Please, just go to sleep!

Ask any parent what the biggest challenge is with raising children, and you'll receive several similar answers – getting them to eat healthy food, applying discipline correctly, the guilt of leaving them to go to work etc.

But there's always one thing that stands out for almost all parents – Bedtime.

There's no denying it; bedtimes can be really tough. It's like trying to force a cat into a carrying box.

You think you've got them in, but then a leg flies out and they escape, they make loads of noise, and half the time they end up doing a wee in the box.

But at least with cats you can lock them in the box without feeling too guilty.

Locking children in a room or using gaffer tape to keep them in bed really isn't an acceptable parenting solution.

My children give me mixed reviews at bedtime. One child thinks I'm the best mummy ever, and we have hugs and sing a special dinosaur song (yes, I even made it up myself).

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She goes straight to sleep within 10 minutes, and doesn't wake up until 7am. Angel.

The other child thinks I'm a horrible person, hates sleeping, and she does every single thing she possibly can in an attempt to trick me into letting her stay up.

Her list includes…'Mummy, I need some more water!' 'Mummy, I need another wee!' 'I don't think I've had enough to eat, can I have some cheese?' 'I can't find my teddy!' 'The door isn't open enough' 'The door isn't shut enough' 'It's too hot' 'It's too cold' 'I'm not tired' and the strangest one, 'Mummy quick! There's a satsuma in my room!'

She's nearly seven, and I still have this problem. Or at least, I did, until two weeks ago. But no more, because…


It's so simple, yet so utterly effective. I painted a massive (beautifully artistic, I should add) splodge on their bedroom wall with blackboard paint and turned it into a sleep chart.

She gets smiley faces for good bedtime behaviour, sad faces for bad behaviour. And it's like someone flicked a switch in my daughter's head.

Now, instead of the huge battle to get her to sleep, we read a story, I remind her about getting a smiley face, we say goodnight, have a cuddle, I shut the door, and I don't see her again until morning. Astounding (said the Gruffalo).

I always thought these charts were a myth, which would never work.

Now I understand that they're a magical tool used by wizards to trick children into sleeping.

Ok, so I have agreed that if she gets six smiley faces, I'll buy her �20 of clothes… but it's a small price to pay.

I'm the real winner here, right? Please tell me I'm the real winner, and I haven't just totally been taken for a mug…?

Oh crap.