As I have mentioned before, I listen to a radio program on the way to and from dropping my son off at school in the mornings. The DJs have children and they often talk about studies relating to parenting, or their experiences with raising their kids. This morning, they mentioned an article that discussed the many benefits of a consistent bed time for kids. You can read the original article here.
The study focused on school-aged children over the course of six weeks. Parents and children both participated in the study, and attended sessions and classes about the importance of sleep. Here are the important take aways from the article, for kids who participated in the consistent bed times:
- Math and English grades improved
- Physical Education grades improved
- Extra 18 minutes of sleep each night
- Bed time should be consistent, not negotiated
- Weekend bed times should not be more than one hour later than during the week
So, now that you know how important a consistent bed time is for your kids, how do you make sure that your kids accept a new nightly rule? There are several play therapy based tools to help with the transition.
Calm and Neutral Expectation
There is always a helpful time to express a new rule or expectation – at a calm and neutral time when no one is tired or hungry. You might phrase it like this: “We are about to institute a new policy in our house for bed time. You are going to have a specific bed time each night during the week.” Make sure that you get their attention and that they are clear on the new rule.
Until your kids have a week or so under their belts of remembering the new rule, you will probably find it helpful to give them reminders as you get closer to bed time. You might remind them at dinner, “Your bed time is at (8pm) tonight.” It does not have to be a lengthy discussion, nor an argument or negotiation. It is just designed to help them to prepare. You may also want to give them a five minute warning, so that they can wrap up whatever they are doing. “You have five minutes left before it is bed time.”
Choices for Compliance
If you tell your child that it is bed time, and you are met with resistance, you can offer a choice for compliance after setting a limit. The limit would sound like this: “I know you want to stay up longer, but it is bed time. You can choose to finish that game tomorrow.” If you set the limit three times, then you go to the choice for compliance. “If you choose to go to bed right now, you choose to finish the game tomorrow. If you choose not to go to bed right now, you choose for me to put the game away immediately without you finishing it. Which do you choose?”
With these simple skills, you can implement a healthy and beneficial consistency in your bed time routines with your kids. Not only does school performance improve, but kids are happier when they are well-rested from consistent bed times. And I suspect that with consistent bed times and less negotiation, you might find yourself going to bed a little earlier with the extra time that you have at night!