Parenting children

Parenting Children: The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting Your 3-5 Year Old to Sleep

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Are you struggling with a toddler or preschooler who refuses to go to sleep?

Getting children to go to sleep is one of the most talked about issues that concern parents, second only to getting your child to behave. I've had parents in near hysterics, trying to deal with a child who throws huge tantrums when asked to go to sleep.


While I certainly wouldn't suggest you go as far as the cop in this video did (or the mother who called him), lack of sleep has been proven to cause temporary insanity.

At any rate, there are several things you can do to help your 3-5 year old go to sleep without too much trouble:

1)Do stick to a schedule.
It's tempting during summer break to ease up on bedtime routines and allow your child to go to sleep late. If done occasionally it doesn't present a problem. However consistently allowing your child to dodge regular bedtimes creates confusion.

Persistent children will challenge bedtime, since it's their nature to push the envelope. Other children may feel insecure when routines aren't followed, and react with disruptive and unruly behavior.

If you decide to allow your children to stay up late occasionally, schedule it first. You can decide to let your kids go to sleep late once a week, and choose a specific day.

2. Do follow a consistent bedtime routine.
This is an obvious one, and many parents feel that they've got this base covered. The key to this, however, is giving over the responsibility of carrying out the bedtime routine to your child.

Even if your child is as young as three years old, they're capable of following a chart with pictures, putting a sticker on a picture when the action is completed.

The magic of this lies in the fact that many children view bedtime as something imposed from the outside, causing them to rebel simply because "Mommy told me to." Putting your child in charge as much as possible reduces this natural resistance.

3. Don't use incentives or prizes for going to sleep longer than 30 days.

Incentives and rewards are a great way of providing the extra push a child needs in order to attempt a difficult task. The best way to use incentives is in helping your child to stick to a habit.

Since acquiring a habit takes about 30 days, this is the maximum amount of time you should use prizes or incentives for a particular behavior.

4. Do allow your child a crutch, if they need it.

As long as the crutch isn't damaging to your child's health, go ahead and let your child sleep with all 25 cars in his car collection. It won't hurt him, and if he manages to go to sleep despite the space limitations, why not?

Most children discard such unusual sleeping arrangements when they get old enough to be embarrassed about it (usually by the age of 9 or so).

5. Consider using natural sleep aids or remedies.

There are numerous safe natural alternatives that will help your child settle down. Passiflora, for example, is safe for small children. It can be made into a soothing tea, and can help calm an overtired toddler or a too-full-of-energy preschooler. Lavender in a pillowcase has also been shown to promote sleep.

note: This is not medical advice, nor should it be taken as such. Use common sense, and ask your doctor before you give anything to your child.

6. Don't forget to try and make up for lost sleep yourself.

Living with a child who refuses to go to sleep can affect your work, health, and your marriage. While you may not be able to make up all of the sleep time you've lost, do try and "power nap" for 15 minutes or so sometime during the day.

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