Monday, June 13, 2011

Sleep Well, I Love You

Discipline, first; bedtime, second. That's the prevailing order of parents' concerns, year after year. The top two concerns marry each other when a relentless child calls from her bed, "Mommy, I want a drink!" or "Daddy come back. I need you!" What's an exhausted parent to do?

A loving bedtime ritual takes your child from the safety of your presence in the daytime to the safety of your non-presence in the dark. But television is not your ally in the transition. Television, or any form of screen time, delays bedtime. It stimulates rather than calms a child, and isolates her at the very time you need to draw close.

Your child needs you. Begin bedtime with a quiet activity together. End it quietly, as well. Save something - prayers, or a whispered good night to the stuffed animals in her room - for after your child is in bed. Then leave with a reassuring "Good night. Sweet dreams. I love you."

If your child calls out or cries for you:
  • Go to your child, but do not take her out of bed.
  • Tell her, "It is time to go to sleep. You can do it. Good night."
  • Go back again and again, if necessary. A child left to cry hysterically in the dark will hardly let go of you the next night.
  • Be reassuring.
  • Be brief.
  • Be consistent.
  • Be together if you are a two-parent family.
  • Hold the line with a loving, firm voice. On this your child has no choice.
Sleep well! I love you.

A Colorful Thought: Rituals are the comforting colors of love a child can count on to be repeated, day after day.

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