A few parenting books advocate a rigid routine to ensure your children are asleep by a certain time every night. Personally, I think that this is disrespectful to a child as an individual, it allows for no freedom, and often results in tears and the new term “sleep training” .
A child is a person too, they’re not out to manipulate you, and often, if they want to stay up with you, it’s because they adore you and love your company.
There’s no room for rigid routines in our house, we have two very individual little souls. We find a rhythm is a much more relaxing and effective way of life. We follow a basic pattern, but no strict rules, we just keep to the rhythm and respond to their cues.
Come bedtime, we have a little ritual of a family bath, stories and snuggles off to sleep. It works a treat for us most nights, but other nights if it’s been a big day, or the boys are wound up we have a few activities up our sleeves to wind down and ensure a peaceful transition to sleep.
It’s important to understand that if your child isn’t tired, they simply won’t go to sleep. You can’t force it, all it will ensure is a battle, and one that you can’t win. So to make your evenings peaceful, take it as it comes, surrender to the fact some evenings you’ll be up later than others and have fun with your children!
So without further ado, here are my wind down strategies:
1. Fresh air - watering the garden, swing on the swings, or simply play outside a little longer. The cooling fresh air, followed by a warm bath generally relaxes them enough for their bedtime ritual.
2. A massage – for us, it begins with a snuggle, then a nice massage. There are some lovely DVDs available with infant and children’s massage techniques.
3. A rowdy game- it sounds counter productive, but allowing your child to work off their energy releases endorphins which in turn allows them to relax into bedtime
4. Music/Singing – in our house, it tends to be a few rounds of “Here is the sea, the Wavy Sea” but any old song will do. Some parents I know like to play classical music, others like to play chants or something like panpipes.
Respecting your child’s own rhythm will make for a much more relaxing and easy bedtime relationship. Just enjoy your brief time with them as children, and turn what might otherwise be an evening battle, into an evening of joy.