Why your Child Needs to Sleep Early
Children under 10 need 10-12 hours of sleep a day. If they are under 3 they need 12-14 hours a day. This includes any daytime naps, and this sleep is essential for their development. (And can I add, for a parent's sanity!) Helping our kids get the recommended amount of sleep for their age is a huge favor we can do for them. It helps them learn better during the day, have better control of their emotions, and be a lot more patient and tolerant. Isn't that the same for us?
So how do we do this? How do we get our kids to sleep?
There are different approaches to sleep. Just to keep it short, I'm gonna call them- the "Firm" approach, and the "Gentle" approach. The "Firm" approach is one where the parent puts down the rule- Sleep at 8 pm, for example, and ensures that the child follows this rule. With babies, a controversial strategy people use is "cry to sleep"- put a baby in their bed and allow them to cry and soothe themselves to sleep. It's really hard to do when your baby is a baby, but we did that (starting at 4 months), and the long-term results of it are just amazing. Our child will put himself to sleep anywhere- on any bed. We (parents) aren't part of his going-to-sleep process. And as far as I can see there are no long-term effects emotional effects of a few tears so many years ago. Some people use it for older kids too, where they ask the child to get into bed at a certain time and don't allow for any excuses. You can also give your child buffer time to settle down- they get into bed earlier, and read for a while before it's time to turn the lights off.
But I know that for so many of you, that feels harsh. And that's fine, you can try the "Gentle" approach. Here, you are still firm about the bedtime requirement, but you help your child learn to sleep by sitting with them, reading stories, playing music for them, encouraging them and constantly assuring them that you are near. I feel like I have used this approach more as my son grew older, and started to need those conversations. On days there are nightmares, or anxieties, and other reasons when it's hard to get to bed.
The "Gentle" approach to getting your child sleep on time, is a huge time commitment for parents. But it is an essential time commitment if you don't want the "firm" approach. And trust me, you will find yourself saving a ton of time through the day dealing with emotional outbursts if your child can get their recommended hours of sleep in a day. Usually, after a few weeks of sleeping at a specific time, the kids get the hang of it, and don't need so much of your time every single day.
Which ever approach you choose is fine, and most parents usually do a mix. Your approach and your child's needs may also change as your child grows. What's important is that you as a family prioritize your child's sleep. And that can mean changing your plans, explaining to your visitors, allowing your child to miss a meeting with extended family, and other decisions that may be hard.
I also want to assure you that it's not easy for anyone. My child has very good sleep habits but it's taken a lot of commitment, and a lot of work. What's more- kids constantly challenge their bedtimes as they grow older and want to stay up later! So we just have to keep reinforcing it.
Also, don't judge. Don't judge the parent who lets their child cry to sleep, or the parent who sits with their child a couple hours each night to get them to sleep. What's important is that both of them are doing what they can to help their child get a good night's rest.
p.s: I know that there are lots of ideas and thoughts on this blog. It's difficult to write a general blog that covers all ages and all parenting styles! Just DM me if you have a specific question about getting your child to sleep!
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