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Give Your Kids a Pass on Bedtime Issues

If you have kids between the ages of three and ten, you’re probably used to some sort of post-bedtime violation. “I need a glass of water!” is a common one. Or maybe it’s the three-year-old sneaking under mom and dad’s bed covers for a late-night snuggle.

For all sorts of reasons, kids often don’t like the idea of going to sleep. This is understandable; after all, in a child’s mind, sleep means saying goodbye to everyone he or she loves, and that can be a scary prospect. So it’s no wonder that many young kids hold out as long as possible before finally drifting off to dreamland.

Recently the parenting experts at Boys Town conducted a study to see if there could be a simple way to reduce or even eliminate bedtime problems. What they came up with is simple, fun, and effective.

The Bedtime Pass
The study’s participants were two normally developing male siblings, ages three and ten. Both children exhibited frequent crying out and leaving the bedroom after bedtime behaviors. The typical response of the parents was to ignore the behaviors or issue a stern warning. Both parents agreed their strategies were ineffective.

As an alternative to what they had been doing, the parents gave both children a 5x7 inch card with their names embossed on the top. Then, the parents explained that these were “bedtime passes” that could be exchanged without penalty for a single visit out of their bedroom after bedtime. These visits had to be short and have a specific purpose (obtain a drink, receive a hug, visit the bathroom, etc.). 

Once a pass was used, it had to be given to the parents until the following night. Any activity after the pass was used was to be ignored (in the instance of crying) or the child was to be swiftly returned to the bedroom if he came out. When doing this, the parents were not to make any eye contact or give any other attention – this is referred to as the “robotic return.”

The results were definitive. Providing the bedtime pass reduced instances of crying and coming out of the bedroom for both boys.

So if you’re having difficulties with your little ones’ bedtimes, think about employing the bedtime pass. Before you do, however, consider the following points:

  • The pass seems to be most effective with kids between the ages of three and ten.
  • A bedtime pass best introduced to a child at a neutral time (not at bedtime) and explained to him or her so the child knows exactly what to expect.
  • It is crucial that bedtime violations be dealt with dispassionately – that means ignoring crying and “robotically” returning interlopers to their bedroom.

Read the full sleep study here.

Good luck!

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