To get your child to go to bed and stay there, firstly, have a set routine. Work backwards from the time you want your child to go to bed. Then think of what needs to be done before bed. Let’s imagine that your child’s bedtime is 8 o’clock. So the routine might be:

  • At 7 o’clock run a bath, whilst your child lays out their clothes for the next day.
  • At 5 past 7, your child puts their dirty clothes in the washing basket and has a bath.
  • At 7.20 your child gets out of the bath, dries themselves, and get into their pyjamas.
  • At 7.30 They clean their teeth.
  • At 7.35 They have a wee, and put a drink of water next to the bed.
  • At 7.40 they get into bed and have a story or read.
  • And at 8 o’clock they get a kiss and a hug, and its lights out.

You can both decide what needs to be on the list, and what time everything needs to happen.
And discuss why each step is important.
With younger children, a great idea is to take a digital photo of your child doing each of the steps.
And then put them into a chart.
With older children just have a list, that they can refer to, without you nagging them.
So if they’re not sure what comes next, say – have a look at your chart – what does it say?
And then all you need to do is be consistent following the routine.

Secondly, have a few bedtime rules. Rules like,

  • You stay in bed after lights out.
  • At the weekend and school holidays, you can stay up an extra half an hour.
  • You stay in bed until 6.30 each morning.
  • TV and all electronics go off an hour before bed.
  • And later on, you may add that at night, mobile phones and laptops get left on the dining room table.

Finally, for a couple of weeks, set up some rewards your child can earn for going to bed well. So if your child stays in bed after lights out they earn their favourite breakfast, or they earn TV or computer time. Or they earn some extra time with you doing something they love, like playing board games or going to the park.
The reward should be cheap or free, and it’s very important that they don’t get the reward if they don’t stay in bed. Otherwise, there’s no incentive.

So if you want to get your child to go to bed without a fuss, three things you can do are:

  1. Set up a routine,
  2. Have a few bedtime rules and
  3. Let them earn a reward for going to bed well.

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child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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