Smart Secrets for Establishing Good Family Habits

Sticking to Bedtime

Why to Do It

There have been plenty of headlines lately about how crucial sleep is for children's cognitive, emotional, and physical development. Will Wilkoff, MD, a pediatrician in Brunswick, Maine, and author of How to Say No to Your Toddler, says that well-rested kids are happier kids: "As they go through their day, everything they do will be done better." Powerful incentive. But what about all the obstacles to an early lights-out?

How to Do It

  • Commit, commit, commit. "Parents have to decide to make sleep a priority because if they don't, there aren't many children who will ask for a bedtime," says William Doherty, PhD, professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and author of The Intentional Family. Once you decide that you're going to buckle down on bedtime, your first steps will be to figure out what's getting in the way and then to tackle the culprit.
  • Accept the trade-off. It can be tempting to push back bedtime for an extra half hour with the kids, but this can backfire: "Maybe you get more time with your child, but then he's cranky and wakes up early -- and everyone's cranky," Lerner says. Cutting your evening short to accommodate bedtime will make your nighttime routine and the next morning much more enjoyable.
  • Exploit the morning. If an early bedtime means losing time together, it's often an easy shift to make morning the special time with your child. Little ones are early risers, after all, and the a.m. is usually when their moods are sunniest. You may require extra coffee in the morning, but dealing with a well-rested child will definitely be worth it.

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