children delaying bedtime Sep 18, 2017
“One more story…pleeeeease!”, “Let me tell you one more thing that happened at school”, “I need more water”, fussing, crying or full out meltdown. Sound familiar? We have all gone through the struggles of bedtime.
We are all tired, nerves are frazzled and sometimes one more story feels like it will never end. We get frustrated, sometimes even angry and we storm out of our children’s room! Not a great way to end the day, and now you feel horrible and they are left feeling alone.
Why do so many of us struggle with bedtime? Why does it feel like our children are trying to delay it?
The answer is connection!
We are all wired for connection – we all need it for our well-being. Children, like us, have a connection bucket. That bucket needs to be filled for them to feel loved, wanted and special.
When that bucket isn’t as full as our children need it to be they will attempt to get connection and attention anyway they can. And yes, they can resort to negative behaviours like delaying bedtime with fussing or hyper behaviour to get it.
Because bedtime is the last opportunity to get their connection bucket filled for the day, children will try many ways to get it; it’s a last ditched effort to feel connected and loved!
If you think about it, it’s actually a compliment that your children want one more story – they want more of your time! They want to connect with you! It’s actually that simple but somehow we think they are manipulating us, being demanding and even defiant! They simply want more of your attention and love. How is that a bad thing?
A lot of this trouble is a symptom of our busy lives. Many of us are in go-go-go mode all the time that we have little time with our children. It’s no wonder parents struggle with the bedtime routine! Our kids are left feeling empty and alone at the end of the day and they desperately want some of your love and attention.
I noticed that in our home, Monday and Tuesday nights have the most fussing, asking for one more ‘something’ and other delay tactics from my son. It quickly realized that on both those nights he comes home from after school activities, quickly eats dinner (often alone) before he heads out to another activity. He gets home shortly before bed time. In that time span there is often less than 15 minutes of connection time! No wonder he needs more on those days!
So now both my husband and I make an effort to give him as much attention as we can on those two days, and we give him a little extra attention once he is in bed. We sit with him and hold space for him while he talks about his day. Because we do this proactively now there is little to no fussing, or asking for one more this or that.
In fact, we tell him that we acknowledge that he doesn’t get much of our attention on those two days because of the activities he wanted to sign up for. We do that so he knows it’s about his schedule not that we don’t want to spend time with him. He recently said that he doesn’t want to do his Monday night activity anymore because he would rather be home with us. He is already learning to manage his time and how to best meet his needs; he is only eight years old.
During the other days of the week we also try and give our kids attention as soon as they get home. Spending quality time with them right away allows them to feel connected and that their needs are being met. Do it whenever you can, but putting it off until just before bed can backfire if the time you have to offer isn’t enough.
I have found that my children’s connection bucket doesn’t always need the same amount every day. Some days they need more, others less. Sometimes I ask my kids what they need and want to do. It isn’t always possible to do what they want, but at least they feel part of the conversation and we work together to find an activity that meets all our needs.
There is a little more to this though. The type and quality of connection and attention you give your child matters too. I learnt this from my daughter. My idea of quality time and her idea were not the same.
One day after school I was at home with her and we were reading stories, playing cards and hanging out. In my mind this was quality time. I later found out that it wasn’t for her because I had answered the phone once and checked on dinner in the oven several times. Emilie needs undivided attention to feel connected – no other distractions and interruptions.
When I talked with Emilie about that afternoon she said that she didn’t like the interruptions and it didn’t feel like quality time. I explained why I had to answer that call and why I needed to check on dinner and she understood – but she had a request, “next time let me know what you are doing mommy” she said.
When I got up to check on the oven Emilie wasn’t sure how long I would be gone and even if I was coming back. When I answered the phone (knowing it was important) she didn’t know how long I would be. Those breaks in our time together were enough for her to disengage so for her it didn’t feel like official quality time.
I must say I was surprised that she was so sensitive but knowing that I can now manage our time better and when I do need to get up, I tell her what I am doing and for how long. We now have a shared understanding of what quality time is and I am able to help her fill her connection bucket.
The key is to know what your child needs to fill his/her bucket; what activities and the right amount of time in that situation. This can take some time to figure out, and guess what, as they grow and develop it changes!
By being present and aware you will naturally begin to learn more about your child and their needs and bedtime will no longer be a struggle.
Try it out!
I invite you to look at your daily schedules. Notice what days have more or less potential for quality time with your child. Are those the days that the bedtime routine is more difficult? If it is, do what you can to offer your child the quality connection he/she is looking for.
If every day is a struggle you might have to really see which of your activities you can let go so you can spend more time with your child. If you do that you will notice an immediate difference.
I also invite you to make the bedtime routine special. Rushing kids to bed is never a good thing so really allow as much time as you can. If we have had a busy day we try and have at least 20 to 30 minutes of quality time at bed. Here are some suggestions:
-Make a special bath time with unique soaps, toys and sit with them while they are in the bath. Talk about their day and even read them a story if you don’t have time to do it later.
-Play a tickle game under the blankets. Have a flashlight and get under the blankets with your kids and tickle them, play ‘I spy’ or read them a story.
-While in their bed tell a simple story about all their stuffed animals. Make up funny voices for each of them and create a story about different adventures.
-Story time! Kids love to be read to, and I invite you to find a book that you can finish in one reading. Be open to your children asking questions and discussing the story – this is how they make meaning and integrate the story into their lives.
Patrick Dahdal and all the team at Transformation TV are thrilled to be working with Nicki Paulun and sharing her unique message with the world.
You can watch Nicki's TV Show on the TV platform here: https://www.transformation.tv/p/NickiPaulunTVShow
Nicki Paulun is a Professional Integral Coach™ and offers coaching programs and individual sessions to support and guide clients in parenting and in life. She is passionate about conscious parenting and works with clients to bring out more of their inner knowing, authentic self and presence with their children. The unique coaching programs she creates for each client are transformational and makes a huge impact on the whole family.
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