Let’s call this child, Christy. First, she may say, “Can I have a glass of water?” Five minutes later, Christy appears in the living room, “Can I watch TV, too?”
Perhaps the wife screams, “Go to bed and stay there!”
Christy bangs her bedroom door and starts crying.
Every night parents all over the country have similar problems whether they live in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, or Miami. As a single father, I put my daughters to sleep for more than 18 years with great success. Here’s what you can do to make bedtime peaceful instead of a war zone.
Determine a bedtime
Decide on a definite bedtime getting feedback from your child. Ask Christy, “What time would you prefer for your bedtime, 8:00 or 8:30? Now she’s being consulted and helping make the decision that affects her. Your little girl needs 9-10 hours of sleep per day. Since she has to wake up early for school or camp she’ll get it even if she stays up a little later to read.
Establish a routine
Kids feel comfortable when their days are consistent with defined parameters. If bedtime is at 8:30, give Christy notice an hour prior to the event so she will be prepared when you announce, “Bedtime.” Make sure she showers, gets into her pajamas, and brushes her hair and teeth. Finally, at the given bedtime, tuck your angel in bed and read her a story. When you finish, lights out and give Christy a hug and kiss.
This is the hard part. As a teacher for the Glendale Unified School District, I had papers to grade and lessons to plan. When it came to work, I have always been diligent, BUT FAMILY COMES FIRST. So if your son or daughter acts out after you put them to sleep, take them back to bed, talk to them, and assure them you are nearby, but sleep is important for them to grow up healthy.
If there is a TV show you want to watch, record it. Postpone any phone calls or work you need to do. Christy comes first. However, there is no need to scream or fuss. You’re the adult; behave like one with patience and tranquility. Eventually, usually within 30 days, Christy will get used to the routine and will fall asleep at the prescribed time.
Bedtime is a special time for child and parent. It’s a bonding time where they can connect emotionally. It’s a time to wish your loved one pleasant dreams until you see her in the morning. It’s also an adult time where you can catch up with your wife. Use this time wisely.
Michael Thal is the author of Goodbye Tchaikovsky.