Enforcing Bedtimes – Making Children go to Bed on Time

Bedtime can be the worst time of the day for many families. So many kids are resistant to the idea of going to bed that an ugly battle can ensue. Parents become frustrated and give in to children’s protests; allowing them to stay up late or sleep in their parent’s bed or room. Children need to be eased into restful sleep and too many parents are reluctant to take the time necessary to transition their kid from day to night

Nighttime can be frightening for children. I’ll admit, I’m still afraid of the dark myself and I’m well into my thirties. I also get scared when I have to sleep alone so I can only imagine how stressful it is for a child to be dumped in their dark room and told they’ll be seen in the morning. As a tenderhearted Mom, I like to make bedtime a lovely, positive experience for my children to look forward to. Does that mean everything always goes smoothly? Of course not, but for the most part, evenings are peaceful in my house.

I like to follow the ‘B’s of a bedtime ritual. Read on and you’ll see where I’m going with this. Following is our nighttime routine:

Bath – Bath time is one my kids’ favorite times of the day. I fill the tub with warm water, bubbles, and safe toys. I don’t rush them in and out and they sit playing happily until they are ready to get out of the tub. They think this is playtime but I know that the warm water and lavender-scented bubbles are relaxing them and preparing their minds and bodies for slumber.

Brush teeth – This is the next step in our bedtime ritual. It’s important to help small children do a good job on teeth-brushing and to make sure they don’t swallow the toothpaste. I like to lecture them about good dental health while they’re brushing and teach them what can happen if plaque and tarter build up and erode their teeth. I also prefer to be in control of the tube of toothpaste because if I give control to my six-year-old, my counter ends up coated in pink goo. Make sure they floss and rinse!

Bed – This is tuck-in time. There are so many ways to make your child’s room comfortable and conducive to good sleep. Soft sheets, a season-appropriate comforter, and a perfectly fluffed pillow make for a comfy nest. And don’t forget temperature and lighting control. Babies need to be put on their backs on a firm mattress with no soft or fluffy bedding or toys in the crib. Make kids’ rooms a sanctuary where they feel safe, secure, and happy to be at nighttime.

Book – Reading a book or two to your children is one of the most beneficial things you can do for them. Not only do they learn the cadence and vocabulary of their native language, but they also get to chalk up quality snuggle time with Mom or Dad. Some of my best childhood memories are of my Dad reading bedtime stories to us. Make an effort to read at least one book on most nights of the week to your children…and no skipping pages!

Bear – Lots of children like to sleep with a ‘lovey’ or stuffed animal of some kind. I happen to like teddy bears. I mean I did when I was a kid…okay, I still love teddy bears though I no longer need to snuggle with one to sleep. Some kids have no attachment to an inanimate object, but for those who do, having their lovey in bed with them can make nighttime feel more secure. For babies, loveys and stuffed animals in the crib is a no-no.

Ballad – Call it what you will: a ballad, a lullaby, or a ditty. Kids love to hear people sing. I sing my kids the same five songs every night, and not very well either. They think I have a beautiful singing voice and love to hear me lull them to la la land. You don’t have to sing five songs, and like me, you don’t have to sing well, but experiment with different sweet tunes to see which ones your kids enjoy.

Here are the ‘B’s of bedtime you’ll want to avoid:

Battles – Nobody wants to go to bed angry and feeling bad about themselves. Even if things go a little rough some nights, try to stay calm and use a quiet voice when redirecting your kids back to the bedtime routine.

Bawling – Don’t force the issue when it comes to the bedtime routine if your child is having an off-night. Sometimes a snuggle on the couch in a darkened room is enough to help your kid get it together and ready to get back to the routine.

Ballyhoo – No parent enjoys trying to settle down a bunch of hyped-up kids. Avoid, at all costs, allowing your children to consume sugar, caffeine (which they have no business having anyway), or other behavior modifying foods or beverages before bed. It might be my imagination, but any time my oldest daughter eats or drinks anything with red dye, she goes nuts. While it’s entertaining to watch her be a goof ball, it doesn’t make for easy settling at the end of the day. You’ll also want to avoid stimulating activities such as television, video games, wrestling, and the like, that put the kids into overdrive.

Berating – If your kids are goofing off and you are in a bad mood and nothing seems to be going right, avoid losing your temper with your children. Just because you want them to get settled so you can have time to yourself doesn’t mean you should chew out the kids. Keep your head in the game and push on with the routine in a calm, respectful manner.

Someday your kids will understand the value of bedtime and the benefits of a great night of sleep. If they only knew how much most adults look forward to hitting the sack every day! Enforce the bedtime routine and set the standard for a lifetime of good rest for your children.



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