4 Magic Words When Dealing With Exhausted School Age Children.
We’ve all been there. Its just after dinner and your kiddo just can’t keep it together. There is home reading and homework to do. Maybe swimming lessons, or piano practice. But everything is a problem for your child.
What is a parent to do?
Well the technique we use at home, when my 4th grader is losing his cool is quite simple. I say these 4 magic words.
“Its time for bed.”
Maybe we miss piano, or don’t get those last math problems done. But thats ok, doing so will not cause your child to be a high school drop out, or suddenly not able to play piano.
What it will do is help your child learn to regulate their emotions, and to know when they are tired.
Just to clarify myself, I’m not telling you to be cruel about this. What you should tell your child is:
“Sally, I can see your having a hard time controlling your emotions. You seem quite tired. Its time for bed.”
If your children are anything like mine, they will argue that they are not. But gently telling them that their actions are telling you they are tired. I let them know, that going to bed early will help make sure tomorrow they will feel better.
My oldest needs to be in bed for 8pm, 8:30 the absolute latest. But for a few weeks, I think he was growing and he was melting down right after dinner. We started sending him to bed at 7. Which meant we didn’t get all our NACD homework done one night, and we missed piano lessons another night. But he needed it.
You know what the kicker is? Now he recognizes when he is having trouble controlling his emotions due to being tired and will ask to go to bed early.
As a parent I always felt guilty by the thought of sending my child to bed right after dinner. I mean come on, I’m sure I can get him to cooperate. Sending him to bed at 6 or 7 would be just plain lazy. Right?
If your child is that overtired, things are not going to get better by keeping him up even later. You need to help set them up for success. If they are overtired and cranky, and you know they have school the next day, that extra hour or two will help them feel more rested and ready to have a wonderful productive day. Chances are it is just a growth spurt and they will get back to their regular bedtime.
If possible make sure to still go through your regular bedtime routine. Storytime, snuggles, bedtime prayers, whatever you and your child usually do. This will help them realize that this is not a punishment. Because it shouldn’t be. However, if my child was overly protesting early bedtime, I will ask them if they are too tired for bedtime activities(bedtime story and such.) Usually my son will stop protesting. There has been a time or two where is actions made the decision for him to go straight to bed. However I try to avoid this if possible.
The goal is to help your child learn to self regulate their emotions. I know as an adult if I’ve been pulling too many late nighters, I sometimes become short with my hubby or boys. So you know what I do? I go to bed early so I’m fresh in the morning. It might also help to share this with your child. That way they know this is what adults do too.
For now, do not strain your parent/child relationship. No one wants to go to bed angry at their child’s behavior, when you know they were just over tired.
Just say “It’s time for bed.”