"Listen up, everyone!" the excited mom cried out as she rushed into our evening workshop. "For the first time in two and a half years, Thomas went to sleep without sobbing!" She was exultant! Just the week before, the class of young parents cried out, in unison, for help.
"Bedtime should be the sweetest part of the day," they lamented. "But it dissolves into tears and tantrums and angry words. It's exhausting!" So we stapled together the pages of a simple, step-by-step bedtime book. That night, Thomas went to sleep without sobbing. Eventually, all gussied up professionally with pocket pages and charming, collage-cut illustrations, the little book became Gently into Sleep: A Bedtime Ritual.
Bedtime begins in the morning. If a child has your focused attention only at bedtime, he will do all he can to prolong your closeness. But a child who is comforted and cuddled during the day is more likely to sleep well at night.
Then, because you are the authority in your home, your child needs you to set the beginning and the ending of bedtime. But all the choices in between are his. Going to sleep becomes his responsibility. Wait! A contradiction? No. Good parenting! When you give a child ownership of a decision, you open the door to his cooperation. I've rarely known a child to say "No!" to a choice he has made. A little guy who sequences the steps of his own bedtime ritual will follow it. Happily. Right into bed. And gently into sleep.
Thomas and his missionary mom took his bedtime book with them to Germany. No matter how strange the sounds of the new language around him, Thomas knew the sounds of these words by heart: "Sleep well. Sweet dreams." And he did.
A Colorful Thought:
A bedtime ritual warmly colored with love is the security blanket of childhood.