But sometimes, you can do all the right things and still fail. That's because whether your bedtime routine succeeds or fails is only partially based on what you do—your real power lies in your mindset.
Yep—bedtime success starts with the way you think. When carrying out your child’s bedtime routine, your attitude and demeanor are more important than you might realize. If you’re positive your child will never go to sleep easily, you can bet he won’t. If you’re certain that trying to make a change is pointless, it will be. If you’re not 100 percent, in-your-gut committed to breaking an overtired cycle and getting your child to bed earlier, she’ll sense that she’s only a tantrum away from breaking you. Well hello there, mega-tantrum.
The thing is, unless your child sleeps in a hall of mirrors, you can’t watch yourself and observe the signals you’re sending during bedtime, but your child can—and does. So if you’ve established an appropriate bedtime and created a solid bedtime routine and your child still has trouble drifting off to dreamland, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you behaving as if you expect your child to go to sleep?
- Have you created a loving, enjoyable bedtime experience for your child, one that isn’t rushed or half-hearted?
- Are you sidestepping your child’s stall tactics and power plays by simply carrying on the routine in a friendly, supportive manner?
- Is everyone in your household supportive of your child’s bedtime and her need for sleep, or are older children or your spouse disappointed that your child has to go to bed? (When this is the case, babies and young children quickly pick up on the idea that bedtime means missing out on late night “fun,” and resist going to sleep.)
- Are you 100 percent sure that your routine is as consistent as possible, with the same elements in the same order each night?
More than one or two "no" answers? Your child's bedtime is going to be a struggle, without a doubt. And it certainly isn't your child's fault.
Children take their cues from you. So if bedtime is a challenge, steal a play from martial arts masters by “thinking through the obstacle.” (Martial artists use this technique to split boards and concrete by shifting their focus from the obstacle itself to the point just beyond the obstacle. That point becomes their target. Splitting the board is just a tiny thing they have to do first.)
“Think through” this obstacle by acting as though a successful bedtime is a foregone conclusion, and it will be. If your actions and demeanor demonstrate that you are wholly committed to bedtime and supportive of healthy sleep, your bedtime efforts will be successful. Hi-yah!