Last week I got wind of a Book Trust event being held this Tuesday in London. Being an avid reader, I signed up for it with Tots 100 with no clue who the author was going to be. So on Tuesday morning when I woke to find out it was Jo Frost, I was quite excited. Hers was one of those parenting books I bought years before I was even pregnant. I’d watched many of her shows and was a huge fan!
Jo has recently become the Global Ambassador for the Book Trust, a charitable organisation transforming lives by getting children and families reading. Their new campaign “Bath Book Bed” aims to get families together at the end of the day to set a routine of bath book bed before getting their kids to sleep. They believe with this routine kids are going to get a better night’s sleep and as a result, so will parents. Jo was on hand to chat to us about why this routine is so important and to help some of us through our sleep (or lack of) woes.
I’ll be honest, I’ve followed the bath book bed routine since S was 6 months old and he wasn’t a great sleeper. However, after chatting to Jo I realised that there were so many changes I could have made that might have led him to be a better sleeper and that although his routine didn’t have him sleeping through the night, it helped with so much else. I’ve written before about how important reading to your child is and I still stand by all my reasons. That 30 minutes before bed is his down time and our bonding time. And there are nights I can’t do it but someone else at home always will, so nothing changes for S.
Tuesday’s event was held at The Library near Charing Cross Station. It’s a beautiful venue with a glass roof, old bookcases filled with books and a bar (my kind of heaven). We were spoilt with bucks fizz and an assortment of pastries and croissants before being taken in for a round table discussion with Jo herself. She was chatty, down to earth and very real…just like she is on tele. As you listen to her talk you can see just how passionate she is about what she does.
According to Jo, in society, we’re all sleep deprived (whether we’re a parent or not). The ripple effect of that, as parents is a lack of tolerance, a lack of drive and motivation. It’s the moments when you know in your head that you want to feel happier but you’re exhausted. You can see it on your child’s face when they haven’t had the sleep they need and they’re less willing to show you that they have the ability to learn and focus and concentrate. It has a detrimental effect on their executive functioning skills. It then effects every other cornerstone of the day…meal times, getting ready, etc. This is why the campaign is so important to her. Not only does she believe reading helps with literacy, speech development, etc. but also with our moral compass and emotional intelligence in being able to relate and have empathy for different characters that we read about in stories. Lastly, you cannot replace that feeling of relaxation and calm you get when your child is nestled up beside you as you read them a story.
Without further ado, here are some of Jo’s invaluable tips to parenting and getting your child into a good bedtime routine (mostly in her words).
- When thinking of starting a bedtime routine, work backwards. If your child is getting up at 7am, they need to be going to bed at 7pm. So you’d start the routine an hour before at 6pm. An hour before is all that’s needed to establish fun at bath time (let your child have fun, let go of all their energy), calm during book time and then finally bed time.
- Children are open little beings and very receptive to different energies so it’s very important to be able to create the right energy for them. If we want our kids to nestle up to us for that bedtime story then we need to create the right environment for them. Which means that we have to be disciplined enough to recognise that the radio that was on, needs to be turned off. The background noise of the television has to come off. There’s no room to invite technology in to the space where you are going to be creating a safe, peaceful, calm ambience for your child.
- As parents, getting our children to sleep through in their own bed needs to come from a place of strength. You have to show your child your expectation, tell them what you want them to achieve and reward them when they meet your expectation. (As a side note, this is what I did with S and it worked. I went from holding his hand till he fell asleep every night, 30 minutes sometimes, to telling him he needed to put himself to sleep and that I’d be right outside his door. It took 2 nights and I’ve never had to hold his hand to sleep again. And he sleeps through the night).
- Find time, even if it’s only 15 minutes every evening to spend quality time with your kids and make it consistent. It doesn’t matter if it’s only 15 minutes but let it be 15 minutes every day rather than 20 minutes on a Monday then nothing nothing nothing then 10 minutes then nothing nothing then 10 minutes again. Even in the morning, if you give the kids 20 minutes, undivided attention to do early learning with them, they’ll give you an hour. They’ll go off and self play and they’ll give you an hour. But you need to give it to them first!
- Everything that you do during the day, helps in the evening. So if during the day there’s that moment to be able to read to them or encourage them to look after their puzzle pieces, use those opportunities to teach them life skills because one of those executive life skills is to be able to sit down and focus and turn the pages and read. Don’t be disheartened if they don’t want to read during the night time, you can practice in the day time too. What happens in the day only enhances what happens in the evening.
- As parents, you need a routine in the day that helps support you with time management in the evening.
- Don’t use yourself as the reward. If your child knows you’re going to sit there and hold their hand until they fall asleep, why would they go to sleep? How are you teaching them the transition between day and night? We need to teach our children that sleeping is a good thing and it’s important. Don’t use yourself as the prize. By doing that it’s bleeding into your time with your other children (and what they need) or your partner or even time for yourself.
- As mothers, we need to get real with the real reasons we choose to remain attached to our children beyond what they need. And it can be disabling to them, rather than giving them the capacity and the ability to be able to reach their milestones in their developments. Many mums are being used as human pacifiers (at night) but it’s only when the mum makes up her mind to recognise this that she is going to empower her child by giving them what they need for their development.
- In your heart, trust what you know about your child because it’s right. Listen to your gut! You know what you know!
- There will be days where the bed time routine doesn’t happen…but keep on it. Even with raising kids, one day it’s chaos, the next day you can’t wait till 7pm because you’re exhausted. Tomorrow is another day…that’s raising kids…that’s parenting. It’s not the image that books portray, it’s the reality…it’s also the joy.
No matter how old your child is, I’d encourage you to take part in the Book Trust’s “14 days to better sleep”. You can sign up here and see how you go. You have nothing to lose but hopefully lot’s of sleep to gain.