Bedtime should be a peaceful and comforting event in your and your child’s day. Blankets, warm milk, and bedtime stories are the hallmarks of this time of day. However, many children don’t get this memo and use this time to run around, resist pajamas and get a sudden case of dry mouth. If you are like most parents, wrangling your children for bed isn't just a chore, it can feel like an Olympic sport. But it doesn’t have to be.
Getting your child to bed on time — 5 no-stress parenting tips.
1. Start preparing for bed early.
Preparing for bed might have to start with making dinner. If you make dinner too late, then you’ll eat late and finish late and then have to rush to bed. You could try things like preparing dinner in advance or check out crock-pot cooking as a way to cut down dinner time. If dinner time is not an issue, try starting the bedtime routine 30 minutes or an hour earlier. Rushing around before bedtime to brush teeth and get pajamas on stimulates children and makes it harder for them to settle down for bed on time. If you start early enough, then the rest of the routine is less stressful.
2. Use a transition activity.
It helps to put children in the right mindset for bedtime. An easy way to do this is with a transition activity. This activity can be anything from brushing teeth to changing into pajamas or tidying up the playroom. Don’t worry so much about which activity you choose. It’s more important that you do the same activity to signal bedtime every night.
3. Create a calming, sleep-friendly environment.
After the transition activity, you’ll want to keep the house quiet and peaceful to signify bedtime even more. You can do this by turning down or turning off lights, turning off the TV and playing gentle sleepy music. You can institute a “quiet time” when your children read to themselves or color. It might also help to get the family to participate in yoga that’s beneficial for bedtime.
4. Be prepared.
Most kids want a book read to them in bed or get suddenly thirsty as soon as they climb into bed. Follow the advice of the Boy Scouts, and be prepared. Set out a drink and book or whatever else your child usually asks for at bedtime. Then when the inevitable, “But Mommy, I’m thirsty”, happens you can just reach over and produce the drink immediately.
5. Be consistent and authoritative.
For some reason, children are built with an innate sense for procrastinating. Some procrastination and play before bed is fine to keep the stress level down. However, if you are not consistent with the bedtime, ritual or how many times you read Llama, Llama, Nighty-Night your child will know he is the boss at bedtime and continue to procrastinate. When you say, “Ok, we will read the book one more time” then you need to read it one last time and close the book immediately.
Any change in routine will be met with some resistance. So keep an online reward chart to track your family's bedtime checklist. Just keep being consistent and soon bedtime won’t be the dreaded Olympic sport is usually is.