Ask any parent and they will tell you one thing desired above all else is SLEEP. Oh, blessed, wonderful sleep, how we love you! Sleep is the holy grail of parenthood.
Before I had kids, I had no idea what the pain of sleep deprivation actually meant. Now that I’m a mom, I understand. Every parent attempts a routine, structured kids’ bedtime in order to set up nighttime for success, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.
If you are struggling with sleep issues in your household, help is on the way! We have been parents for almost 20 years. We were foster parents to 35 children, mostly medically fragile newborns. We spent years in a sleep-deprived condition. (I consider myself not fully responsible for some of my decisions during those years.)
Yet all in all, we have not had too many issues with night-time parenting and bedtime. We’ve learned some great lessons along the way.
Read on for 3 tips to a better bedtime routine and finally get the sleep you need.
Please note, the steps below are for toddler to elementary school age kiddos, not newborns for an important reason.
Newborns need to attach to their moms and dads. A good routine, both daytime and nighttime, is helpful for newborns. We took in babies who came from extremely chaotic home situations and were amazed at the transformation that a good routine made for their general temperament and nature.
Do check with your doctor if your child is having sleep issues, especially if you are seeing daytime tiredness. For some kids, fatigue can lead to hyperactivity. There are possibly underlying medical issues that could be a factor.
One final note. This might be painful to hear, but friends tell each other the truth, right?
The truth is that if there is not a physical cause and your kids have trouble at bedtime, more than likely we as parents have contributed to these issues. But the good news is, we will make the solution happen!
3 Tips to a Better Bedtime Routine
Here are 3 steps to fix your kids’ bedtime routine — fast!
1. Be a Coke machine, not a slot machine.
Parenting expert Nancy Thomas shares this truth. No one plays Coke machines, right? Why bother? The same thing comes out every time — Coke. But people love to play the slot machines in Vegas, for the CHANCE of a win.
Do your kids play you at bedtime for the CHANCE of a win? They might play you with whining, crying, begging for items (drinks of water, one more story, lie down with me), crying for hours, coming into your room over and over, I can’t sleep, pretending to ignore your requests, and so on.
2. Create a simple bedtime routine.
This advice is old hat, and I know you’ve heard it 100 times before. You are probably thinking, we have a bedtime routine. To which I’m thinking, “No you don’t.” You might have parts of a bedtime routine. Or you started one and then it got off track when someone got sick. Maybe your routine has 12 parts, instead of 5. Stick with simple and be specific. Do not deviate.
If you DO have to deviate (you are out late, or a child is sick), it’s important to be clear that you as the parent are making the decision to change things up. Say “Tonight I am letting you stay up late to go to this event because *I* decided this is what we are doing as a family, and I’m the mom.” Hear the difference? This is a huge difference from giving in to a child’s whining.
3. Be boring at bedtime.
Be really boring at bedtime. We are so busy during the day and often miss our chance to connect with our kids. Suddenly it’s bedtime, they are begging for one more story, and we give in out of guilt because we didn’t spend more time with our kids. The trouble is this sets up a negative pattern for everyone.
Make sure you are doing what is best for your child, and not getting your own needs met or assuaging your guilt.
Bryan Post suggests spending 10 minutes two times per day connecting with your child in an intentional way, and you will see discipline issues evaporate. If this is too hard, start with 5 minutes.
We share highs and lows at dinner and check in with our kids in other ways. We read books on the couch before we head upstairs for bed.
I’ll be honest. By bedtime I am fried. I am just not a stellar parent past 8:00 pm. I get boring at bedtime out of necessity, and it’s good for my kids, too.
So in review, it IS possible to have a better bedtime with your kids! If life at bedtime hasn’t been going well, new patterns can be set starting tonight. This will lead to more positive interactions for everyone.
- Be a Coke machine, not a slot machine. (Be consistent.)
- Create a very simple bedtime routine. (Be simple.)
- Be boring at bedtime.
Try these steps, and I would love to hear about how it’s going for your family!