Three Tools for Taking Back Bedtime

I have a dream…

I have a dream of children who come to me at the end of the day with a kiss and a sweet smile. They look at me with love and say, “goodnight.” Then they walk to their rooms and go to bed.

Does this happen at your house?  Are you living this dream?

I used to think, when they are older bedtime won’t be so annoying….  One day they will put themselves to bed….

 Don’t get me wrong, my kids are nine and twelve and bedtime is a lot easier now than it was five or six years ago.  Way easier.

But even at nine and twelve, my kids still need me.  They still want to feel connected, to be the ones getting kissed goodnight. I still find myself engaged in the routine with them.

There are nights when things spiral a bit.  The kids share a bathroom and some nights they really know how to get on each other’s nerves…  And no amount of it really doesn’t help me want to spend time with you when you act like that helps.

Lets break down the bedtime drama, shall we?

Kid’s Experience:

There are still things I want to do…  I don’t want to go to bed yet... I don’t have to if I don’t want to…

Parent’s Experience:

I am so tired and so ready to be done with parenting for the day.

Kid’s Experience:

I feel disconnected because my parents are telling me to go get ready for bed, they don’t want to spend time with me…

Parent's Experience:

Why can’t they just do what I say?  Its bedtime! What am I doing wrong?

Kid’s Experience:

I want to play with my sibling and it's the end of the day so I will see how far I can push it…

Parent's Experience:

I don’t understand why they can’t be in the bathroom together without starting something…. They have no respect for me.

Kid’s Experience:

No body’s paying attention – how can I get them to notice me?

Parent's Experience:

I will just stay in my room to show them I won’t engage when they act like this…

Kid’s Experience:

I’m sad/angry/frustrated it’s bedtime already, everyone else should feel this way too…

Parent's Experience:

I am so done.  These kids are out of control and making me so mad…

Does any of the above sound familiar?  I am drawing from my own parenting experience. One thing I have come to know is, if this is an experience I am living through, I know other parents are too…

So what is a parent to do??

  • Revisit (or create) a routine ­– Yup, routines aren’t only for our littlest kids, they continue to be really valuable for our older kids as well, especially the ones that tend to get off track.

    Routines create consistence and clear expectations.  When created together they invite cooperation.  Routines can be revisited over and over and tweaked as the kids get older.

    For support in creating a routine with your child, check out Chaos to Calm, a free four part video offer from Joyful Courage.

  • Continue to connect - This is the biggest thing to remember at bedtime. Our kids feel our energy.  They know that we are looking forward to saying good night and closing the door.  Rather than expecting them to “just get ready for bed,” be a part of the action.

    It's a small thing really.  I take the floss into their bathroom and invite them to my flossing party (because doesn't that sound fun??) – I hang out and get my own bedtime routine tasks done as well.

    I lay on my daughter’s bed while she gets ready for the next day.  This is when we have some of our juiciest conversations.  It takes away the urgency and replaces it with a lovely feeling of love and relationship.

    We still read aloud to our kids too.  The books are a lot more interesting now that they are older.  Both kids love that special one on one experience.

  • Be kind and firm – When you begin to notice that your emotions are getting the better of you (hello to the emotional freight train) take some time to connect with yourself, to calm your nervous system, and tell a different story. For example, this kid doesn't care about anyone but himself, can shift to, wow, he is really needing to connect tonight.

    Following through is key here too.  If you are willing to read until 8:30 (that is our routine) then be sure to stop at 8:30, even if its taken the kids longer to get their routine done.  This is where firmness shows up.  They will protest and you can say, “I know it’s disappointing.  I bet you can get your routine finished quicker tomorrow night.”

I forgot what I knew to be true about kids and behavior, and recently fell into the pit of bedtime despair.  A couple weeks into it I found myself thinking, what is going on with bedtime??

That’s when I remembered that the most effective way to influence behavior is to connect with our kids. I know, I am a really good parent educator, but sometimes I forget that I know what I know.  I am as susceptible to emotional overload as you are…

We have turned things around at our house, and I know you can too.  Revisit your routine, look for opportunities to connect and remember to practice kindness and firmness.

You’ve got this, I know you do!!!

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