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9 positive parenting techniques to do during bedtime

What is it about bedtime that inspires such rebellion from even the sweetest of kids? Suddenly they develop serious FOMO and insist on another hour of play—which leads to a power struggle to cap off the day.


On these nights, it may feel hard to muster a positive attitude. But the truth is that’s when it’s most important for everyone.

“Bedtime is often experienced by children as a form of separation, so children need the reassurance of connection to help them let go and sleep well,” says Kate Orson, a Hand-in-Hand instructor and author of Tears Heal: How to Listen to Our Children. “It’s also a time of day when feelings tend to bubble up that haven’t been processed in the day, so for positive parents, it’s actually one of the most important times of day.”

As you’re getting ready to end the day on a good note, here are a few positive parenting techniques that can help:

1. Practice your self-care before

As parents, we sometimes forget how important it is take time to focus on our needs. This leaves us frazzled and stressed, which can make it harder to follow through with your child’s bedtime routine.

Practice self-care during the day so you can be fully present for your little one at night. That could mean reading a book, hitting the gym, painting or doing whatever hobby or interest you like. (Here are 30 more ideas you can squeeze in during nap time.)

2. Work with your child to create a bedtime ritual

Bedtime rituals are important, especially for children. A 2015 Monographs of the Society of Research in Child Development study found that a consistent routine allows your little one to develop good sleep habits that help them fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up refreshed.

But don’t just aim to create a bedtime ritual on your own; instead, work with your kid. Get their advice so you know what nighttime routines are important to them. You may come to find out that reading a story and giving them three stuffed animals are the keys to better sleep.

3. Start winding down early

One way to avoid unnecessary stress and struggle is to start the bedtime ritual at least an hour before you plan to tuck in your kid. Having this 60-minute buffer gives you more time to wind down and help your kid burn off extra energy without trying to rush them under the covers.

This also gives you more time to bond with your child, which research shows can help your kids learn to connect better with others. “Positive parenting at bedtime is an investment,” Orson tells Motherly. “They’ll be times, especially at first, when it makes bedtime take a little longer. However as time goes on, positive parenting makes bedtime easier because it can be a way to deal with the feelings that make bedtime hard for children.”

4. Respect your childs time

No one likes to be rushed when they’re in the middle of a project or activity. The same goes for children at nighttime: If you abruptly stop what they’re doing, they may become anxious, which makes it harder to get them to sleep.

Instead, respect your child’s time and give them a 15- to 20-minute head’s up before starting their bedtime ritual so they can finish up whatever activity they are doing.

5. Offer choices, not orders

One key part of positive parenting is allowing your child to feel control over what happens to them. You can do this by offering them choices—not orders—at bedtime.

A few ideas for options:

  • Which pajamas do they want to wear?
  • Which stuffed animal should snuggle with them?
  • Which book should you read together?
  • Which song should you sing?

Orson says that by giving them choices like these, you are helping them build up confidence and a stronger senses of self.

6. Laugh about it

You’ve know the old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine”? Turns out, it’s true: A 2007 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that laughter can help release melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep.

Before putting your kid to bed, wind them down by winding them up. Consider having a pillow fight, dancing around or playing a chase game so they can burn off the excess energy, feel closer to you and sleep better at night.

And remember: “When playing with children, it’s good to let them have the more powerful role, and be the one to knock you over or win the fight,” Orson says. “This helps them to gain confidence and not feel to overwhelmed.”

7. Relax and breathe

After you and your child have finished laughter play, take a few minutes to relax and breathe. You can do yoga or meditate together as a way to feel calm and relaxed. Having that moment of quiet reflection will bring you two closer together and help make the rest of your bedtime ritual more peaceful.

8. Connect + cuddle with your child

Just like you, your child is overwhelmed with feelings that can interrupt their sleep. Taking the time to first connect and cuddle can help ease their minds.

Ask them questions about their day and how they’re feeling so they process and let go of those emotions that are affecting their behaviors.

“Positive parenting at bedtime can be a time to listen to our children’s deepest fears and worries, whether directly in conversation, or indirectly, through our child’s behavior,” Orson says. “It can help children sleep better, when they feel better connected to the parent, and have their feelings heard.”

9. Have a long goodbye

When your kid is experiencing separation anxiety, having a long goodbye could help them cope with the feelings that are getting in the way of their sleep.

Orson suggests that, when you’re ready to leave, move out of the room slowly. If your child cries, stay with them and comfort them with hugs so that you give them “the space and safety to have these feelings heard,” she says. Then slowly begin to leave the room once more.

“One night they might have a big cry about being separated from us," Orson tells Motherly. “If we can work through the feelings, it may mean that a few nights later, they feel happy and safe to sleep alone, and have gained confidence in other areas of their life, as they let go of their fears.”

Soon enough your child will drift off to sweet dreams—and you can feel extra good about the day as you settle in for some rest, too.

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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