If you have read many parenting blogs or books, one of the top areas of concern is how to get children to sleep well. There are a lot of reasons your kids may or may not be sleeping. Some are easily fixed, while others may require the help of your child’s pediatrician.
In general though, one important fact about your children’s sleep habits is true. You can’t force a child to fall asleep, but you can give boundaries for appropriate behavior during rest times and enforce them. I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes at that last statement, but it’s true for all but the very youngest of children. You should be able to make and enforce reasonable rules for your children’s rest times, just like you do for other areas of their life.
Doing so may take some extra effort on your part at first – especially when they are transitioning to a new bed or bedroom. It’s really important to do so though. Your kids learn four important godly things when you make and enforce good rules for rest times.
- They learn obedience. If your children can’t learn to obey you about which times they are allowed to leave their rooms or interrupt your sleep, they are even less likely to obey God in the “little things”. Many parents let bad behaviors slide during rest times. This only teaches your kids that there are times they can do anything they want and disrupt the lives of others with virtually no consequences. If allowed to continue, they will think they can also pick and choose when they obey God.
- They learn to show love and respect to others. Even very young children can compare a number you have written to the number on a large digital clock and be quiet until they match or until you come to wake them. Getting out of bed to play in another room or waking others with non-essential questions, is showing disrespect for the others in their family who also need rest. If they are allowed to be disrespectful and disturb others who are trying to sleep, they will eventually learn they don’t have to put the needs of others before their own – the exact opposite of what Jesus taught.
- They learn how to take care of the gifts God gave them. As you teach your kids about being good stewards, don’t forget to include the idea of being good stewards of their bodies. Explain to them the necessity of rest for our bodies to heal and grow. As your kids get older and push back at long periods of rest, consider showing them the studies explaining all young people need ten to twelve hours of sleep to be taking the best possible care of their bodies.
- They learn what it feels like to be able to work at the level of their godly potential. Let’s face it – even small amounts of sleep deprivation can affect cognition, mood, decision making and even your children’s ability to resist temptations. Help them learn the difference between functioning after a full night’s sleep and when they haven’t slept enough. Explain that as God has given them gifts and gives them opportunities to serve Him, they can be more effective when they are well rested. Having a good night’s sleep can also make it easier for your children to be joyful and resist temptation.
Creating and enforcing rest time rules isn’t easy. The benefits though make it worth the time and effort. Not only will you have fewer behavior and attitude problems, but you should be able to get more rest, too. Everyone can appreciate the benefits of that precious parenting gift!