Children tend to see later bedtimes as a symbol of being ‘grown-up’. An early bedtime means you’re still treating her like a baby. If her younger sibling goes to bed at the same time, the humiliation is compounded!

Her Bedtime is Your Time!
Don’t feel guilty about wanting your daughter to go to bed. Parents have a right to some time to themselves.

Children Need Their Sleep
6 yr-olds need about 11 hours sleep. This gradually decreases to about 9 hours by the time they are 12 years old. Insufficient sleep leaves children tired and irritable, reduces their learning ability and weakens their immune system.

Any Excuse to Stay Up Will Do!
Some children have vivid imaginations and she may be genuinely afraid of being left alone in the dark. Admitting this sounds ‘babyish’ so she has a thousand excuses to try to stay up. There’s a TV programme she simply has to see, or a game she needs to finish. Suggest a nightlight in her bedroom (or on the landing) or a simple intercom system.

Establish a Bedtime Ritual
Establish a regular bedtime but let your child feel she has some control over it; for example, give her a special bedtime alarm clock and let her set the alarm for the agreed bedtime each night. Some parents alert their children with a ‘pre-bedtime call’ half an hour before bedtime. This can be a wind-down time when toys and books are put away, mugs of milk are brought out and hugs from Mum and Dad are standard.

Be Fair but Firm
Once you have set a bedtime, stick with it. If your child’s favourite TV programme is rescheduled for later, tape it for her to view next evening. If circumstances really do warrant staying up later, explain why you are bending the rules and reinforce that this is a rare exception. Similarly, if you decide to move bedtime back as she grows older, don’t just let her slide into it. Tell her you’re setting a new bedtime – and be equally firm in sticking to it.

Going to Bed, Not Going to Sleep
If your child isn’t tired at bedtime, let her read until she is. This privilege may be abused in the beginning but gradually she’ll turn off the light when she is tired. This agreement has the virtue of encouraging a reading habit, which many children don’t establish in this age of computers and TV.

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Have a great week with your family.


Michael Farrell