Bedtime…you either love it, or you hate it. And sometimes both at the same time. If your kids are anything like mine, to get kids to bed on time can feel like a CHORE. Your sweet little angels, who have been on high speed all day, suddenly turn into Galapagos tortoises. It might even feel like your whole house is on the slo-mo setting, and nothing you are doing can switch that setting back to a normal viewing speed! And good luck and godspeed to you if your child’s favorite pajamas are in the washing machine.
I have three children, all of whom are relatively far apart in age. This means that I spend about an hour every evening “doing bedtime”. It also means, though, that I have a lot of experience getting my kids to bed at a reasonable hour. Here are a few tips that have worked well for our family.
1. Keep a consistent bedtime routine from an early age!
When kids know what to expect, they don’t have as much trouble accepting that it’s time to sleep. Added bonuses: they sleep better and function during the day better, too! We start doing a consistent bedtime routine from as early as 3 or 4 months of age. For our family, the bedtime routine consists of baths (every other night), followed by pajamas, brushing teeth, books, prayers, and cuddles. After cuddling for a few minutes, we leave the room. Unless of course, I fall asleep in my child’s bed, which is another problem for another day.
When you’re just starting to get kids to bed on time, it’s best to be rigid about a routine. Although this might mean saying no to things that you want to do, it’s only temporary. Once the bedtime routine is established, it becomes much easier to deviate from it without consequences for both you and your kiddo!
2. Make the bedtime routine enjoyable for your child.
Our kids know that bedtime is not only about going to bed, but it’s also one-on-one time with mom or dad. Reading books and cuddling solo isn’t something that we have time to do during the day. Our phones stay out of the kids’ rooms, and there are no other distractions.
For us, bedtime is also often a time for good conversation. Our oldest is thirteen years old, and we still put her to bed many nights. I know she won’t always want us to, but I love to hear about her day, her joys, and her frustrations that sometimes are only volunteered under the veil of darkness. Whatever incentivizes your child to go to bed, do that. And do it every single night. For many children, the promise of one-on-one time with a focused parent is all they need.
3. Plan ahead!
To get your kids to bed on time, it takes a little forethought on your end. If you know your child always asks for 7 drinks of water at night, put a full sippy cup in there ahead of time. Knock yourself out, buddy. If your child can’t go to bed without a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, you’d better know where those things are! If you know that your child is afraid of the dark, make sure a nightlight is on and the closet door is shut before you leave the room.
While this is a personal family decision, I have never allowed my kids a bedtime snack. It is THE quintessential stalling technique, and I simply don’t have the patience for it. I’m not staying up for another 20 minutes to make you toast and watch you get crumbs everywhere while you eat it ever-so-slowly. Sorry, dude, breakfast is at 7. I’ll see you then. I will tell you that I make exceptions on this for my teenage daughter because her schedule is wonky and she’s often hungry, but the little ones? No can do.
4. Stay as calm as possible.
Listen, I know as well as the next guy that this isn’t always possible. We all fall short of our best-laid plans after the 197th hug and kiss. But you know what? Bedtime is your last chance to reconnect with your child on any given day. Maybe you’ve already fallen short of your expectations of yourself today. Try again. Sweet moments with a parent before bed truly can right your child’s world again. Your child isn’t trying to be difficult or irritate you. They just don’t want to miss out. They want another minute or 5 or 50 with you-because you are still the best thing in their little lives.
What bedtime tips and tricks have worked at your house? Comment below!