Bedtime is supposed to be a peaceful time to unwind and prepare for a good night's rest. However, parents of young children are all too familiar with bedtime drama. From whining for more water to shadow freak-outs, bedtime can be anything but peaceful.
With my husband's crazy work schedule, I often find myself having to hold it down at bedtime. Perhaps one of the MOST stressful times in our daily routine has been bedtime. Enough was enough, so I started searching for practical solutions. As always, whenever I discover something that works for my household, I love to share it with you...
Know that you are NOT alone
First, it's important to know that every child tries to avoid or extend bedtime at some point in his or her life. Take a deep breath, bring yourself to calm, accept the situation as a typical one and look for solutions.
Get the kids involved
Bedtime has the potential to be a power struggle for parents and children. Please do not engage in a power struggle over bedtime. I know it's easier said than done. However, the more you involve your children in the creation of a bedtime routine, the more cooperative they will be. It's important for your children to have input, but not run the show.
Create a bedtime routine TOGETHER
Recently, my husband and I had our girls assist us in creating a bedtime routine that worked for everyone. First, we asked the girls to name all of the things that must be done before bedtime. Their list included going to the bathroom, taking a bath, brushing their teeth, etc. If they missed an important element of their bedtime routine, we gently gave them clues to help them remember anything they may have forgotten.
Once our list was complete, we had the girls help us put each item in order starting with what they should do first. Next, I went to the computer to find some cute clipart and began typing out the bedtime routine we created together. The girls helped me design it by choosing the colors for the bedtime routine chart.
The "Our Bedtime Routine" chart is posted in the girls' bedroom, where they can easily see it and refer to it when necessary. The follow-through is now in my hands. For instance, anytime my girls begin to goof off, whine or flat out refuse to move to the next step, I can now ask them to show me what comes next in our bedtime routine. They now have a sense of responsibility and accountability because they were the ones who created the chart.
In Positive Discipline A-Z: 1001 Solutions to Everyday Parenting Problems, authors Jane Nelson, Lynn Lott and H. Stephen Glenn offer the following suggestions:
- Be available during the bedtime routine - which shouldn't take more than 20-30 minutes - instead of trying to do ten other things. I found myself guilty of doing this and came to the realization that my girls just needed a good dose of my full attention.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Once you've given your undivided attention for 20-30 minutes, stick with the bedtime routine.
- After your child are in bed and you have concluded your bedtime routine, DO NOT lied with your child falls asleep. Once it is bedtime, hightail it out of there and refuse to engage in a power struggle. I often put my earbuds in and listen to a podcast or listen to some meditation music to get through this phase. Eventually, my girls fall asleep.
- This may take time. If your child/children have developed a habit of manipulation, it may very well take 3-5 nights (if not more) of kindness and firmness before they can learn to trust you mean what you say. Don't feel bad! You are doing what's best for everyone, and while they may not show it, children feel more secure with parents who are kind and firm than with parents who can be manipulated or who are too firm without being kind. If your child keeps coming into your room, gently take them back into his/her room. Do not linger, a quick hug and kiss is all that needs to take place.
- If you've been engaging in power struggles or allowing your children to manipulate you, it's OK to sit down with them and admit your own mistake
I hope this will help make bedtime at your house more peaceful and smooth. What have you already done to make bedtime a smoother, more enjoyable process? I'd love to hear from you if you've tried these suggestions and/or if you have any additional tips.