Thursday, January 08, 2009

How To Get Your Kids To Sleep

It was crazy during the school holidays coz' my kids decided they could sleep late and that's what they did. Even if I did get them to stay in their rooms, they would play, talk, fight etc... until about midnight. Of course it drove me and DH up the wall. After a full day of noisy children, we crave for some peace and quiet at night.

Some of our unsuccessful attempts at teaching them discipline:
  • Taking them outside and have them run to get all that energy out of their system. Baby thought it was fun and he ran along his siblings. Sigh! Even after running, they still wouldn't sleep.
  • Confiscating their bed. Thought I could teach them about "choices" and "consequences". I told them if they quit their playing and go right to sleep, they get to sleep in a nice comfy bed. If they choose to be disobedient, they will sleep outside the room on the floor. Drastic? A little but I thought a little extremity will end the problem once and for all. You know, the "I hope you never forget this" lesson would work. That didn't work either. When I had them sit outside the room, they continued to play until very tired. Then they would start their "I'm sorry mommy. Give us one more chance. Wah, wah, wah." I didn't give in which made me feel like a bad parent. Furthermore, I was sabotaged by the grandfather who allowed them into his bedroom after I had gone to sleep. Grrrr....
Well, guess what? I've found the secret to getting my kids to sleep according to their bedtime. Want to know how? RELAXATION TECHNIQUES! Hah, I finally found a good use for my psychology degree. Hehehe. This is how my routine goes:
  • Put on my George Winston music CD. You can use any kind of meditation music, even Enya and Gregorian chants. Baroque meditation music at 60 beats per minute is what most people would use to calm down and relax. It gets your brain waves down to the alpha level. By the way, it'll also help your children study better. Have you heard of Pachelbel's Cannon? That would be a great song to use. Have a listen here. Look for the title "Cannon in E".
  • Have them lie down on their back, eyes closed, legs straight and arms by their side. Sort of like a dead person on an autopsy table. I know, gross visual but you get what I mean right?
  • Get them to relax from head to toe. In a gentle voice guide them to clench their teeth for a few seconds, and then relax. Have them frown as hard as the can, then relax. Make a fist with their hands and feel like they are grabbing something hard, then let go. Tighten the legs muscles, then relax.
  • Try to slow down their breathing. Have them visualize they are a balloon. When they breath in, the balloon expands. When they breath out, feel like a balloon deflating, going soft. For adults, we usually count to 10 as we breath in and then hold for about 5 and then breath out another 10 counts. With children you might want to cut that down to 5-3-5.
  • Then I get them to visualize a staircase. They are right at the top, on the 100th floor. And there's a beautiful garden / beach / waterfall etc... at the bottom. Have them slowly walk down those stairs. As they do, you count down from 100 - zero. I believe the reason for this is to bring down their consciousness.
  • If they are not asleep yet when you reach the bottom, describe the "beautiful" place e.g. the smell, the warmth, the breeze, the colours etc.... Try to bring in all the senses. Describe how happy they are there. And then let them stay there until they fall asleep :)
In the beginning, it may take awhile for them to fall asleep. The first time I did this with my kids, the whole process took me about 50 minutes. As days past, it took less and less time for them to settle down. Today, my son was asleep in 15 minutes. I only started this 5 days ago.

So, this is my secret to getting my children to sleep. My 5 year old, who can't stay still for 5 minutes, is able to calm down with this relaxation technique.

Mama's Parenting Tip:
I learned a few things the past few days. It's not things that I didn't know, but sometimes it's difficult to put into practice what you know.
  1. When you don't get the desired results with your children, don't always think that it's them that need to change. More often than not, it's you that needs to change. Isn't there a saying that goes something like "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results"? So, don't be stuck on one parenting technique. If it doesn't work, try something else. If the hard way is not working, try the soft way.
  2. Different children need different parenting styles. I've realized I cannot go hard on my son because he will just be harder and challenge me. When I said "I'll send you to live with your grandma", he said "Pack my bags, I want to go." My daughter on the other hand would cry and whine and say how much she would rather stay. But when I told my son how sad I was about what he had done and how it affected me, he broke down and I could see that he truly felt sorry. That's how I need to work with him.
Well, I hope you do try the relaxation technique with your children. Let me know how it goes.


  1. Wow, very interesting!!
    sure will try that! but i think my 2 years old will not be able to follow all but i will still try :)

    and you are right. some times we need to change too right?

    and yes different kids need different technique.

    Thanks again!

  2. Hi Lian, This is awesome LOL. We used to do these stuff (autogenic + progressive relaxation techniques), which proved very useful during our competitive sports days. Never thought of applying them to the kids though. But I must say that Pacahabell number can put anyone into a deep slumber!
    Anyway, I will be in KL for the entire CNY period in a couple of weeks. Will be catching up with Soon, Min (very hopeful on that one!). Any chance of a get together?

  3. Ai Lian, sounds like you're describing the corpse pose in yoga :D You can try it yourself when you've had a crazy day and just want to relax. Start relaxing from your feet up. I've tried that when I get wired up and too tired to sleep. Sometimes I don't get past knees... Zzzzz

    You wouldn't believe it but the word verification I have to type is is "noits"! lol

  4. Aiyo, why so difficult? Ur mama's bag of tricks no comparison to Daddy's tricks-up-d-sleeve....
    Help from few spirits would do the trick.. namely Johnny Walker, Jack Daniels to name a few.

  5. Sandra,
    Yea, I think this method works better when they are about 4 years and above when they can follow the directions. But you can always use the music.

    Never did I think I would be using this on my kids one day. I remember hating the floatation tank at MSN coz' it felt like a coffin to me. But I remember sometimes during training we would find a room, turn of the lights and all of us just lie down on the floor to do this relaxation thing. Sigh! Memories. Not sure if I'll be able to meet up coz' I'll be up north a few days. Probably back by the 3rd day of CNY. Let me know your plans.

    You are so right. That is the corpse pose. Did that a few months back when I borrowed a yoga CD from the library. I do that now when I feel a migraine coming on.
    "noits", hahahah.

    Some more what tricks you have up your sleeve ah? Your children so big already still need tricks ah?

  6. that is si very true. Your after thoughts. I agree on the hard and soft techniques on parenting and diciplining children, Just that i need to change my wyas before i can expect to see them change. Sigh... I have a long way ahead and reading your blog on parenting makes me feel so guilty. BTW, i am working in putrajaya so will only be weekend mum. Where about do you stay in Selangor?

    meishi (MS)

  7. Hey, this is what I'm looking for. Do you have any ideas on how to get baby to sleep? I did one thihng wrong with babyZ is letting him use my boobies to get to sleep! Now I need to "untrain" him... still in Day2, looking for better solution. Let me know ya if you find one... thanks!


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