Bedtime nightmares for me come before going to sleep. Right around 8:00 pm is when my heart sinks, and I wish I could stop time or magically make my kids fall asleep. Although I know sleep is good for them, getting them to the point of GOING to sleep is not good for anyone!
Every night my kids magically remember that they are hungry, want water, have forgotten how to brush their teeth or put on their pajamas, and of course find any and all energy within them that inevitably has to be released before closing their eyes for the night. It happens EVERY single night and it drives me absolutely crazy! After the 45 minute ritual we go through, all the whining, arguing, and tackling of kids, I find myself completely drained and unable to enjoy the quiet moments after they are finally in bed.
It’s frustrating to say the least, and I won’t pretend otherwise. Maybe the most frustrating part is that I am a HUGE advocate of routines, and I also love to try to be in tune with my kids. I have things fairly well under control for the majority of the day but when 8:00 hits, all of that flies out the window. For some reason, everything I tried related to bedtime routine just was not working for us.
This remained true until I listened to a webinar a couple months ago. Amy McCready of Positive Parenting spoke about positive discipline and creating positive routines. This was exactly what I needed to hear and although she didn’t speak specifically about bedtime routines, everything she said resounded loud and clear as a wake up call for me to change the way I conduct the nightmare of bedtime routine.
Here are two things she said and the ways I now use them to make bedtime a dream (haha, pun intended).
1. Discipline should always be related to the action.
My interpretation #1: Brushing teeth cleans out “sugar bugs” from your teeth, if you choose not to brush your teeth, you may not have any snacks the next day. (teeth brushing battle just ended)
2. Present rules/expectations in a positive light (which is a great way to avoid power struggles…and you know my thoughts on power struggles)
My interpretation: Explain the following to the kids; Sleeping is what every body needs to be able to grow, run, jump, and play the next day. Without sleep our bodies and minds can’t function very well which makes for a really lousy day. I want to have a great day tomorrow so I will give my body the gift of sleep. To calm down I like to read for a little while (this is when I offer to read a story to the kids). If the kids can be in their beds by 8:30 (teeth brushed, pajamas on, bladder emptied, etc.) each of them can stay up and read for 30 minutes. If they mess around and play during their teeth brushing time, they use up their own reading time and are not given that extra time to read.
What a difference! When I present bedtime in a positive light and remember to keep the rewards/discipline related to the action things go so much better. I don’t feel like it is a battle of the wills each night now (we removed the battle of the wills by not demanding that the kids do what I say).
Although I can’t say every night is perfect (it takes time for me to make permanent changes to my own habits and routines), the difference is night and day when I remember these strategies and implement them. What are some things you do to take the nightmare out of bedtime routine? Share your thoughts with us!