he will soon learn that extenuating circumstances often change his bedtime hour. The word USUALLY would seem more reasonable to use than ALWAYS. Most children between the ages of 18 and 36 months seem to accept bedtime better if they have some type of routine or ritualistic activity before getting into bed. An example of this is the child who gets ready for bed by putting on pajamas, emptying the bladder, brushing the teeth, and listening to a story or song.

Before television became the “acceptable” nighttime baby sitter, families gathered together for a quiet hour. Parents and children gathered together for reading stories, gently play, and family love. These activities have a calming effect that encourages sleep, and may offer experiences and memories that last for a lifetime. Since television is the rival of reading and the family hour, returning to the old form of pre-sleep activity might alleviate many of the sleep problems that parents encounter today. The child who fights going to sleep should get up in the morning at the usual time regardless of the hour he falls asleep; thus he becomes responsible for the consequences of his nighttime activity. Finally, it is advisable that no child be allowed to sleep with his parents. If parents permit this, they may establish an undesirable habit.