It’s been a couple weeks since Daylight Savings Time on March 9, 2014 where we moved our clocks forward. In my opinion, this time change usually isn’t that big of a deal, especially since one of the biggest complaints from parents of many young children is that they wake up too early. However, this time change can be particularly problematic for some toddlers and young children and may become more difficult as the days get longer and the sun is out later! So what do to? The first thing you have to ask yourself is what exactly is the problem? Is it bedtime battles, multiple night time wakings, earlier morning wakings, or something else? Here are some tips to get back on track:
1. Review your Routines
The most important tool you have to win the “bedtime battles” is a consistent routine. Understand that your routine may change as your child gets older, but a few basic steps that happen around the same time every night are a clear way for your child to learn what to expect next and what is expected of him/her. Keep your routine relatively simple, and under 30 min if you can.
2. Have a Family Huddle
As parents, decide exactly what your expectations are of your child(ren). Then discuss with your child(ren) and set some rules and expectations around sleep. For example: no talking and stay in bed. Get them involved in taking ownership of the rules by creating a sticker chart or poster of how well they can follow the rules over the next few weeks.
3. Manage the Manipulation
Toddlers learn quickly to negotiate and come up with ways to drag out the bedtime routine. So consider what excuses your child may conjure up and have solutions before they become a problem. If you are able to point out that those needs have been met, then you won’t worry about whether or not your child is just playing you.
4. Time and Time again
Introducing a clock also helps young children to understand when it’s time to go to bed and when it’s time to get up. The clock should be introduced in the family huddle and there are a number of different special toddler alarm clocks on the market that help kids visually understand when it is ok to get up if they don’t know all their numbers yet.
5. Empowering and Encouraging
The best way to encourage the behaviors we want to see is by praising our kids for the good behavior and sometimes you have to “catch” them doing good. Be sure to tell them how proud you are of them when they do follow the rules. When they don’t follow the rules, consequences do have to follow. However, you can empower them by letting them know that the consequences they’re dealing with are because of the choices they made today and tomorrow they have the power to make the right decisions about following the rules.
Getting together as a family to clearly outline the expectations around sleep can really help everyone adhere to the routines that encourage toddlers and young children to get the quality sleep they need. If you have difficulty implementing your plan, a Child Sleep Consultant can have a deeper look into your situation and create a sleep plan that will get everyone sleeping well.