Bedtime can be a stressful time for you, but you don’t really need to worry, as once you have got your Toddler into bed, if he is tired, he will go to sleep. You don’t need to close his door either. Many children can be afraid of the dark for no reason at all. Therefore, it will be reassuring for him if he wakes up in the middle of the night and doesn’t feel cut off from the rest of the family. Pitch blackness can be very intimidating and scary for a young child.
In any case, most young children do not need complete darkness or silence to sleep. When they are tired, they will sleep anywhere, even in bright sunlight in a noisy store or park. How many times have you seen a small child fast asleep in his parent’s arms or a pram, in the middle of the day? Leaving his door open can also be a good discipline for later on in life. It may well help keep your child with an ‘open’ attitude to you and others as he grows older. It should help avoid him trying to always close himself off in his bedroom when he is a teenager and distancing himself or becoming aloof from the rest of the family. It’s amazing how something as simple and unscientific as this, can help promote good habits, later on in life. And these habits die very hard in later years.
Children don’t need silence to sleep. Young children sleep if they are tired, and if they are not, then they won’t go to sleep. It can be reassuring for your Toddler to hear normal family background noise when he goes to sleep, so he does not feel cut off at bed time. It also means that your family can continue its normal household (sometimes noisy) routines in the evening. It is very important for your child’s development that he is raised in as normal household environment as possible. It goes without saying that normality is relative and based on your particular religion and culture. You will also feel less stressed as you will not be trying to keep other children quiet or keeping the general level of noise down.
A little night light in the background, particularly when your child is very young, will also help prevent him becoming afraid of the dark. Because he has this light on, as he grows older, darkness should never become an issue for him.
When you tuck your Toddler in at night, always kiss him ‘good night’, and when you go and greet him the next day, kiss him ‘good morning’ as well. If you do this from birth, it will become second nature to you both. It is yet another little brick in the castle of emotional ties that you are building up with your child, which will stay with both of you for the rest of your lives. Even if your child is asleep when you do this, subconsciously he will know and sense you have done it. It will also allow you both to close off the old day, and start an exciting new one together, the next morning.
This habit will last all the way through to adulthood, and if you happen to forget one night, you can be sure your child will remind you. I once had an embarrassing episode with my daughter, while I was taking an evening phone call from a potential new employer. I had answered the call before I had kissed her goodnight. She was 3 years old at the time.
I was downstairs trying to sell myself for this particular new job that I wanted and she was standing at the gate to her bedroom shouting “kiss me goodnight Daddy”. I could hear her very clearly, but was trying to remain focussed on the call. Eventually having been distracted for about 15 minutes, the call was about to end and the person interviewing me said “next time you should say goodnight to your child before you do a phone call like this”. I was shocked as I thought she couldn’t hear my Toddler. I then stumbled out some lame excuse, about why I hadn’t said goodnight to my daughter yet, before saying goodbye to my interviewer. I didn’t get the job by the way, so be warned…..
This and many more anecdotes and tips are in my Book Help I’m a Father, by Mark Hearn, which is available through Amazon
When you have children, it really is a full time job, so anything that can make things run smoother and more efficiently has to be welcomed. This seems such a simple thing, that you can actually forget it, but actually this really works, particularly if you introduce it from a very early age.
Regulate bedtimes from an early age, right up to the age of 16 which should be, as a guideline, 10.00pm. 15 Minutes extra should be given for every birthday reached. For example at age 4, your child’s bedtime should be 7.00 pm, or at 13, it will have progressed to 9.15pm. Start this as soon as he goes to school, when he is 4 or 5 years old. By doing this from such an early age and sticking to it rigorously, bedtimes and going to bed will never become a controversial issue. It is considered non-negotiable as it has always been like that throughout your child’s life, so as a result he will comply without question.
Once you have established this routine in your child’s life, introducing a system of giving him 15 minutes warning before bedtime will make your life even easier. This pre-warns him and will allow him to finish the game he is playing, or the TV program he is watching and be ready to go to bed on time. This way, he will not argue with you once his bedtime has arrived.
Of course, another benefit for you and your partner, is that you will always know that you can relax and have some quality time together every night, at a certain time in the evening, once your child has gone to bed.