T’was the night before preschool when all through the homestead
sounded the pitter patter of footsteps escaping the bunk bed

Mommy, “I’m scared” cried young toddler Timmy
Daddy, “I’m thirsty” begged his big brother Jimmy

And then in dramatic and tearful unison, the final, desperate negotiating hook……
“CAN’T YOU PLEEEASE JUST READ US ONE MORE BOOK????”

As darkness sets in and the nighttime chill permeates the air, it seems rational to assume that children, much like their adult counterparts, would enjoy rest. After a long day, most of us relish the opportunity for our heads to finally hit our pillows, so why do some children so strongly protest bedtime?

As parents, we are aware that our children emulate those actions that we model. One reason why bedtime presents significant challenges, is because we are asking children to go to bed, when the adults are remaining awake. Children innately see the injustice of this disparity and will do everything they can to leverage autonomy and fairness by testing the limits.

Early childhood educators are masters at classroom management, but will tell you that a whole new set of strategies is required in a nap room of 12-18 children! Here are five tips straight from our preschool, that when followed, make up a proven formula to deliver positive bedtime results:

  1. Establish a bedtime routine: Children thrive on routines which help them to feel safe. Plan out the bedtime. Determine ahead of time how long story time will be, how many books will be read, etc. Don’t forget to include a visit to the restroom to eliminate one more excuse to get up!
  2. Create a stress-free environment: Did you ever notice that the more you try to rush children, the more they resist and slow down? Soft music and a calm demeanor help to set the mood for relaxation.
  3. State the expectation as well as the consequences for disobedience: This is critical, especially for children who repeatedly get out of bed. Calmly and persistently placing your child back in bed without engaging in dialogue will deliver a much stronger message than a lecture. It will get easier with consistency! Behavior charts are a helpful tool for incentives and consequences.
  4. After the routine and instructions, cease engaging in dialogue: Once you have instructed them to rest quietly, be sure to model the desired behavior by avoiding verbal communication. Talking provides stimuli, which causes children to resist sleep and remain awake.
  5. Follow through and be consistent: If consequences are stated, be sure to follow through.

Young children need 10-12 hours of sleep on the average. Not only will structure improve the nighttime routine, but preschoolers typically behave better during daytime hours after a good night’s rest. Since young children require continuous care and supervision, adults will benefit from down time as well!

Cindy Hartwig,
Preschool Director,
All Aboard Preschool