Bedtime Routines for Young Children
Connie Schnoes, Ph.D. Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health
I would say the main reason children resist bedtime is because the fun of the day is over and they don't get to play anymore. The toys are up, they have to go in their room, be by themselves, be in the quiet, and there is no stimulation.
They can build a routine so the kid gets used to this is what we do, this is how it works, and you end up in bed so that it's hopefully a pleasant, fun interaction where they're getting their pajamas on, reading a story, saying some prayers together, whatever works for that family. The other thing that is really important to do is to teach them to fall asleep by themselves. We don't think about that as parents in a conscious way, but we really do learn how to fall asleep and children need to learn how to do that by themselves.
For toddlers and younger children, you're thinking about it in a 24 hour period, not just at night. For younger children who are still napping, 10 hours over night and probably a couple hour nap during the day. By the time a child is 5 or 6 years old, they still need 11 hours a night on average. As they get older and approach middle-elementary, like 10 years of age, we are looking at 10 hours of sleep. So it's still a lot of sleep for children and that would be all at night because they are not napping anymore.
The most obvious way that parents would see is that their behavior is more disruptive and over-active. Adults get tired and slow down. Little kids wind up and get more active. Things that are less obvious is the impact on their health and their learning. Our brains are so busy while we are sleeping and if we don't get enough sleep then it's really not doing the job it needs to do.
If they have tried everything they know and have read and been encouraged to do and are still spending an excessive time, more than a half hour, then getting help can bring a lot of relief both to the parent and the child.
Are you having trouble getting your child to sleep? Connie Schnoes, Ph.D., Child and Adolescent Psychologist at Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health, discusses the reasons children resist bedtime, what parents can do to make bedtime less stressful, how much sleep children should get every night and when parents should seek help for bedtime issues.