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Kids' Poor Bedtime Habits May Bring ADHD Misdiagnosis

Study Suggests That No Set Bedtime, Bed Sharing Linked to Behavior Problems

Setting a Bedtime

So how can parents start getting their children to have a consistent bedtime?

Pressman says the underlying idea is that bedtime is a clear expectation of what occurs -- a rule, not a command.

"Nobody likes to be told what to do," he says. "But if the amusement park opens at 10, you can argue about it but it won't change. It is not imposed on anyone, it is just there."

Implementing such a rule requires a meeting of the whole family, because every family member has to be on board.

Pressman says there are five key points:

  • It must be clear. "There must be very little room for negotiation," Pressman says. "The child does have an opportunity to discuss, but there is no real negotiation."
  • It has to be doable.
  • It has to be time specific. "Saying 'You have to go to bed between 8 and 9 is not clear," Pressman says.
  • It has to be enforceable. Until bedtime becomes routine, parents have to be at home to enforce the new rule. Leaving it to a babysitter won't work.
  • 100% consistency for two weeks. Over the first two weeks of the new bedtime rule, there can be no exceptions. Later on, a child can stay up late to go to the ball game, but not at first.

Pressman elaborates on these points and offers advice on specific situations in his book Good Nights Now.

Adesman notes that while Pressman focuses on parenting issues, true ADHD is not caused by bad parenting.

"Children with ADHD can pose difficult problems at bedtime. It is not a question of parent limitations," he says. "It is legitimate to acknowledge that there are reasons besides ADHD where kids can have behavior problems. But we have to be careful when talking about causes."

The Pressman study appears in the Sept. 15 online edition of the American Journal of Family Therapy.


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