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Health & Parenting

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A Simple New Strategy May Put Bedtime Struggles to Sleep

Bedtime is fast approaching, and so is the battle to get your child to sleep.


The reason the pass works is unclear, admits Patrick Friman, one of the study's authors. He speculates, however, that there are three possible explanations. "A child saving the valuable pass may simply fall asleep waiting to use it," he says. Or the mere presence of the pass may offer a child a sense of security. It may also be that a child with a pass now has access to something he wants -- a trip out of bed -- so it loses its appeal.

Experts say that resistance to bedtime is normal. All children go through a phase in which their favorite word is "no." During this phase, the desire to disobey parents is often in conflict with lingering separation anxiety, causing the nighttime behavior problems.

In addition to relieving parents and children of bedtime stress, Friman says the simplicity of the method will allow physicians more time to address medical concerns during visits with their patients. "It takes two minutes to explain," he says. "Under managed care, doctors are only able to spend about 10 minutes with their patients."

Doctors Welcome the Pass

Despite the time crunch, many physicians feel it is part of their job to address these types of common problems. "Not only do parents come to you with these issues but it is part of the routine health care visit," says Tom?s Maga?a, a pediatrician at Oakland Children's Hospital in Oakland, California. Maga?a says he welcomes the opportunity to give parents more options. "Most parents give up on the other methods because they don't want to deal with the harshness," he says. This is a problem, he adds, because consistency is essential to teaching children to behave in desired ways. "Parents need to follow through."

Like the study's authors, Maga?a points out that more research into the use of the bedtime pass is necessary. "It may not work with every child," he cautions. He, however, is willing to recommend it to his patients and try it himself with his three-year-old son, El?as. Maga?a says he believes the bedtime pass has a good chance of working with his strong-willed son and other children. "I think it will provide a sense of control for the kid in a pretty out-of-control situation."

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