Are you in the heat of bedtime battles with your pre-schooler? Threenagers and fournados (ages 3 to 4) are tough ages, not only is your pre-schooler starting to test their body limits and boundaries with you as the parent, the transition from day care to elementary school, they are also struggling with sleep issues that stem from regular development at this age. I have a total sleep bandit on my hands who constantly wakes up multiple times throughout the night. I admit, we may have spoiled him as a baby knowing he was probably going to be our last; bedtime cuddles and co-sleeping are tough habits to break free of without making the little one feel rejected and castaway. Whether you are trying to teach your child to sleep through the night or actually go to sleep, we have some tips for you that will help you win bedtime battles with your pre-schooler.
- Setup a Routine – the number one way to ensure your pre-schooler stops battling and starts sleeping is to have a regular bedtime routine set in place. Try a relaxing bath, story time, teeth brushing, etc. and do them in an order that makes sense for your family. Along with having actual routine tasks; set a routine bedtime. Even adults sleep better when they have the same bedtime and wake up time every day. On non-bath nights, we ease into our bedtime routine by changing into our jammies (pyjamas) to get “comfy” he knows he has “5 more minutes” to finish up games or tasks before going to bed. Then we race upstairs and who ever wins gets to pick out 2 books. One for him to read, and one for me to read. He will turn on his night-light and humidifier and we snuggle in for our nightly reads. Once the books are done and the lights are off, we quietly talk about how school (Montessori) was for the day, funny things that happened, and what we would like to do the next day.
- Decrease Food and Beverages – stop providing your pre-schooler with food and beverages about an hour before bedtime, this helps reduce the chances of multiple bathroom visits as well as mid night wake ups to use the bathroom. Also be sure that any food or bed time snack you may give your child contains little to no sugar or caffeine to help regulate their body, and not activate super hyperactive speed.
- Acknowledge Fears but Don’t Feed Them – if your pre-schooler (like mine) has a vivid imagination, whether they are using it maliciously or not doesn’t matter. Learn to accept that your child has their own fears like as monsters in their room or shadows on the wall, but do not feed into them. Start playing in the bedroom more during daylight hours, and assure your child that their bedroom is a safe, secure place that is free of monsters and imaginary creatures.
- Encourage Nap Time – the average pre-schooler refuses to nap during the day but truthfully; they need to have a nap until about age 5. Try to make sure your active child is maintaining a daily nap, they should have a two-hour nap mid-day to alleviate that over tired bedtime battle. If your pre-schooler truly won’t sleep for nap time, just have a mid-day two hours lay down time where they relax in their bed with no electronics, maybe allow them to lay with a storybook at the same time every day to encourage a mid-day rest.
Your pre-schooler can be even more stubborn than you ever dreamed of because this is normal behaviour for this age group. If you are trying to set up a new bedtime routine to win the bedtime battles, be prepared for negotiations, arguments, and tantrums because your pre-schooler won’t give into your new ways immediately.
I found that talking with my pre-schooler on why our bodies need sleep to re-charge, just like batteries has helped him start to identify when he gets tired and understand how sleep helps us re-charge and gain energy. Now when he starts to get cranky he will freely say he needs to go lay down and re-charge his batteries.
Keep on practicing all of the tips in this article and you will find within a few weeks of remaining consistent, (that’s the key after all) that you’ll have mastered, and ultimately, won by removing bedtime battles from your parenting world.
What are your preschooler’s sleeping habits like?