We all know it, we have either been there, heard others talk of it, or are dreading the future inevitability of the two plus hour bedtime routine.
It starts out with the parent in charge:
Put your pajamas on. Brush your teeth.
And then about 45 minutes in, the children take over:
“One more story.” “Mom? Mo-oooom!” “I need another drink.” “I’m not TIRED!”
You end up giving in to each demand because at the back of your mind, you are thinking, “If I don’t give them what they want, it will be two hours of screaming and and I just do this last thing, they will go to bed.”
But we also know in the back of our mind, that they won’t go to bed, they will just ask for something else.
Then we lay down with the children knowing that at least they will eventually fall asleep this way and at 10:30 pm we will finally have some time to ourselves.
But this is no way to live, for us or for the kids.
So what to do?
First, tell the kids that things are going to change. Talk about the bedtime routine and even make a schedule with pictures and words. Tell them that this is the only routine that you will have and there won’t be any additions or subtractions. Then post the schedule somewhere where everyone can see it and everyone is on the same page.
Second, (and this is the HARD part), follow the routine. Don’t stray like you previously have done. Whenever your child starts to ask for something more, remind them, “Sorry, it’s not part of our routine.” Kiss them goodnight, and then close the door and leave.
Will your child be happy about this? Possibly, but probably not. They may yell and scream. They may try to leave the room. You have some options here depending on your parenting styles. But you don’t have the option to give in to their demands. You can rub their back for a minute and leave them be for ten minutes and continue the one minute rub/ten minute break until they fall asleep. You can close the door and stand guard. You can lay down on their floor for two minutes. But whatever you do, know that it will take a couple of days to two weeks for you to see any changes in behavior They are used to getting what they want and you need to remind them that the routine has changed.
Stick to it! Consistency is key.
Talk about their good behavior. If they did really well on one thing (like brushing their teeth, or only asking for one story) then talk about how awesome that was even if they cried for 45 minutes after that.
Talk about the new schedule with them (again!!) and tell that that they are going to do really well with it tonight.
Stick to it! The change won’t happen overnight. It will take a while for them to get used to it, but they will get used to. Children can adapt to anything.