It’s no fun putting up with children who are tired and cranky, but want to do everything in their power to remain awake for a few additional moments. Fighting to get a child to go sleep can be extremely stressful, and for many parents the bedtime routine is undeniably the worst part of their day.
Fortunately, the “bedtime blues” don’t need to be a permanent part of our daily endeavors. In fact, bedtime can be transformed from a major nuisance to an enjoyable time for both parent and child. The transition from bother to bliss may not be immediate, but if you make efforts to make the bedtime routine enjoyable for your children, you’ll find that their resistance will subside in time.
Here are five suggestions to make bedtime easier for your children:
We call it a “Bedtime Routine” for good reason
If your bedtime routine is significantly less than routine (meaning it changes frequently), you’ve found your first major problem. By providing an expected series of events that occur prior to bedtime, you’re mentally preparing your children for the unavoidable – actually going to sleep. This is particularly effective if at least 1 of the pre-bedtime events is enjoyable to your child. Start out by trying to develop a consistent bedtime pattern.
Announce Bedtime in Advance
Telling your kids that it’s time to go to bed while they’re watching a commercial for the show that’s about to come on television next is a recipe for disaster. Your kids will invariably compare the prospects of watching the next show vs. going to bed. Guess which one they would rather do? If you can give them a few reminders, they won’t be surprised when the final bedtime warning is given.
Talk or Offer a Heartfelt Prayer
Set aside time to talk with your kids about their day before they go to sleep. This can either be a part of the “tucking in” process or done as a last task before starting to get ready for bed. The key here is to give your kids undivided attention, show them that you care about what’s important to them, and express your love for them.
In her 10 Simple Parenting Resolutions article, Dr. Michele Borba, a nationally recognized parenting expert, advocates reviewing the day or holding a “strength talk” prior to bedtime. She also cites research that indicates that our children are “most receptive to us five minutes before they go to sleep.”
I wrote about bedtime talks previously, noting how significant they are in our family. This is a great time to bond with your kids, and if they associate bedtime with this powerful, positive experience, they will look forward to going bed – not dread it.
You can further choose to solidify this recap or strength talk in prayer format if you desire. Give thanks for the good day your children had, citing examples from your discussion and pray for any fears or concerns they have.
Read a Bedtime Story
There’s a good reason that so many parents put their children to bed by reading stories to them. Kids love stories, and associating an activity they enjoy with bedtime makes the whole routine more effective. By choosing stories that teach values important to your family, you can also help instill important prinicples into your children’s minds. We frequently read short stories from a kid-friendly church magazine we subscribe to.
Add a Daily Affirmation
You can never tell your kids you love them too frequently. Take a moment or two before bedtime and elaborate on that love. Tell your children, “one of my favorite things about you is…” or “I had so much fun with you today when…” These types of affirmations serve to enhance the bond you have with your children and make bedtime more enjoyable. It’s a win-win!
These are just a few ways to improve the bedtime routine for children, but many more exist. I’d love to hear what tips you have for steering clear of the “bedtime blues.” Remember, with every comment you make, you’re automatically entered in our drawing to win a $50 Wal-Mart gift card, so fire away!