The keys to getting children to go to bed and stay in bed include habits, rituals, and schedules. I don’t mean going to sleep; you can lead a child to bed, but you can’t make him sleep. Whenever possible it is helpful to keep children on a predictable, regular, daily schedule. Establishing a clear routine is perhaps most important with regard to bedtime. The lesson children learn is that all of these, the habits, rituals, and schedule, help keep things in the household, and the family, running smoothly. Knowing what is going to happen is very comforting for children and grown-ups. Children also learn to count on this structure to be there and to work. Dependability is important.

Remember, the goal is to keep them in bed, not to make them sleep. However, helping them to relax is important so they can fall asleep when they are tired. First, ensure that your child gets enough exercise during the day. Remember, watching television or playing video games is not exercise. Second, teach your children that although their minds know no limits, their bodies do. A parent may read to a child to help calm him down; he will often take time to listen to the day’s worries, accomplishments, interests, and stories in order to connect with the child and show value for him. The child, having had time, interest, and affection lavished on him, needs now to occupy himself. Talking books, tapes both of stories or familiar songs, stuffed animals, and pretend games are all appropriate activities in bed before falling asleep. And the child needs to know that should he get up he will, without fail, be returned to bed. He needs to understand that at bedtime he belongs in bed, quiet and preparing to sleep.

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