Every single night is the same thing. Fussing, crying, no sleeping and frustration up the wooha.
Is there any way out of this cycle?
Here are some steps to bedtime peace:
- Be consistent with your schedule
- Create a routine
- Problem solve
- Get dad involved
Let’s start with being consistent with your schedule:
You’ve heard it before and you may not be a schedule kind of person, but implementing this first step will make a huge difference. Our bodies work much better when we have a solid schedule. That means eating breakfast around the same time every morning, having a lunch about the same time each day, having a nap in the afternoon around the same time, eating dinner at night at the same time each night and going to bed the same time every night. Wow. That run-on sentence might sound more like a prison sentence if you aren’t used to doing the same thing at the same time day in and day out. However, this will actually give you more freedom in the long run.
If your children know what to expect in the form of a schedule, then you won’t be chained to the bed time nightmare that you have come to know and love every night and you will actually have the freedom to spend some time with your spouse at night, have some else put your kiddos to bed or even travel without many hiccups.
Trust me on this one.
The second step is to create a routine:
This one is similar to the first step in that you are creating structure for your children for two reasons: 1) they will know what to expect and 2) they feel more secure.
Evenings can be hard when both parents are working and everyone is tired. It can become a habit to have the child fall asleep in a car seat or somewhere else and then just everyone passes out in front of the TV. But bedtime routines can be simple and short. That is best for everyone. Start the routine at dinnertime. Many families have a routine that is dinner> bath> pajamas >brush teeth> story >bedtime. You can adjust this to fit your family but it is pretty simple, straightforward, short and by golly; IT WORKS!
The third step is to problem solve.
If your children are a little bit older and you are still having bedtime problems even with a routine and schedule then the next step is to problem solve.
During dinner, talk about the fact that bedtime is a problem. Maybe it is too long, maybe there is fussing, or maybe kids get wound up right before bed and never fall asleep; whatever it is, name the problem and start brainstorming how to solve it.
Maybe dinner needs to be moved earlier. Maybe the kids need separate sleep spaces, maybe they need to be moved into the same room, maybe the reading time needs to be longer, maybe bath needs to be moved to the morning. There are no bad answers. Come up with a plan: we will do this for 2 weeks and if we don’t see an improvement then we will come back to the drawing table.
Kids will feel empowered that they were part of the process and that they were heard. Parents will feel empowered that they don’t need to be stuck in the same rut for years.
The next step is to get dad involved with bedtime.
If your kiddo is still very little, then they will probably associate mom with food instead of sleep. So when they need to eat, mom can go to the kiddo but if they don’t need to eat, then dad can go. This works wonders for bedtime as well. Mom can give the last feeding and then it is dad’s turn to actually rock the baby to sleep. This way, your child will associate dad with sleep.
As they get older, dad can be a part of the routine and do bath time or read a story. However the best idea is to have dad be the last one they are with before they fall asleep. This is great for two reasons: bonding time with dad but also there is something about dads putting kids to sleep. There’s not enough science out there to figure out what it is, but many, many families attest to this amazing fact.
The final step to having a better bedtime is to not be in front of a screen before bed. You may have a routine where your children get to watch a little screen time just before bed as a motivator to follow directions but this routine will actually inhibit a good bedtime.
If you have fallen into a habit of screen time before bed, go back to the problem solving stage and talk about the problem and what some possible solutions might be. Maybe they get an extra story if they are helpful before bed. Or maybe they get more screen time the next day. It will be different for every family.
Try these steps to have a more peaceful bedtime and check out this post if your peaceful bedtime is taking 2 or 3 or 4 hours (or more!)