Building Better Bedtimes

Contributed by Jody McVittie, MD

Do you ever finish putting your children to bed and feel exhausted? You’ve longed for some kind of connection with them at the end of the day – and way too often it feels like you’ve been through some kind of battle? When you think about it from the child’s point of view it can make sense.

When he goes to bed it feels like you will be continuing on without him. He might miss something! To make matters worse, sometimes he gets the sense that you are “done” with him and want to “get rid of him” for the evening. Those mixed feelings can make it really hard to “want” to go to bed. Add that to a bit of tiredness and it is a recipe for evening drama! It doesn’t help, of course, that we adults are tired too.

Here are some strategies that can help bedtimes:
– Develop a consistent pattern (routine) for what happens at bedtime and let the routine be the boss. For more on this check out this post.
– Plan the routine so that the level of energy and excitement slows as bedtime nears. (Physical games, bath-time and active activities before stories, snuggling and calmer activities.)
– Make sure that there is time for connection built into your routine.
– Know that going to bed, like saying, “Goodbye” can be disappointing for children. “I know you’d rather stay up and be with me until I go to bed. I have things that I need to do by myself and I’ll be here in the morning. It is okay to be disappointed.”
– Understand that you cannot make children sleep. You can set limits about bedtime behavior (quiet time, lights out etc.) and be consistent.

Here are some of the ways families use to connect at bedtime. Do you have another way? Share it with us in the comments below.

More active:
An evening walk
Hide and seek
Singing/dancing together
Follow the leader
Puppet story telling
Other active family games

Less Active (more calming):
Reading stories
Telling stories (about family, growing up)
Making up stories (ask your child to name two things and put them in a story)
What was the best part of your day? The hardest part?
Was there something that made you sad today? Happy?
If you were (a color, a fruit, a plant, an animal) tonight what would it be and why? (Then share your response to the same question)
Quiet singing (lullabies)
Foot rubs, back rubs

Sound Discipline is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Your donations make a big difference and help us produce newsletters like this. You can donate at our website.