(Q and A from one of our seminars, A Parenting Workshop)
“Whenever it is Abigail’s bedtime, she cries and cries and cries. There is no relief for us or her and eventually, she climbs into our bed and I have to put her back to her own bed when she is asleep.
~What can I do?”
In order to help someone get to a place of resolve with this difficult, but common, situation I would begin by asking a few questions.
How is your relationship with your spouse?
Your child’s emotional security is based on the Oneness that you and your spouse share. Demonstrations of sacrificial love and care for one another go a long way in helping your child sleep securely at night.
· Do you honor one another with words, acts of service, and reasonable affection in front of your children?
Remember the Lord Himself prayed, “…on earth as it is in heaven…” We model our lives after the heavenly pattern. Our own eternal security stems from the truth that the Son so greatly loved the Father that He willingly laid His life down. This truth gives us great peace and assurance. Our children feel the same way about us.
Do you have a bedtime routine?
A routine helps to say the message for you. It’s similar to when I go to the gym. As much as I don’t want to go to work out sometimes, I’ll argue with myself all the way until I get in the door. At that point, the battle is over. “Oh, well,” I concede, “it’s time to exercise.”
Bedtime routines accomplish the same purpose. Whatever your steps are: (for example)
· Bath time
· Brush your teeth
· Story time!
· Special-just for you-finale (toe kisses? a love secret whispered to her waiting ear?)
performing the same customary steps will help give the “bedtime message” to your child. Most moms (or dads) can make this a soft, warm, cuddly, experience. Letting soothing lullaby music play is also comforting in your absence and can help your child feel that he is not alone, that there is still a connection between himself and everyone else in the household.
Does your child sense in you a “rushing--I’ve –got-to-get-this-over-quickly” spirit?
Children wear antennae. Their perceptions are amazing. Feeling that mom or dad is hurrying and eager to “get through” with the tasks at hand can cause a lot of resistance, may prolong even simple routines, and may cause your child to be clingy like a fabric softener sheet.
Try these few ideas:
· Be 100% present [mentally and emotionally], fully engaged, so he has all of you for the time you are with him. But, keep the whole process to very simple steps. Bedtime is not the time to elaborate.
· Give your child a story choice out of selected books [your choosing—short ones.] Hopefully, you will have planned other shared reading times during the day, so no feelings of deprivation will linger.
· Understand that it is in the simple routines of the day that we have the biggest opportunity to reflect the nature of God to our children. As Deuteronomy says, “teach your children . . . as you rise up, as you lie down.”
· One extra tip: You take the initiative to say, ”I’ll be back to check you in five minutes.” By doing this, you maintain control of situation, and your child feels secure in this fact: he will see you again—if he needs you, you’ll be there. Just be sure you keep your word!
A final thought: it does get easier with subsequent children. The first one seems to have to set the pattern. Once there are others, and it is bedtime, they seem to understand, “This is what we do now.”
More than one child in a room ( a necessity for us!) also helps alleviate fears and provides companionship.
If you have other ideas that have worked well for you, please be sure to post a comment!