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Bedtime Routine

Teaching Independence at Night

“I do it myself!” Anyone with a young child has invariably heard these words. How do you get him to cooperate and let you take care of things at bedtime when he wants to do everything himself? The answer is — you don’t.

Let your child do things himself. Praise his efforts. Taking responsibility for such things as getting into pajamas or brushing teeth can really foster independence and self-esteem. Be happy your child wants to do things for himself, and then take a few extra steps to ensure bedtime is still a pleasant time for both you and your “ready-to-be independent” child.

Start earlier. Although your young child insists on putting on his own pajamas, he may not yet be completely proficient at the task. Allow some extra time for bedtime routines like having a snack, brushing teeth and getting into pajamas while your child is going through his “I do it myself” phase.

Limit choices. While your child may insist on picking out her pajamas and dressing herself, it could take hours to choose what to wear from her fully stocked dresser. Instead, pull out two or three pairs of pajamas and let her choose from your selection. This way, she still feels in control and independent in choosing her bed clothes, but you’ve set a limit, so the routine won’t take all night.

Let your child help. At bath time, give your child a washcloth with soap and encourage him to wash his body while you shampoo his hair.

Celebrate enthusiasm. My children have all gone through a period of wanting to read a book to me despite the fact that they hadn’t learned to read yet! Instead of reminding your child that she can’t read, celebrate her enthusiasm for reading and let her go to town, making up a story based on the illustrations in the book.

Remind your child you are there to help. Remember that no matter how independent your little one wants to be, she still needs to know that she can count on you. Keep bedtime consistent even while letting her take over some of the responsibilities. And finally, make sure she knows how much you love her. Even my teenagers who insist they’re too old for kisses at bedtime still like to talk with me and get a big hug before going to bed.

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