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Bedtime Battles

Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
Upstairs and downstairs in his nightgown,
Tapping at the window and crying through the lock,
Are all the children in their beds?
It's past eight o'clock!

Nursery rhyme by William Miller"

But I don't WANT to go to bed!"

Sound familiar? Many parents I've spoken to seem to think so. At this age, children are striving to be independent. They are certainly little people rather than babies and as such, will sometimes resist bedtime.

What's this all about?

Many children at this age are scared of missing out on some fun - sleep can seem very boring compared to the excitement of the day. In some cases however, this resistance is because they are frightened of falling asleep. Things that go bump in the night can be pretty scary when you're all alone in the dark.

But getting enough sleep is really important. An average four year old needs 10 to 12 hours sleep a night; and a tired, grumpy four year old can be extremely difficult, so it's well worth getting it right!

How should you handle it?

‘Kids thrive on routine" says Patrick Friman, author of Good Night, Sweet Dreams, I Love You: Now Get Into Bed and Go to Sleep! "If they know that every night they will be brushing their teeth, putting on pyjamas and going to sleep at a certain time, they will grow to expect that and will be more willing to go along with the program."

I've two children of my own and having a routine and sticking to it works wonders. I've found it also helps to give back some control to the child, as it allows them to retain a sense of independence. So, for example, I let them pick out which bedtime story we read before they go to sleep.

If your child finds it difficult to go to sleep, try and talk through why that is. It's best not to do this at bedtime as you may find yourself engaged in a power struggle. Instead have the conversation during the day. Are they afraid of the dark? If so, let your child sleep with a torch, so they can reassure themselves that there's nothing there. If it's too quiet, play soft soothing music to help them get off to sleep. Listen to their concerns and try to find a solution together. Again if your child feels involved, they will feel more independent and grown up, and of course the solution's more likely to succeed.

Most importantly, don't back down. Stay calm and be firm, and do not make exceptions to bedtime routines. If you do, then your child will continue to test you again and again.

You might feel like you're being mean, but it really is for your child's own good. A well rested child will be happier, better able to concentrate, learn, develop and enjoy themselves.

Play and pretend

If your child thinks bed is a boring place, try playing a calm version of Tents to Teepees. It might get them in a more relaxed contemplative mood and they'll be much more likely to have something else to think about if they're bedding down in a Sultan's Palace or a Fairy Castle!

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