Hand holding a tiny star

Image credit: Jason Rogers

Today I’m answering a parent question.

Not knowing the age of the child about which this question was asked, I first turned to the Internet to research the question, and I found a chart that gives “a ballpark estimate” for how much your baby or child should be sleeping. You’ll find it at www.parents.com/baby/sleep/basics/age-by-age-guide. It goes to age 12, and there are sleep tips for each age range.

The preface to the chart reads: … “But remember that all kids are different, and some may need a little more or less than others.”

This preface reminds me of how we start our workshops: Exceptional parenting is not a cookie-cutter approach – if child does A, and parent does B, C will result. This is not always what happens! Rather, learn to trust your parenting instincts; your instincts about your child are what will guide you.

So, back to the question, how much sleep does my child need, and how do I get them to cooperate at bedtime? I’m going to leave the “how much” to your discretion (instincts) and address the second part – cooperating at bedtime.

Bedtime was a nightmare (no pun intended) for me when raising my kids. Looking back, I now realize I was so ready to be done with the day and to have some private time, that putting them to bed was all about my rules and controlling the outcome. I don’t think I ever established a bedtime ritual, nor was I able to let go of when they fell asleep, just letting them read for a while if they weren’t tired. I now realize that what they most wanted was my attention – my undivided attention – and that if I had been able to give them that, talking about things that mattered to them, all might have been different.

I’ve watched my daughter-in-law (we’ll call her Linda) go through bedtime problems with my granddaughter (we’ll call her Jill) when she was younger. I remember one particular time when Jill, at about age three, was continually getting out of bed at night and going to find her mother. Finally Linda sat down in the doorway of the bedroom, and the first time Jill got up, she said, “Honey, you can get out of bed as much as you want, but you are going no further than this doorway. I will be here each time you get up.” There was then no further talking, and Linda put Jill back in bed. Linda had decided that enough was enough, and Jill had to get the message that she needed to stay in bed. Linda would much rather have been doing something for herself, but she was determined the bedtime difficulties had to change.

You may have read in our previous newsletters that “children read our hearts”; I believe this is what happened. Jill knew the game of getting out of bed was up, that in Linda’s heart she “meant business,” and she’d had enough. It took about two more nights of this strategy, but that ended Jill’s getting out of bed. I believe she indeed read her mother’s heart (and will) and knew that the game was over.

This is true about many struggles in raising our kids; when you, the parent, have decided that things need to change, or enough is enough, your kids will read your heart and know that you are serious. You won’t need to raise your voice, threaten, cajole, or bribe. You’ll just need to stand firm and believe in your parenting instincts.