Your Child's Bedtime Routine

It’s an all-to-familiar scene. At bedtime, your child transforms into a savvy politician, inventing all kinds of excuses to stay up and away from the bedroom. From threats and cajoling to stonewalling and tantrums, children will do anything to avoid bedtime. At the end of a long day, no parent has the energy to withstand this kind of fussing (as no parent should), so we’ve rounded up some bedtime rituals to help get your little lambs under the sheets with little to no peeps!

Bedtime Rituals:

It may surprise you to learn that children enjoy having a familiar bedtime and a regular routine. Children like their lives to be orderly and get a sense of security from nightly before-bed rituals, such as reading a story, drinking a glass of milk or taking a bath. It’s an important transition from the activity of the day to those eight or ten hours of sleep that children need. The ritual helps you actually get the child into bed. The traditional tooth brushing and face-washing is an important part, as is putting on pajamas. The rest of the ritual is up to you. 

There are some important points to keep in mind:

•    Bedtime should be the same time every night so therefore the ritual should also take place at the same time every night. If your ritual takes place at 8 don’t begin it at 10 after 8 or seven minutes before 8.

•    It’s important to have the ritual every night. Do not skip it, no matter how tired or busy you are.

•    Do not change the ritual. If you normally sing to your child and then have a glass of milk together, don’t suddenly reverse the order or forget the glass of milk.

•    No matter where you are - in a hotel, at home, at Grandma’s house, on vacation - you should always have the ritual. That way the child feels safe and is more likely to go to sleep in a strange place.

•    If the child is old enough to sleep over at a friend’s, explain to the parents that your child needs the ritual to go to sleep. Most parents will be accommodating.

•    Start a “quiet time” at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Tell the children that television or playtime is over. Do not allow older children in the family to interfere. Encourage the child to participate in a quiet activity, such as reading.

•    Counting down to bedtime may be effective: “Fifteen minutes to bedtime,” “Ten minutes to bedtime,” and so on. You may encounter the traditional child’s phrase, “In a minute.” Be firm. Remember, bedtime is for your benefit as well as the child’s. You need quiet time too.

•    At the end of the ritual, the child should be asleep, in bed or, in the case of the very young, in the crib. The next step is to keep the child in bed and asleep.


Mommy I'm Thirsty:

Children often do not like to be left alone and they may have difficulty falling asleep, just as adults do. The difference is that adults may just lie awake or turn on the light to read - children cry.

How do you ignore a child screaming, crying and pleading for an hour, and avoid the constant requests for water or to go to the bathroom? 

First, realize that you are in the power position. You set the rules. Stick to the rule that once it’s bedtime, it’s time to stay in the bedroom and go to sleep. However, if an older child wants to play quietly in bed or read, you may allow this. Do not, however, allow them to watch TV to go to sleep, since the stimulation has the opposite effect. When engaged in quiet activities, children eventually grow tired and turn out the light. 

Second, you can ignore the child if you have the will. A child’s crying hurts the parents more than it does the child. Children know this, and that’s why they persist. They learn this at three months old. However, you can help them unlearn it, and pave the way for healthier sleep habits later in life. That can have the added benefit of making you sleep better at night. 

Third, check your child’s mattress for potential sleep problems. Children have special mattress needs, and you should choose a good, durable mattress for them. With the right mattress and with good sleeping habits, you can be sure your children will be in a dreamland every night.