Five Ways to Overcome the Bedtime Battle

There is nothing more testing on a parent’s patience level than trying to get out the door in the morning and attempting to get your kids in bed. These are both battles that we seem to struggle with daily in our household.

While we are still working on our morning routine, we recently started implementing these five bedtime tips, and it has made all the difference. 

Five ways to overcome the bedtime battle 

1)      Prepare your children for bedtime by reminding them at least 3 times. If your kids are anything like mine, they love to pretend they don’t hear me when there is something in particular that they don’t want to do (e.g. get ready for bed). Previously, I would announce it was bedtime right when I wanted my kids to start getting ready. But I have found it to be more effective if I prepare my children by reminding them 15 minutes, 10 minutes, and then 5 minutes prior to when they will need to start getting ready for bed. This helps them understand how much time they have to finish up what they are doing rather than immediately transitioning from one thing to the next, which can be a challenge for children (especially those with high energy). It also helps me to give a consistent message, that I will remind them three times and then there may be a consequence. As opposed to feeling frustrated that my children didn’t respond to my request the first time.

2)     Give them choices. This has been a game changer for our kids. Previously I was like a bedtime director, telling them exactly what they needed to do and how quickly they needed to do it. But once I started giving our kids choices at bedtime, such as “would you like to read this book or that book?” and “would you like to brush teeth first or get your pjs on first?”, I noticed a huge shift in the dynamic of bedtime. By giving them choices, they feel as though they have a role in our routine rather than just doing what they are told. It has made the entire bedtime dance much more enjoyable for all of us!

3)     Make a bedtime list/chart. Even though your bedtime routine might be the same every night, I’m willing to bet you are reminding your kiddos what they are supposed to be doing every, single, night. Children seem to have selective memory when it comes to things they don’t want to do…am I right?! In our kid’s bathroom, they have a chart that lists their routine. Brush teeth, go potty, pjs, books, prayers, lights out. That way if they forget a step it’s right there to remind them!

4)     Set boundaries and follow through. One of the most frustrating parts of bedtime for me used to be the sudden extreme dehydration that my kids experienced at bedtime and the constant asks. It wasn’t until we set boundaries and stuck to them that this stopped happening (or at least eliminated the drag out). Our kids know they can have a few sips of water before bed and that’s it. Other than emergencies there is nothing else they should be getting out of bed for. If they do get out of bed, they are walked back to their room quietly with little to know interaction. If they start to tell me about their day or ask a random question our response is typically along the lines of “I’d love to hear all about it in the morning, but it’s bedtime now, love you and goodnight”. That’s it. While it might sound harsh, our kids know how to push those boundaries and if they are fighting bedtime they will go to great lengths if they know they can get away with it!

Something to note here is that bedtime is often a continuation of behavior displayed throughout the day. So, if your child has a hard time respecting boundaries during the day, don’t expect it to be any different at night. You will want to work with them to address daytime behavior also in order to see consistent change.

5)     Don’t rush the process. While it’s important to set boundaries and keep the routine simple, you also don’t want to rush through bedtime with your kids. Did you know our kids are most vulnerable in the evening? This might be why they are suddenly interested in talking about the upsetting experience at school or their hopes and dreams right before bed. I encourage you to set aside 20-30 minutes each night for the bedtime process (no shorter no longer with the exception of young babies) to connect with your child and show them that they are your priority. No distractions, no technology, just you and them. I’m totally guilty of rushing the bedtime process so I can FINALLY have some me time but once I started really connecting with my kids, it made a huge difference in their behavior and they actually look forward to bedtime now.

Bedtime doesn’t have to be a stressful event. It can be enjoyable when you make a plan, have realistic expectations, and stick to a routine! I encourage you to start implementing these tips tonight and I am confident you will start to love bedtime as much as we do!