You know you need a bedtime routine for your kids that works. But how do you go about creating one? I have 3 simple steps to take your evenings from chaos to calm.
That glass of red wine sitting on the kitchen counter is the only thing stopping you from losing your mind.
My body felt like a bag of concrete that I had to drag across the tile floor. Of course, that was the time when my kids started fighting.
My son accidentally dropped his milk and screamed. “Ahhh!!!”
My daughter forgot she had to copy all 30 spelling words – which she left at school – and now pleaded with me to text one of her friend’s parents to snap a picture so she can do them.
It’s 8pm. I want both of them in bed as fast as possible.
Why don’t I have it more together? Do you ever think this?
So what happened? I rushed around the house, trying to get everything done.
The kids skipped brushing their teeth, they used the bathroom quickly and then I rushed them into bed.
I felt like a constant nag trying to keep them on task. When they were finally in bed, my heart raced and it took me hours to calm down.
I’m thinking it must be the same for them. This mad rush at bedtime wasn’t benefiting any of us.
If you are in the same place, it’s time to set a routine that our kids can follow on their own and not need us nagging each step of the way.
As a convenience for you, I have put my affiliate links to the products I use and recommend. It costs you nothing extra to purchase through my link but I may get a small commission. I greatly appreciate your support!
Setting the routine
According to education.com, “Children (and adults) feel the most secure when their lives are predictable.”1
A routine takes the stress of deciding out of life. And when that routine becomes a habit, magic happens.
Our habits are actually stored in a different part of our brain than our working memory. In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg described the case of a man who had a stroke and lost his short-term memory.
He couldn’t remember if he just ate, couldn’t remember what he just had a conversation about.
But, every day he went on the same walk with his wife around the block. After a few weeks, he could do that walk by himself. He followed the same path, stuck to the same route, all because it became a habit.
Imagine, not having to nag your kids to brush their teeth, take a bath, wash their face or go to bed. That’s what we’re working towards.
Pick a simple set of actions
First, depending on the age level of your kids, I recommend sitting down with them and listing everything that needs to be done before bed.
This can include:
- brushing teeth
- using the toilet
- washing faces
- getting dressed in pajamas
- backpack packed for school
- laying out clothes for the next day
- Choosing a book for a story
It doesn’t need to be a lot. In fact, if you want to start small and just pick 2-3 that works too!
To make it easier, print out the routine for your kids and hang on the back of their bedroom door or even on the wall.
I made it super easy with these routine cards. Simply print out, cut apart and rearrange to your liking.
The great thing about these cards is that your child can decide the order of the tasks to complete. I laid these out for my son on his bedroom floor and he loved having a say in the order he did his routine.
In fact, he was psyched about his new routine. When my husband came home, my son led him upstairs to look at the routine on his wall. My husband then sat back and watched as Erik used the pictures on each card to decide what to do next.
My nine-year-old daughter loved the cards as well. Although she refused to put the toilet one on her wall. Understandably…
Set an alarm on your phone
Community nursery nurse, Annette Faamausili, emphasizes the need to establish a good bedtime routine. “I stress the importance of taking the child upstairs at the same time each night”2
When you follow a strict schedule, you’ll find that your kids start getting sleepy at the same time each night, making it much easier for them to fall asleep as well as comply with your requests to start the routine.
Plus.. get this… they may sleep longer. Particularly if you start a bedtime routine when they’re very young.
According to one study, “adherence to a bedtime routine was concurrently associated with a greater amount of nightly sleep at 36 and 42 months. In addition, adherence to a bedtime routine predicted an increase in nightly sleep minutes over a 6-month period.”3
The most effective routines start at the same time each day. However, life gets busy and we forget the time.
To prevent this, set an alarm on your phone to go off at the start of your routine.
Work backwards from when you want your kids in bed to the time the alarm should go off. Typically, 30 minutes prior to bedtime works really well.
If you don’t yet have a bedtime routine, don’t worry. You are still an excellent parent because you’re taking your time to read up on how to make both yours and your child’s evenings easier.
As a warning, this new routine may go very easily the first few nights and then become a horrible struggle after that.
Completely normal! You are not doing anything wrong. Your child is simply testing the new boundaries and all you need to do is keep working at it.
You may have heard that it takes 21 days to establish a habit.
That’s wrong. Recent research suggests it takes closer to 66 days. A little more than 2 months!
Now, don’t worry. The first week is always the toughest and it will get progressively easier. You are not looking at a struggle every single day for 66 days.
But be ready. That first week, your child might ignore you, try to bargain on bedtime or come up with a myriad of excuses.4
Stay strong and know that you are on your way to an easier evening. By picking an easy sequence of tasks, posting those tasks for your child to see, sticking to a set time and repeating consistently, you may not even need that nightly glass of wine.
Although you are always welcome to have it!
Now that you have a bedtime routine, what about the mornings?
- Routines: Why They Matter and How to Get Started | Education.com, Routines: Why They Matter and How to Get Started, https://www.education.com/magazine/article/importance-routines-preschool-children/
- Bedtime blues, Nursing Standard | 10.7748/ns.19.44.22.s23 | DeepDyve, Bedtime blues, https://www.deepdyve.com/lp/royal-college-of-nursing-rcn/bedtime-blues-4Hpv0KTHgh?articleList=%2Fsearch%3Fquery%3Dbedtime%2Broutine%26page%3D2
- IX. BEDTIME ROUTINES IN EARLY CHILDHOOD: PREVALENCE, CONSISTENCY, AND ASSOCIATIONS WITH NIGHTTIME SLEEP, Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development | 10.1111/mono.12149 | DeepDyve, IX. BEDTIME ROUTINES IN EARLY CHILDHOOD: PREVALENCE, CONSISTENCY, AND ASSOCIATIONS WITH NIGHTTIME SLEEP, https://www.deepdyve.com/lp/wiley/ix-bedtime-routines-in-early-childhood-prevalence-consistency-and-7p6H0hyIKs?articleList=%2Fsearch%3Fquery%3Dbedtime%2Broutine
- Habits of the hearth: Children’s bedtime routines as relational work, Text & Talk – An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse & Communication Studies | 10.1515/TEXT.2006.020 | DeepDyve, Habits of the hearth: Children’s bedtime routines as relational work, https://www.deepdyve.com/lp/de-gruyter/habits-of-the-hearth-children-s-bedtime-routines-as-relational-work-jPcUoqjc7g?articleList=%2Fsearch%3Fquery%3Dbedtime%2Broutine