Guide For Families with Night Owls


Team No Sleep

Struggling with your child at bedtime? Feel like you have done everything, but your bundle of joy will not go to sleep? This is the blog for you. I have encountered many parents struggling to get their child to sleep. It is amazing how many children under the age of 5 stay up until 10pm! I am a grown adult and my bedtime is 9:30pm. I need to get my full 8 hours of sleep or I turn into Crankenstein (fun book to read with the kiddos). Unlike many adults, surviving off of coffee and sweets, children seem to have a never ending supply of energy. I am here to share a few tips to get you and your child’s sleeping schedule back on track.

Goosfraba (The art of calming down)

Parents, you have just finished a long day of work and look forward to a relaxing evening. Your child, on the other hand, had so much fun building a fort on the play yard and cannot wait to tell you all the animals they saw at Nature Lab. Children bring home lots of excitement and need a creative outlet for them to release all their energy. Spending time at a nearby park or playing out in the yard are fun ways to get their bodies moving. Stuck indoors? No problem! Create an indoor obstacle course, throw a dance party, or better yet, have your child help with chores! My kids love sweeping and taking the trash out. 

Once they have eaten dinner and taken a bath, offer some time to unwind. At CMP, we practice big belly breathing. You can invite your child to take three big breaths (Spiderman and ghost breathing are some of our favorites) and invite them to a relaxing activity. Yoga, drawing, puzzles, and reading are some engaging ways to help children wind down. Let this become part of a nightly ritual. Be sure to avoid screen time one hour before desired bedtime.

Create a Schedule

Children thrive when they have a set schedule. Come up with a set wake up time and bedtime.

  • The brain is a pattern-seeking device. A routine is a pattern for how to conduct a certain activity. The more consistent and clearly represented these routines are, the more safely, smoothly and cooperatively your child will become (CD Website).

Until children are able to read, their brains think in pictures. This is why it is important to display a visual schedule. You can look up visual bedtime routines on Google for examples and printouts. I use visual schedules in the classroom and it works wonders. It helps keep the children on task and gives them a sense of confidence when they check off each goal.

This is the most crucial step in a successful bedtime routine: be consistent and say what you mean. In order for your child to adjust to the new nightly schedule, it is your job to keep them accountable. Day one and two might go swimmingly, but on day three, little Bobby decides he does not want to brush his teeth. Here is an example of the language we use at school.

Bobby: I don’t want to brush my teeth!

Parent: You are angry because you do not want to brush your teeth. Let’s take three big breaths (I like to use Hulk breathing when kids need to blow some steam).

Parent & Bobby take three breaths

Parent: It is my job to keep you safe, and it is your job to help keep it safe. We brush our teeth to get rid of the sugar bugs hiding in our mouth. You can use toothpaste 1 or toothpaste 2. Which would you like?

First, you acknowledge his feelings. Then, you take three breaths to reset your state of mind and your child’s. Lastly, you give them two choices, but you are letting your child know that they need to brush their teeth to keep their mouth safe. Choices and compromise are NOT the same thing. Be sure to avoid phrases like “Okay, you don’t have to brush your teeth tonight, but you have to promise to brush tomorrow.” Children are keen and master manipulators. Stay firm. If the schedule says “brush teeth” then it is time to brush teeth.

Feng Shui (Set the mood)

Lastly, you want to create a peaceful environment to support a good night’s rest. During nap time, I like to turn off all the lights and play soothing instrumental music. A snuggle buddy, like a teddy bear or stuffed animal, might help your child feel more comfortable as well. Bedtime is also a great opportunity to perform one last “I Love You” Ritual. You can find some examples on the Conscious Discipline website, or ask your child or their teacher.

Feel free to chat with your child’s teacher or an office staff if you would like more information on the resources mentioned in this blog. Hang in there. I see a successful bedtime in your future. You can handle it! As always, I wish you well.