Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Teaching Sleep Manners with The Good Night, Sleep Tight Sleep Chart

Guest post by Christina Gantcher:

Is bedtime a battle with your preschooler? It doesn’t need to be but our preschool aged children have so much to explore and learn everyday that it can easily turn into several rounds of 20 questions. Many times when a parent approaches me for sleep help and their child is between 3 and 5 (sometimes even 2 ½) I will say it’s time for “sleep manners” which I learned through my own experience with author Kim West, best known as “The Sleep Lady.” I love the idea of teaching children the skill of sleep and during the preschool years it’s really about manners and a skill, not punishment and judgment.

When parents look for a way to get their child to cooperate at bedtime we discuss the role of sleep manners. Just like we teach our children to say “please” and “thank you” we can teach them they need to learn sleep manners. Getting into bed at an appropriate time should not be an on-going negotiation; it should be a matter-of-fact event. Going to sleep should be a calm, peaceful routine, not one of struggle and heart strings being pulled (“just one more drink”, “just one more book!”).

A sleep chart, like Victoria Chart Company’s “Good Night, Sleep Tight” is ideal for helping kids learn sleep manners. It’s colorful and easy-to-use, complete with great stickers, and a list of appropriate expectations for our preschool aged children at bedtime. Some of those behaviors are “I’m getting into bed” and “I fell asleep by myself.” It’s important that there are morning manners too, like “stayed in bed until it was time to get up”, a common difficulty for young children in beds, able to get up at hours adults would not consider morning.

As a sleep coach I help parents understand that our children actually learn to sleep. If they don’t learn this skill independently, with something or someone doing it for them, they will always need that thing, action or person to go to sleep. As a child gets older it is important for them to understand their own role in getting a good night’s sleep. Part of self-care, like feeding oneself or learning to get dressed, is taking responsibility for falling asleep unassisted.

A sleep chart can be a helpful reminder of routine for both parent and child at bedtime and in the morning. The chart itself is best put into action during a pre-set family meeting where your child learns about the new tool and how it is going to help them learn their sleep manners. The conversation at the family meeting should be a positive, upbeat one, asking for your child’s ideas about what good manners might be and focusing on the rewards (a fun outing/experience with a parent, not necessarily a toy) after successful sleep manners for several days, and eventually weeks. Every morning you can review the previous night and how things went. This way both you and your child can stay consistent about new good manners and see where there’s room for improvement.

Wishing you a good night’s sleep!

Christina Gantcher is a licensed and certified Gentle Sleep Coach. For more information go to

Order your copy of the Good Night Sleep Tight chart from The Victoria Chart Company, and 'Like" our Facebook page to save 15% and to download your child's Sleep Certificate.

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