Ok kids, time for bed!
Ok, Mama! *children happily run off to their rooms*
Is this how bedtime plays out in your home or is it more like a scene from a detective movie – children hiding and parents following clues as to where they might be only to have to chase down the perpetrator and drag them off to bed.
Oh bedtime! When they are finally tucked in and we can sit down and relax. But getting them there isn’t always easy. Convincing them to actually go to their rooms and go to sleep can often be a huge battle. What if I told you that it doesn’t have to be? You can start a bedtime routine that actually works.
The earlier you start a bedtime routine with your little ones, the better it will be. If you haven’t yet started a routine and you have an older child all is not lost. You can start to implement some of these tricks now and they will quickly catch on.
It’s a well known fact that children need routine in their daily lives – they thrive in a structured environment. As much as they like to believe they are in control, those tiny humans really do best when we lay out for them what they need to do and when they need to do it.
Giving a child a routine to follow actually teaches them how to be in control of their emotions and their environment. A good routine helps the child feel secure – it should come as no surprise that bedtime would be any different.
Related: 3 Myths of Infant Sleep Debunked
If you think you are using a bedtime routine and your child is still having trouble then you might need to change things up. So how do you start a bedtime routine that actually works?
There are few steps to follow that will help you and our child set a bedtime routine that is effective and will help them peacefully go to bed.
Start a bedtime routine that actually works
In everything that you do with children it is so important to remain consistent. In order to make something really stick we must repeat and rehearse the information multiple times. Think about it, when you meet someone new do you need to repeat their name to yourself a few times in order to remember it? When you are learning a new skill do you get it on the first try or do you need to practice several times? The same goes for creating a routine with your children. They need to do the same thing over and over again until it becomes second nature.
Sequencing is a fantastic tool. It really just means to put things in a specific order. This is really the meat of the routine you wish to establish. Using sequencing goes back to being consistent but it can also give your child something to look forward too. For example, your sequence may look something like this; We are going to take a bath and brush our teeth and then we will read a book together in bed. The child might not be excited about taking a bath and brushing their teeth but they look forward to that reward of a bedtime story at the end. Once you have done this enough times you might find that as soon as you mention bath time your child is picking out their favorite book in preparation for bed time.
Make bedtime something to look forward to.
Have the last part of your routine be something they look forward to. As mention above, with sequencing, you can use a bed time story, special song, or prayers as the last portion of the routine. The end result being that your child is looking forward to climbing into bed.
Make bedtime early.
If you wait until it’s too late your child will be overly tired and very hard to manage. This is when meltdowns happen and we all now once theirs a meltdown it’s really hard to gain control again. By making bedtime early, before they are too tired, you ensure that you are dealing with a happy child and they can actually participate in the routine.
Don’t drag it out.
Your bedtime routine should not be taking an hour to complete, that’s too long. Your child will not be able to recognize the routine or the sequence and lose interest. 20 minutes is usually plenty of time to complete your routine from start to finish and if the child is younger you may not even need that much time.
Example Bedtime Routine
Here is an example of the routine that we use. Now we actually have several “rewards” at the end of the routine which gradually decrease as the child gets older.
640pm – Bath time, put on pajamas
650pm – Brush teeth, use the bathroom, get a drink of water (yes, we cover all of these now because they are the most common reasons the children may come out of there rooms later)
655pm – Get in bed for story, song, & prayers (as mentioned above, these gradually decrease a the child gets older. At 10 years old my daughter completes this on her own. At 8 years old we still sing and say prayers with my son but he reads on his own. The older children also have a slightly later bedtime)
Once you have chosen your routine make sure you stick with it every, single night. Announce your sequence of events and then begin. I have also found that giving a 5 minute transition warning helps to begin the process as well. If your child is accustomed to playing for a bit after dinner I simply say, “5 minutes and we are going to start our bath”. Once it’s time to begin the routine I will then say something like, “ok, let’s go take our bath and brush our teeth, then we can read a story!”
Continue with the same routine every night and you will begin to see a difference!
Do you have a bedtime routine that you do with your children? I’d love to hear it!