But Mom!  I Want to Stay Up Late Too!

Karen asks:

Q: I am a Mom of three boys. One teenager who is seventeen and two young ones, seven and five.  The teenager has his own room and the two younger boys share the room next to him. My problem is that my teenager stays up much later and his two younger adoring brothers would like to join him. How can I convince the other two to go to bed and to be calm instead of them wanting to stay up with their older brother? Is there a way to wind down the little ones? Should I keep them away from their brother before bed?

I often talk about the importance of an age appropriate bedtime and sometimes enforcing the bedtime can turn into a battle.  Managing behaviour around sleep can be challenging, but we want to focus on increasing the good behaviour, and decreasing the unwanted behaviour.  Here are a few tips you can use to modify your children’s behaviour around sleep.

Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine can include any type of quiet activity to help your children wind-down and get ready for bed.  To help the younger children feel like they aren’t missing out, include the older teenager in the activities as well.  You could have all the children do homework together, play a quiet family game, or read a book aloud that the whole family can enjoy.  The more relaxed your children are, they less they will resist bedtime.

Children like to feel like they have control in their lives, so try to give them some control at bedtime by offering them some choices.  For instance, you could start their bedtime routine sooner, then offer them the choice of going to bed now, or in 5 minutes.  By giving them some simple choices, they will be happier and more compliant, and you will still be able to get them in bed.  Just make sure you don’t give them too many choices, and make those choices reasonable.

Sleep Rules
To help your children understand the expectations at bedtime, create a list of sleep rules that they need to follow, and then read the sleep rules every night before bed.  Make sure the sleep rules are reasonable for their age, so that they can succeed in following them.   

Praise goes a long way when it comes to reinforcing good behaviour.  Children love to hear when their parents approve of their behaviour, so make sure to tell them how happy you are that they are following their sleep rules.  If they choose not to follow the sleep rules, you might want to implement some consequences, and ensure you follow through. 

Consistency, consistency, consistency
I cannot stress enough how important consistency is when you want to change a behaviour.  If you respond to their requests consistently day after day, they will soon learn the acceptable bedtime behaviour and the battles will diminish.  As soon as you give in to their unwanted behaviour “just this one time”, they have learned that their request is negotiable.  They will  jump on the opportunity and protest even louder and longer the next time in the hopes that you will give in again.  To avoid the battles, create a nice consistent bedtime routine, create some consistent sleep rules, set a consistent bedtime and be consistent will how you reinforce their behaviour.  Did I mention that you should be consistent?  

Jenn Kelner is a mother of 3 children (including twins!) and a Certified Child Sleep Consultant at BabyZzz.  She helps tired families with infants, babies and toddlers become well rested families through customized sleep solutions and support.  She offers various services including home, phone/Skype and email consultations.  For more information visit www.babyzzz.cahttp://www.babyzzz.ca/

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