Anyone who has had the responsibility of putting a child to bed knows how daunting it can be. After a long day of parenting the sugar and spice and not always nice, the thought of sleeping children and some quiet time to myself is like a light at the end of a tunnel. I know I am going to reach it…eventually….after the bedtime drama is over. It has been one of my most challenging dilemmas in parenting. It still continues to be as my children enter different stages and grow to different ages. My husband and I have learned a lot working as a team to get the little stinkers to bed. We have long periods where everything goes smoothly and also periods where we think we are going to go absolutely insane. When we find ourselves going crazy, it’s usually stems from inconsistency or laziness on our part. After all, who doesn’t wish their kids would just walk into their room, slip under their covers, and fall into sleepy bliss? Wouldn’t that be just wonderful? Such is not the case…at least for us. But anyway, after all of our heartache, frustration, and tears (from us AND the children), here are the things we have found to make the biggest difference and make things go smoothly more often than not.
Set up a Routine.
As hard as it seems, and regardless of how tired we are at night, the routine rules. Our kids are very high strung and they need something to count on to wind them down at the end of their day. Find what works for you. For us, it’s pajamas, stories, brush teeth, family prayer, drinks and potty, and a kiss goodnight. If we forget ANYTHING in that list, it comes back to haunt us 20 minutes (or 60) later when they are coming out of their bedroom insisting that they need to go potty or get a drink, etc. It’s a good time to end the day on a positive note regardless of the troubles that have ensued. I find that my children want to talk and are very open during this time. Even 5 minutes each day can add up to a lot of time eventually. Kids grow up and their priorities change. Don’t pass up this special time for bonding.
This is the hardest for me. When the day has been long and hard (let’s face it, this is most days with young children) it’s so tempting to just bag the bedtime routine and tell them to just go to bed. It just never works. If my crazy kids don’t get that time to unwind first, they take even longer to settle down. Whenever bedtime has gotten out of control, we can almost always get it back to normal by being consistent again with our routine for several days, but it takes time. It’s easier to stay on track than to get back on track.
If we tell our kids they will get the their door closed if they come out of their room then we’d better do exactly that. We tell our kids, they can have their stuffed animal, their night-light, and the door open if they stay in their beds and be quiet. Each time they try to sneak out or are too loud, they lose one of those privileges. Whenever I get lazy and don’t follow through with the boundaries we’ve set, they run right over the top of me. Those are the nights when I find myself getting upset and angry because it’s 10:00 and my kids are still not asleep, still sneaking out of their bedroom and still driving me nuts.
My children settle down much better if we end our day on a good note. If I’m upset with them and trying to just rush them to bed, they feel it and it takes longer. If I take the time to listen to them and help them to feel loved, they are easier to settle down. It makes perfect sense to me. When my husband and I are fighting, I always have a hard time falling asleep if we haven’t resolved our dispute.
Enjoy the quiet time.
Make sure you take that time to yourself when those angels are tucked in and fast asleep, because before you know it, another day has begun and the little ‘angels’ (or what you THOUGHT were angels) have awakened to bring in another day full of challenges and blessings! Those who have had children, and raised them love to give the advice, “Cherish them while they are young, because they grow up so fast!” It’s hard to believe when you’re in the thick of it and just trying to survive, but I’m finding for myself as I have more children and the years seem to pass faster and faster, that it really is true. Someday we WILL miss those fingerprints all over the fridge and the muddy footprints tracked across the newly mopped floor, or the entire roll of toilet paper that always seems to get flushed down the toilet. Only, we won’t miss these things by themselves, we will miss the little people in our lives who created them. So take the time and do what it takes to enjoy these little ones, even if it’s just that 15 sweet minutes before bed.
What Tips Have Worked For YOUR Bedtime Routines?
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