Advice Needed: Bedtime Routines

There are certain things that we do perfectly as parents. When we ace certain things, like potty training successfully, we want to share our success story with our friends and fellow moms. We want to shout it out to the world that whatever technique used was the right one, and that we do actually have some clue how to do this thing called parenting. But there are also those things that we don’t do so well. The things that make our ears perk up when the topic comes up at the playground to see if there are better ways– tips and tricks– to help us do “it” a little better. For me, at this moment in parenting (because, let’s admit it,  these issues change constantly as our kids grow) it’s the bedtime routine. We are a little off-track.

My teenage son has it down now. Phew. My four year old daughter, not so much. And with a baby on the way, I am starting to stress about her being so needy when it’s time to go to sleep. While there are no bedtime tantrums, she does require one of us to lie down with her most nights until she falls asleep. She wants to have several stories read to her, a little movie before bedtime, a drink of water, another stop to the bathroom…. it goes on and on. Before we know it, two hours have passed, and we are still working at getting her to go to sleep.

Ideally, I would love to have her trained (ok, I know that’s a harsh word, but it is what it is) to go to bed on her own by the time our third child makes it into this world. It would be nice to read one or two stories to her, turn out the lights and say goodnight without her getting out of bed to find us a million times. Do you have any tricks that you can share that helped you establish a better bedtime routine with your kids?overAdvertisement
While pondering this very topic over a week ago, I received an email from a local mama, Lauren Sheppard, who has written two lovely, calming bedtime books, Wonder and Delight and You are the World, that are available to read in their entirety online. Pop on over, give them a read and try them out if you are having the same struggles.

It’s nice to know that this is a common struggle that many of us have. For those of you who have aced the bedtime routine, your advice is greatly appreciated here!

Catherine Prystup
About Catherine Prystup 2157 Articles
Catherine Prystup founded out of a desire to build a better community for Austin-area moms. She has three children, ages seventeen, eight and three years old.

4 Comments on Advice Needed: Bedtime Routines

  1. I would definitely start prepping her now. Just tell her what to expect, as in 1 bathroom trip, 2 stories, 1 song, whatever you think is appropriate. I know people who have also given their kids a reward for staying in bed (something small), and parents who have locked their kids’ door so they can’t get out (they unlock it when they go to bed, but he was younger than 4). It won’t go smoothly right away, but consistency is key, and she’ll eventually get used to it.

    Says the woman whose bedtimes are so crazy with her 3.5yo twins and 19 month old….We’re working on the consistency thing too. :)

  2. Uggg. Wish I had some advice for you here. I work nights M-F, so consistancy does not exist at our home. Some nights our 3 year old is at our house, sometimes at my parents, and some nights at his uncle’s. Try juggling that routine. I get so jealous of those parents who put their kids to bed at 8 and they actually go to sleep. Ours is typically in bed between 1030-11….sigh. I dream of a time when he will go to bed earlier. We are currently trying to move his bedtime up by 30 minutes every few weeks, but since I have no say in this matter except 2 days a week, its all up to everyone else to implement. I won’t even talk about him ending up in our bed halfway through the night and the fact that he doesn’t sleep in his own room, or naptime…. the joys of child rearing!

  3. We do lie down with our kids (5 and 2) until they fall asleep, and that works for us. They sleep in a queen size bed together, so there is room for one of us to be in the bed with them to read, tell a story, and turn out the lights. We keep a routine of visiting the bathroom one last time before they get into bed, they each choose a book to be read, and then we tell a story with lights out, and that’s it. The time spent reading books and telling a story is 30 minutes max. Usually, they’re asleep quickly, but occasionally it will take 30 minutes more, and I’m desperate to get out of there – “I have things to do!” keeps running through my mind.

    I think part of why some kids battle bedtime is because they want their parent/caregiver to be with them, and they know that that’s not in the plans, so they find ways to keep that in the plans by asking for more and more. Maybe, for now, tell your kiddo you’ll stay until she falls asleep, but there will be just two books or two stories or whatever short, but reasonable, routine you and she can agree on. Maybe let her decide what the routine will be, but steer her away from the movie because that might be over-stimulating to her brain just before bed and may be preventing her from falling asleep. It may stop being a battle in both of your minds, and she might fall asleep a lot more easily. Do that for a month or two (or whatever timeframe would work for you), and then adjust again to a different routine that she helps decide that includes her falling asleep without you there. Keep in mind that she senses things are changing because you’re pregnant, and she might be feeling anxious about it. I found that after having our second child, when our oldest was 2.5, I craved that time in bed with our oldest, when I could lie close to her and just BE with her because my physical body belonged to the newborn’s the rest of the day.

    Good luck. At least you know it will be solved before she is a teenager!

  4. One thing in your post stuck out — a bedtime movie? From readings I’ve done how the brain works, this is probably a bad idea. The light and lots of movement put our brains on “high alert” and it’s hard to relax and come down from that. My husband and I have a no-screen-time policy for the hour before *we* try to go to bed for exactly that reason.

    When my eldest was younger, if she got out of bed, I’d simply take her hand and lead her back without any comments. It took about 3 nights, but then it didn’t happen again. For a 4 year old, you may need to explain expectations first, but then stick to them without engaging in discussions or arguments.

    We also used a “ticket” system, with 1 “ticket” she could turn in for a visit or something after we tucked her in — if she needed water, if she was scared, if she just wanted to talk. That way, she had the control of *when* to use it, but once she used it she knew we wouldn’t come back in and she was on her own.

    I’m also a humongous advocate of consistent bedtimes. Put them to bed at the same time every night.

    And for the new baby? Consider starting off as you wish to go on. That means they put themselves to sleep in their own bed from to get-go.

    Good luck. Life is better with good sleep all around.

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