3 Magical Bedtime Tips from a Clinical Psychologist

February 19, 2019
3 Magical Bedtime Tips from a Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Thomas Phelan, Ph.D. is a registered clinical psychologist and bestselling author of 1-2-3 Magic: 3-Step Discipline for Calm, Effective, and Happy Parenting, which has sold nearly 2 million copies worldwide. 1-2-3 Magic is the #1 child discipline program in the country, empowering parents to create a loving, supportive family atmosphere.

Learn more about 1-2-3 Magic here.

The 1-2-3 Magic program covers a wide range of parenting topics, including temper tantrums, whining and pouting, homework, and more. Bedtime can be a challenge for grown-ups and children, especially when it comes to getting kids to stay in bed after lights out. In this video, Dr. Phelan breaks down his proven method to end bedtime battles.

Parents want to unwind after a long day, but struggle with getting their kids to bed and keeping them there for the entire night. Here are Dr. Phelan’s tried-and-true suggestions.

Step 1: Pick a bedtime and stick with it.

You can set different bedtimes for weekdays and weekends, during the school year and during the summer. It can be different for younger kids and older kids, too. The main thing to keep in mind is to establish a routine and keep it that way every night.

Step 2: Implement a calming routine.

Setting aside fifteen or twenty minutes of quiet-time activities can go a long way in helping little ones wind down for the night.

Young kids will need help with bathing, brushing, and putting on pajamas. Once the necessities are taken care of, spend some time doing something relaxing and enjoyable, like reading a story.

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Older kids can get by with a half hour warning before bedtime. Once they’re in their room, take the opportunity to chat with them about their day or read a story together. Not only does this reward kids for getting ready for bed independently, it also signals that it’s almost time to sleep.

What should you do if your child won’t stay in bed?

As Dr. Phelan says, you can't be a wishful thinker at bedtime. Kids get out of bed for two reasons:

1) They’re bored.

2) They’re scared.

For either of these scenarios, use the Cut Them Off at the Pass strategy.

Once your little one is tucked in bed, grab a chair and station yourself in their bedroom doorway. From this point on, the key is to not engage in conversation with your child. If they get up, put them back to bed without comment. Continue this process until they fall asleep. Eventually, your child will get in the habit of going to bed and staying there until the next morning.

For more bedtime tips, download a FREE Quick Reference Guide on Bedtime and Nighttime Waking.

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