While the kids are awake, I invest everything I have into them. But when bedtime rolls around, it’s time for the kids to go down. No excuses.
After all, kids need their sleep and I need one-on-one time with my husband. Regular bedtimes make for healthy kids and a healthy marriage… It’s a win/win.
Now if you haven’t noticed, kids are smart (and manipulative) when they want something (or don’t want something), and bedtime is usually not high on their list of wants. Gabriel, at age 3, has exhausted just about every excuse in the book for either staying up later or getting up after he’s been officially put down.
- I’m hungry.
- I’m thirsty.
- I have to go to the bathroom.
- I’m scared (even when he’s not).
- I’m sick (even when he’s not).
- I’m not tired (even when he is).
- I want more kisses and hugs and hold-yous.
- Just one more song? One more book? Can we pray just one more time?
Any of those sound familiar? Running back and forth to the kids bedroom or tucking and retucking your little one in bed fifty times can cause stress, frustration, and irritability, all unwelcome guests to Husband/Wife time.
It’s our responsibility to protect our marriage, even if that’s from the adorable little ones in the upstairs bedroom. And so… we bring in the boundaries. Here are some tips for enforcing a low-stress bedtime you can all be happy with.
1) Plan ahead.
If you want naptime to happen at 8 o’clock, don’t wait until 7:55 to think about it. Ask if they are hungry or thirsty or have to go to the bathroom at 7pm. Any physical ‘needs’ that show up between then and 8pm probably aren’t legitimate. If they’re cheerfully playing with their toys or running around at 7:30, you can rule out their being sick at 8pm, and be sure to smother them with kisses and hugs and ‘hold-yous’ beforehand so you can close the bedroom door at 8pm guilt-free.
2) Have a routine and stick to it.
Create a routine (as lengthy or short as you like) that you always do beforehand. Reading, rocking, singing… We don’t typically read bedtime stories, although I know many families do. We tend to pray and sing a few songs together. But whatever it is, do it every night and have a predictable stopping point. If you’re reading, don’t get talked into reading ten books one night unless you’re always willing to read that many. Otherwise they’ll feel cheated later that week when you only have time to read one.
3) Be firm.
After bedtime is HUSBAND/WIFE time. Your kids should not be coming down the stairs to get water that they turned down earlier. They should not be calling to you repeatedly from their beds. If they’re not tired (although they usually are), they can still lay quietly in their beds and wait for sleep. Self-control is a valuable skill that must be taught. They don’t need to be getting toys or books or watching TV to entertain themselves.
NOTE: If your child is habitually not falling asleep until hours after you put him down, perhaps he needs more activity beforehand? Intentionally wear those kids out! Run around together, throw pillows at them, give bouncy piggy-back-rides, dance to music, encourage energy to be spent.
4) Don’t feel guilty.
Unless your child is sick or wakes up legitimately scared, you don’t need to be in there to comfort them throughout the evening. They’ve had your attention all day. They may not know it yet, but having parents who know and love each other well is one of the best gifts you can give your child.
My next post will be on developing good Wake Time routines! So until next time!