Written by Dana Obleman
For many parents, children’s bedtime is a stressful routine filled with strife and anxiety. When this is the case, the last few minutes of the day spent with your children can leave you feeling frazzled and even make you doubt your parenting skills. The good news is bedtime doesn’t have to be a struggle. Here are five tips to get the stress out of your evening routine and end your time with the kids on a high note.
- Give a five-minute warning
Nobody likes to be pulled away from what they’re doing without any kind of warning. For children, this is especially true. They thrive on structure and routine to give them a sense of security and awareness of their own boundaries. If you give them a warning letting them know that in five minutes they’ve got to put away their toys or turn off the TV or computer and go brush their teeth, you’ll get a lot less resistance when those five minutes are up.
- Create a regular bedtime routine
Children thrive on a bedtime routine that lets them know what’s coming so they never feel caught off-guard. A warm bath, a couple of stories, maybe a glass of warm milk—all of these activities help the body and brain transition more easily from day to night and create a sense of calm expectation that allows sleep to come more easily. A good timeframe for a bedtime routine is 20-30 minutes in length.
- A timer is your friend
When you’re busy having fun, five minutes can go by in the blink of an eye. A timer is a great way to help your kids feel like they have more control over the situation and defuse the power struggle. After all, it’s not YOU who are saying it’s time to put the toys away—it’s the timer.
- Set a story limit—and stick to it
“Just one more, Mommy!”
If you cave in to this request even once, your children will expect you to do it every time. And on the nights when you don’t give in, they won’t understand why you’re not playing according to the established pattern and this can make them feel confused and upset. Choose a specific number of books (our family limit is two) and then always read that number and no more. It creates a sense of expectation and security that will help your children fall asleep more easily.
- Follow through with consequences
If your kids have never followed a bedtime routine, you may experience some resistance when you try to introduce one. If your kids complain, act out, or ignore you, the best thing to do is remain calm and consistent and let them know exactly what the consequences will be if they refuse to do what you ask. For example, if you have to ask your kids three times to stop playing their video game and go brush their teeth and they just ignore you, there should be some sort of meaningful consequence for that. Maybe it means you won’t read them a story because there isn’t time for one.
It only takes a few nights to make bedtime a dream! Imagine spending quality family time with your kids each day before putting them to bed at an hour that gives them all the healthy sleep they need… then imagine how wonderful it will be to follow up that great experience with a few hours of “you” time each night!
Follow the tips outlined above and in a few days you’ll be amazed at how much easier—and more fun—your children’s bedtime will be.
About Dana OblemanChild sleep expert Dana Obleman is the creator of The Sleep Sense Program, a best-selling guide for sleep-deprived parents. Since launching her private practice in 2003, Dana has helped over 30,000 parents resolve their children’s sleep problems.