Can I Have a Drink of Water? and Other Requests that Make Bedtime Impossible

sleeping toddler
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Personality matters.

My son is a fan of sleep. He napped for three hours a day clear through his fifth birthday and still naps a couple of days a week at 5 ½. He likes his routine and prefers to fall asleep alone, once I've left his room for the night. Space is important to him. My daughter, on the other hand, needs to hold me close. She prefers stories, cuddles, and falling asleep while holding my hand. When the lights go down and sleep is near, she shares her worries, her dreams, and her happy thoughts. She gets her feelings out and snuggles in while we chat. She needs the comfort of mom as she drifts off for the night. And so I give it to her.

Schedules and routines are always helpful for little ones, as they cue kids and help them fall into healthy patterns. But knowing your child’s personality and understanding your child’s individual needs makes it easier to create a routine that actually works for each child. Meet your child where she is and you’ll find that sleep isn't so difficult, after all.

Troubleshooting helps.

My daughter does prefer to drink some water before bed. She’s on the go all day long. Between school, playing, and more playing, she doesn't always take enough water breaks. If I cue her, she’ll drink. But if I forget to provide the cues, she tends to go for longer periods without water.

If small children across the globe all share an intense need for a sip of water right before bed can it really be attributed to manipulation? Isn't it possible that kids actually realize that they are thirsty when they finally settle down for the night?

Whether the thirst of your child is fabricated or real, leaving a water bottle containing a few ounces of water by the bed removes that specific request for the night. You can apply this philosophy to many common nighttime requests. If you stop and look around your child’s room when the lights go down, you begin to realize that shadows really can be creepy.

My daughter and I regularly walk through her room to find the creepy shadows and rearrange things accordingly. You can tell your child to get over it or you can consider how your child truly feels and make a few small changes (extra nightlights help and shoving toys and stuffed animals in the closet can decrease shadows). Making a few small changes as issues arise has always proven beneficial in my house, and I've never once felt resentful of the time I spent troubleshooting the nighttime fears. 

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Comfort is crucial.

I was a bit of an anxious kid. In the early 80’s, people didn't really talk about anxious kids, but I was a worrier by nature. Nighttime was sometimes hard. I remember secretly hiding a flashlight in my bedroom and peeking out my window when loneliness set in. Although that feels like a lifetime ago, I still know what it feels like to worry at night. I get it. Putting in the time, even when I’m exhausted, is important to me.

At some point the bedtime battles will come to and end and your children will grow and separate. You might look back and regret the arguments over water and nightlights, but you will never regret that time you spent nurturing your child.

Before you jump to conclusions and tell me that I’m not teaching my daughter to sleep independently or something along those lines, you should know that she falls asleep without a worry for her babysitters, her grandparents, my husband, and just about anyone else who assists with bedtime. But nighttime, when I’m home (which is 99% of the time) is our time. And I wouldn't change it for anything.

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All kids need comfort as they drift off to sleep. For my son, comfort comes in the form of our little routine and his lovey. For my daughter, it comes in the form of a longer routine and linked hands. These aren't crutches, as some believe, nor do they impede their ability to sleep. 

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Bottom line: seek out the sources of comfort that work for your children and start there. At some point the bedtime battles will come to and end and your children will grow and separate. You might look back and regret the arguments over water and nightlights, but you will never regret that time you spent nurturing your child. That much I can promise. 

What do you think?

Can I Have a Drink of Water? and Other Requests that Make Bedtime Impossible

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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1 comment

  1. cassie says:

    So…our kids like to sleep with us and they are 4 & 6. They have their own rooms and beds and we dont have set rules on who to sleep with or what bed or even the sofa, as daddy prefers the sofa some nights as to not wake us at 4am when he gets up for work. Also, there isnt a set bedtime but its usually around 8-10pm. Where ever they feel comfortable, whether its with us, eachother or by themselves. Its not hurting anything.

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