When you lie down, you need not be afraid; when you rest, your sleep will be sweet. (Proverbs 3:24)
How can any mom and dad, much less parents of a big family enjoy life without a break from the kids? No matter how well behaved little ones may be, there simply comes a time when mothers and fathers need to be alone and vaguely remember why they got married in the first place. By a happy coincidence, little children need lots of sleep to achieve optimum health. Before the teen years, children need eleven or twelve hours each night, and even teenagers still need eight or nine hours. By what seems like a Divine Plan, early bedtimes are best for everyone.
Establish a Routine
Children do not understand the clear benefits of a good night’s sleep, so it is up to their parents to introduce them to it. As with so many other activities, start with a set schedule and routine as soon as they are able to understand, and maybe even before. If you set 8 PM as a bedtime, then start at 7:30. Try to proceed in the same order every night. First, make a stop in the bathroom for a tub or sponge bath and teeth brushing. Insist that the children use the toilet, even if they claim they do not need to. This eliminates a later trip after lights out. Make sure the children stow their own dirty clothing in a hamper, and then get into pajamas. After that, say prayers, perhaps read a story, even sing a lullaby, kisses, and then lights out.
This routine may be upset for a while when Junior first learns how to climb out of the crib. Then bedtime may become a battle of wills. Either Mom or Dad has to stay in the room, perhaps reading a book using the light from the hall, and keep putting Junior back into bed, no discussion allowed. You can sweeten the pot with a nightlight or soft music, but he must stay in bed. Don’t argue and don’t explain. Just stand firm. After a while Junior catches on that all resistance is futile and goes to sleep without an argument.
“I wish someone had told me this when my children were little! Now they’re 8 and 10.”
It’s not too late. Make an announcement. “You children are just not getting up with the energy you need to meet your day. From now on, 8:00 is bedtime. Lights out at 8 PM.”
You do not have to accompany them to the bathroom but do tell them at 7:30 that it is time to get ready. The same routine applies: wash up, change, stow dirty clothing, and say prayers. They can read until 8, and then lights out.
If you have not established a clear line in the past, they might give you a hard time, but persist. Use the same technique as for the little children. Park yourself with a book or your rosary near the bedroom. If he gets out of bed, put him back with no explanation or discussion. With a really strong-willed child, you might have to do this dozens of time the first few nights, but eventually he will catch on. Mom and Dad mean business; they are not giving in.
The Bottom Line
I have been urging home schooling parents for years to stick to their guns regarding bedtime and naptime. I spoke to a small support group about just this topic, and one woman commented, “I heard you speak about this last year. My children were terrible about sleeping and my husband and I seemed always grouchy. We stuck to our guns, just like you told us to. It changed our lives!”
This is an excerpt from Chapter 3: Bedtime. In the full chapter you’ll find more, including Naptime for Little Ones and Building Good Sleep Habits for Teens.
It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way!
Common Sense Essentials for Raising Great Catholic Children and Bringing Peace to Your Home
This little book is short, sweet, and to the point. It is chock-full of practical, commonsense advice that has worked successfully for generations of parents. Ginny’s experience as a mother of 12 and grandmother of 18 shines through topics including: how to call a truce in the mealtime and bedtime wars, good manners, proper church behavior, building a responsible and industrious work ethic, avoiding overindulgence, and much more.
Available now at www.setonbooks.com
Header Image CC demandaj