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Sleep way to better behavior

There are many reasons why children may behave like monsters long before Halloween a lack of sleep is one of them.

Not getting enough sleep can influence mood, behavior and attentiveness in children (as well as adults).

Among children ages 1 to 5, bad behavior due to a lack of sleep is one of the most common problems that parents bring to health care providers. And just when you think you have your child's sleep schedules on track, along comes another disruption: the end of daylight saving time at 2 a.m. on Nov. 6.

Two- and 3-year-old children sleeping less than 10 hours in a 24-hour period are at a greater risk for behavior problems such as acting out and aggression, Northwestern University scientists have reported.

Sleep researchers have linked regular bedtimes to better language and math skills among 4-year-olds. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, preschool children should get a minimum of 11 hours of sleep each night, but many children are not getting the recommended amount.

Beyond the basics of a nutritious diet, plenty of run-around time, play time and a bedtime routine, here is another behavioral factor to consider: How are your emotions, including work and family stress, influencing your child's behavior?

"Your mirror to your emotional state may be your child's behavior, which is also your clue to your child's well-being," says Bonnie Harris, a parenting educator and author of "Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids" (Adams Media, 2008). Your child cannot carry your emotional baggage. If your child is acting out, it may be time to take stock of your emotional state and reconsider what your child sees in you, Harris says.

It's wrong to assume that when young children are behaving inappropriately, it's because they want to or because they are out to "get you," she says. Instead, consider this philosophy that has guided her work coaching parents and teachers: "All children want to be successful. All children do well when they can."

To help your child be the best that he can be, explore with your child's preschool teacher whether your expectations are appropriate for your child at his particular stage of social, emotional, physical and emotional development.

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Parenting tip

When clocks are turned back for the end of daylight saving time, take that "extra" hour of sleep to help reduce your sleep deficit, suggest experts at the National Sleep Foundation. It may take a couple of days or up to a week for your children to adjust to the time change.

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