Bedtime: a time that strikes fear in the hearts of parents and children, pushing them to the very limits of their patience. I used to begin to dread bedtime hours before it actually happened. It put this dark cloud over the evening, knowing what I would have to endure when bedtime came. Then some research I did for a psychology paper changed my life.

It doesn't have to be that way. You can sum up bedtime success with one word: ROUTINE! 

Setting a bedtime routine

  • Whenever possible, make bedtime the same time each day.

  • Make a checklist withyour children. Ask them what things need to be done before they go to bed (bath, brush your teeth, say your prayers, go to the bathroom, get a drink, read a book).

  • Add this to the routine: Give each child, in a consistent order, 5 minutes to talk about their day and about what they look forward to about tomorrow.

  • Incorporate touch into the routine (hug, little back massage, rub feet).

  • For a few weeks after the checklist is made, call out each thing on their list and have them do it. Remembering to start at the same time each night.

  • When everything is checked off, show them that they have accomplished a great thing and praise them.

  • Optional: Consider some soft and soothing background music at a low volume. I had a cassette when my children were babies that I played for them. One side was nighttime music and the other was cheerful wake up music. They thrived on that little routine.

  • Shut out the light, tell them how much you love them, and go find somewhere comfortable to put your feet up!

This may sound like a huge investment of time, but it is time better spent than fussing at them for every little thing they find as an excuse for not going to bed. It will help your own slumber if you don't have all of those negative feelings from the bedtime battle. If you do this joyfully -that is, put your own stresses aside for the moment - it will make the routine work more effectively.

After a few weeks, you won't need to refer to the checklist. It will have become a routine, and routines are essential to the mental and emotional well-being of children. Have you ever seen them watch the same movie or read the same book over and over and over again? Kids find routines comforting.

Looking at the long-term effects, a bedtime routine will show them that bedtime can be pleasurable, that routines are beneficial (for when they have their own families), and that you loved them enough to give them this thoughtful time.

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