Put Your Child’s Bad Behavior to Rest with a Good Night’s Sleep

Put Your Child’s Bad Behavior to Rest with a Good Night’s Sleep

Put Your Child’s Bad Behavior to Rest with a Good Night’s Sleep

Many parents think that once babies are older, their sleep issues are over. Unfortunately many toddlers, kids and even teens have sleep issues. Whether it’s a proper bedtime routine, getting in bed, or actually sleeping through the night, many moms and dads feel hopeless as their nighttime dreams are dashed (literally!). Despite what might feel like a nightmare, even the most stubborn sheep counter can be lulled to sleep when parents are armed with the right information for their child. Here are a few things you need to know to help your child (and you) get a good night’s rest.

Proper Sleep Hours

There’s a wide range of times for babies, kids and teens to sleep. They include:

One – Two Years: Experts recommend toddlers sleep 11 – 14 hours each night. (Note: Some thrive on 9 while others need up to 16 hours.)

Preschoolers – Three to Five Years:  Doctors recommend 10 -13 hours per night. (Note: This can range from 9 – 14 hours.)

6 – 13 Years: Activities or not, kids still need sleep. It’s best if they can get between 9 and 11 hours, but it can be as little as seven and as much as 12.

Teenagers 14 – 17: Teens might surprise you. While they don’t need as much sleep as infants and young children, the recommended hours of sleep are from 8 to 10 hours. 7 is the minimum, and some might need up to 11. (Note: If teens are sleeping consistently longer than 11 hours, pay close attention to too much activity or depression issues that might be cropping up. )

Dr. Beurkens Talks Mood and Sleep

Dr. Beurkens talks about sleep issues in her book, Life Will Get Better: Simple Solutions for Parents of Children with Attention, Anxiety, Mood and Behavior Challenges. According to Dr. Beurkens, a former special education teacher and clinical psychologist, “Sleep is essential for proper brain function. Before diving into medication for behavior and focus issues, there’s other routes to consider to get your child the restful night sleep he or she needs to thrive.”

Here are just a few tips Dr. Beurkens recommends.

The ABC’s of Wrangling the ZZZ’s

  1. The Value of Routine

Just like managing your child’s behavior, the key to success is in the routine. Babies and toddlers thrive on ritual. Even big kids tend to prefer and benefit from predictability, as it gives them a sense of comfort. A serene pre-bedtime routine is often a wonderful set up for a more relaxing bedtime experience, helping your child to fall asleep more quickly.

Consider incorporating into the bedtime ritual:

  • Essential oils to promote relaxation
  • Soothing music
  • Dimmer lights
  • Battery operated candles
  • Epsom salt baths
  • A book
  • Meditation or prayer
  • Quiet voices
  1. Be a Good Example

Kids always are always watching what parents are dong. If you expect your kids to wind down for the day, consider setting the example yourself. Throw on your pajamas. Brush your teeth. Break out the slippers. Drink some tea. Talk low. While you might initially do this to be a good role model, you might quickly find that being comfortable unexpectedly lowers your own stress level. Your kids will feel this and subconsciously calm down as a result.

  1. Get the Whole Family on Board

It’s not enough for just one child to follow the bedtime rules – everyone must. This doesn’t mean that Mom and Dad are going to bed at 8PM on a Saturday, or that your teenager should be expected to soak in epsom salt baths at 7PM. It does mean, however, that the family should honor everyone’s bedtime by appropriately working around it. This sends the message to whoever is going to bed that not only do they matter, but they have lots of eyes on them to be sure there is consistency and follow through.

  1. Make Sleep Sacred

If bedtime is viewed as a power struggle, transition won’t be easy. But keeping in mind that nothing worthwhile comes without struggle, stay focused on the long haul. Consider buying them a special stuffed animal, new sheets or playing special music to create an inviting atmosphere for your child. While your baby or toddler won’t automatically fall into a deep sleep, they will quickly associate the items with the routine of rest and eventually find a rhythm.

Get Enough Sleep Yourself!

It bears repeating that caretakers need rest, too. If you’re low on sleep, you’re less likely to handle your child’s sleep issues with grace. Be kind to yourself and get the required seven to ten hours you need each evening to function optimally.

We’re Here for You

Raising kids is hard enough to keep anyone awake at night. We’re here to help you.


Written by: Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD, CNS

Horizons Developmental Resource Center serves the following areas in and around Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Caledonia, Kentwood, Middleville, Lowell, Forest Hills, Hudsonville, Walker, Holland, Zeeland, Rockford, Byron Center, Allendale, Grandville, East Grand Rapids, Wayland, Jenison, Ada, Ionia, Newaygo, Grant, Sparta, Cedar Springs, Kent City, Hamilton, Hastings in the state of Michigan and all surrounding areas.  If you are not located in or around these cities, we still may be able to help you, please contact us here http://www.horizonsdrc.com/contact-us with your specific need.

#HorizonsDRC    #DrNicoleBeurkens    #LifeWillGetBetter    #Sleep


  • February 19, 2018

    Thanks for your work. My son snores and it doesn’t seem to be sleeping restfully. His adenoids are swollen from about a 2.5 out of 5. That is not enough to take them out. He breathes fine during the day but has attentional issues. Our family is trying to go gluten free and his snoring stops. The ENT ordered a sleep study. I am not sure if I should do the study when he is gluten free or not. Thinking of the future I wonder if my son will always choose gluten free..? Any advice..?
    Thank you.

  • Nicole Beurkens, PhD
    February 20, 2018

    Hi Lisa,
    I’m so glad you have found that a gluten-free diet is helpful for your son. Gluten can be inflammatory for some people and it sounds like this is the case for your son, as his snoring seems to stop when you remove it. In terms of the sleep study, I suggest that you ask the sleep medicine clinic where you are scheduled for their preference. They may want to be able to assess the situation as it would normally happen without an intervention, but you should definitely check with them to be sure of how they want to do it. As for the future, all we can do as parents is teach our children what works best for their bodies and provide a good model for them. When they become adults they have to choose for themselves how to manage those things. I find that if children understand the connection between their health/functioning and diet changes they are more likely to stick with them. If he does choose to put gluten back in his diet, he may reach a point where he is having enough problems that he decides to remove it again. Continue providing good education and modeling for him now!
    Best wishes!
    Dr. Nicole

  • March 28, 2018

    Thank you Dr. Nicol,
    We did the sleep study and they say he has mild sleep apnea. I gave him some gluten before the test and now I wish I gave him more because they suggested steroids. He still wets the bed as with the many parties I let them have a piece of cake here and there. There are mouth appliances that are supposed to widen his palette. This is supposed to help. I don’t know if we should wait that long or if I should request that he get his tonsils out. He is a slow reader and has attentional issues.
    Thanks for your time and your work,

  • Nicole Beurkens, PhD
    March 28, 2018

    Hi Lisa,
    Expanding the palette can be very helpful for some people with sleep apnea. The ENT can guide you as far as the tonsils issue, but I have seen some kids have significant sleep improvement with a palette expander.

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