What guidance does the Bible provide?
"Point your kids in the right direction—when they're old they won't be lost." Proverbs 22:6 Our children need direction and guidance now. They have been entrusted to us, and we are to help raise them in a manner that is pleasing to God. If children are filled with good direction and teaching, they will not stray from the right path when they grow up."He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters." Psalm 23:2. This verse reminds us as parents to look to our heavenly father to calm our hearts and attitudes before handling a stressful situation with our children. The Lord will quiet our anger and frustrations so that we can speak pleasantly with our child and diffuse the issues about bedtime in the right mindset.
Things to think about:
At times, a parent can tell when their child is fighting sleep through actions such as rubbing their eyes, yawning, and emotional breakdowns at the slightest of frustrations. Children may also show signs of exhaustion by seeming wide-awake or even hyper, but this is an attempt to distract from the fact that they are fatigued. Parents often find themselves in a battle with their child to get them into bed. A child that refuses to go to sleep at night is exerting their control over the situation. Children begin to learn that they can make some decisions for themselves and attempt to assert their independence in ways such as bedtime. A strong-willed child will push their limits to see what they can get away with, hoping that their parent will cave and give them what they want.
What do I do now?
Praying before and during this type of situation is helpful. This allows parents to align their hearts and minds to the will of the Lord for them, their child, and the parent-child relationship. Anger out of frustration is a natural response to this stressful situation. Remembering to go to prayer will help to ease the tensions and set the parent up with patience and success.
The child should have a clear picture of what is expected of them in regards to going to bed. Creating a routine for the child to understand and be held accountable is a great tool for a positive bedtime schedule. A strong-willed child is testing the parents' endurance in remaining firm in the rules. One huge way to improve bedtime delay is by outlasting the persistent child. Continue to respond in the same way time and time again by placing them back in bed.
Some tips to remember during this process:
- Stay calm and avoid showing frustration
- Speak in a firm voice and instruct your child
- Be strong, your child will eventually give up and stay in bed
When working through the various issues of getting a bedtime routine established, it is important to answer several questions in regards to your child and their specific difficulties. This could help you as the parent understand if your bedtime struggles are out of defiance or anxiety.
- Is your child stalling at bedtime?
- Is your child avoiding bedtime to stay up and play?
- Is your child pushing the limits to see how far they can get?
- Is disobedience the main struggle that you have with your child?
- Is your child transitioning from a different sleeping schedule/place?
- Does your child seem fearful to sleep alone?
- Is your child expressing any kinds of worries at bedtime?
Encouraging your child is important in working through bedtime issues. When your child has a good night, praise them and, if desired, reward with a small prize. Your energy and excitement about their success will help the child to continue with a pattern of a great bedtime routine. Earning a prize that the child desires such as choosing what type of cookies to bake or picking a favorite meal to have for dinner after several great nights of going to bed are a fun way to reward the child that has improved over time. This gives the child a sense of accomplishment and what they desire, control of a situation. Choosing a special treat places an appropriate amount of decision making in the hands of the child.
Want to go deeper?
Some great parent resources for getting your child to bed are as followed:
Focus on the Family: Strong-Willed Children; This website takes a deeper look bedtime routines and common fears that children have in regards to going to bed.
Baby Center: Bedtime Battles; This website looks at various reasons it can be difficult to get a child to go to bed or sleep in their bed, including suggestions for different issues.
Tobias, C.U. (2012). You Can't Make Me [But I Can Be Persuaded]; Strategies for Bringing Out the Best in Your Strong-Willed Child. Colorado Springs, CO; NavPress Publishing Group.
Dobson, J.C. (2014). The New Strong-Willed Child. Carol Streams, IL; Tyndale House Publishing