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By: Tammy Sassoon, M.s.ed

Dear Desperate for Advice,

I am glad that you are asking your question because bedtime is one of my favorite topics, and I am sure many readers with young children will benefit from your question. If you follow this plan, your entire evening can be different.

First, make sure that you are often teaching your children about the important healthy habit of sleeping well. Tell them about your own bedtime. Tell them that people who sleep enough learn better, are in better moods, and have more energy. While people who are deprived of proper sleep do not learn as well, are moodier, and lack proper energy.

Next, let’s realize that children of the ages you are describing need between 9 and 13 hours of sleep. This is what is recommended, but in all my years of working with and raising children I have yet to see a young child who really needs 13 hours of sleep. I’ve found that most children in your children’s age bracket need more like 10-11 hours. With that being said, you have to calculate when it makes sense for them to wake up.

You must make sure that all of your children are awake early enough so that they will be nice and ready for the evening plan I will prescribe. If your children are awaking too late, of course they won’t be tired enough to settle down so early in the evening.

Now for the evening plan, you will do the following at 7:30 for three nights, and then gradually move 15 minutes a night until you are doing this routine at 7:00.

Have a mini-meeting with all the children. Tell them that you will be giving five minutes of special time to each child at bedtime, and you are really looking forward to it (we always show excitement about spending time with our children). Tell them that at the end of the five minutes, some ungrateful children ask for more, but the healthy thing to do is say, “Thank you, Mommy.” (we don’t ask children to say thank you because we need the gratitude, but rather because it teaches children how to be grateful, and happy). If they ask you what they should do if they can’t fall asleep tell them that they have no control over that and only Hashem decides when people fall asleep. Their responsible effort is to do two things: keep their head on the pillow and their mouth closed, and Hashem does the rest.

At 7:00, the youngest child gets five minutes of Mommy time alone in his or her room, on the bed with lights shut. This is very relaxing time when you are not teaching advising, questioning, or prodding. Just listen to everything your child wants to say without any judgment, and smile. At the end of the five minutes, tell the child that you are looking forward to seeing him/her in the morning and remind the child that he may not come out of his bed for anything. If he needs the bathroom he may go quickly without telling you.

Then go and do the same routine with the next youngest child and remember to praise the first child from the hallway, for responsibly keeping his or her head on the pillow and having a quiet mouth.

Then do the same for the oldest. Keep praising each one individually from the hallway, until everyone is calm. After several days you will be able to move away from the hallway, and go to kitchen or to the living room, as your children can work on staying calm and quiet more independently.

In addition, you can make an incentive chart where children earn points for staying in bed, towards earning a small reward.

I hope that with the implementation of these strategies your children will sleep very well.

Dear Tammy,

I have 3 children between the ages of 4 and 8, and I need some very serious help with bedtime. Overall, I have a nice relationship with my kids, and they basically listen to me. Somehow, every night bedtime is just a disaster. I start putting everyone in at 7:00, and at 9:00, everyone is still needing things. By that point, I usually completely lose it, scream at everyone, and then they finally settle down. I need my nights, and I am very desperate for advice.


Desperate for Advice

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If you are a frustrated mom or dad looking for answers to a specific problem at home, or want to improve your parenting skills in a certain area, please send an email to
editor@communitym.com.Tammy will suggest new and effective parenting strategies that actually work!

Tammy Sassoon, M.S.Ed, is a Parenting Coach, Behavioral Therapist, and Principal at Orot Sarah. She gives live workshops as well as "train by phone" telecourses to teachers, principals, therapists, and parents. She can be contacted through her website at tammysassoon.com or by phone at (347) 679-5466.