At the end of a long day, the bedtime routine can seem like an uphill climb. Not only are the parents tired—but so are the kids. Everyone is a little less patient and a little more irritable.
Sometimes it takes all the energy I can muster up to make the process happen. The bedtime routine seems to go at a snail’s pace. It starts with a teeth brushing battle, followed by demands for snacks, then the need for repeated teeth brushing. How about those days when they don’t want to get into the bathtub? Then once they are in they refuse to get out.
It all comes to a close by choosing the longest book ever written for a bedtime story.
But it doesn’t have to be a battle. When it comes to bedtime, there are several things that we, as parents, can do to help the process run like a well-oiled machine.
Try these 5 tips to have a no-fuss bedtime routine in your house:
1. Find the sweet spot for bedtime
As our children grow, their sleep needs change. If you have a 3-year-old that suddenly refuses to fall asleep at night, his nap time might need to be shortened. If you have a 12-month-old who is fighting her 8pm bedtime, she might be overtired and actually need an earlier hour. Watch your child for cues and try to understand these changing sleep needs over time.
2. Use momentum
When it comes to the bedtime routine, just do it. Don’t start and stop. If you get the kids into PJs, then check your email and scroll Instagram, when you return to the process you are going to be starting over.
Use momentum in your favor. Be fully present and be full of positive energy—once you get the process started, keep things moving. This will help to make it happen seamlessly.
3. Skip the screens
At the end of a long day it can be tempting to flip on the screens and let our kids veg out. shows us that kids actually have a harder time settling down and falling asleep after exposure to screen time. Not to mention that dragging your kid away from a favorite show to do something unmentionable (like brush teeth) is a losing battle that you don’t want to fight.
Instead, choose low key activities like reading books, just prior to bedtime.
4. Pattern the events
There are certain parts of the bedtime routine that a child comes to dread, while other parts make them light up. My daughter hates brushing her teeth, but loves the bathtub. So we pattern these events to work in our favor.
First we brush teeth, then take a bath. This first-then principle is an effective strategy for gaining cooperation. It works as a type of natural reward. First we get the hard stuff done, then we get to do the fun stuff.
On a similar now, my little one also hates getting out of the bathtub, but loves choosing her bedtime book. So we carry the pattern on and emphasize this simple language—first you get out of the bathtub, then you pick your book.
Seriously, this trick works like a small miracle.
5. Bring the calm
There is one constant for all parents at bedtime—we are tired. Our daily allotment of patience has been exhausted. We are much more likely to get frustrated and irritated.
But here’s the thing, if we get mad and angry we are going to throw the whole process off course. Our children are mirrors of us. When we get frustrated, they get frustrated.
So whatever it takes—we have to bring the calm. It will make the bedtime routine faster and more pleasant for everyone.