Bedtime rituals have a tendency to slowly extend themselves over time, turning into a knock-down, drag out fight with your child that can last several rounds and seems like it consumes the entire evening. If you find yourself in this situation, here are some ideas to help you get your child’s bedtime routines under control.
Tips On Good Bedtime For Children
- Establish an incentive system
Create a reward system where children can earn points or stars for each no-fuss bedtime transition. After they accumulate 20 or so points, let them trade their merits for a special treat, such as a day to the local game center or a trip to their favorite restaurant. This technique works for many parents, and can be customized towards a particular problem. If your child keeps getting out of bed, have them earn merits for staying put. If they take too long getting ready, award them for promptly brushing their teeth and getting their jammies on by a certain time. Continue it for several months or a year or more, but eventually the improved ritual should become so ingrained as a habit that kids won’t need the reward or incentive anymore.
- Adjust cuddle time depending on how quickly your child gets ready for bed
If your child is accustomed to a bedtime story, organize your books by the length of the story or how long it takes you to read it, placing them on different shelves or marking them with colored dots according to whether it’s a short story, medium story, or long story. Then, depending on how the bedtime routine goes, tell her which kind of story she can pick. She’ll be motivated to dilly dally less and get ready for bed as quickly as possible, to preserve as much story time as she can. You’ll get less bedtime hassles, and she’ll feel like she’s in control of her ritual.
- Use charts and pictures to keep kids on task
Take pictures of your kids completing each bedtime chore (brushing their teeth, putting pajamas on, etc.) and post them at your child’s eye level on the hallway wall in chronological order. Underneath each picture, have a chart where they can earn stickers for a job well done. (Again, you might attach these to an incentive.) This helps to motivate them and keep them on task by reminding them of their jobs.
- Keep on task yourself
It’s easy for parents to lose track of time and start bedtime rituals late, allowing your child to stay up later than you intend them to. In order to avoid this, try setting an alarm on your watch or cell phone to the time you need to begin getting ready, so that you have a reminder to start at a consistent time.
- Don’t use bedtime as punishment
“Don’t put children to bed early as punishment” advises Dr. Gregg Jacobs. “If a child goes to bed upset, he or she will have difficulty falling asleep and will feel negative about bedtime. Your child should associate bed and bedtime with sleep, not punishment.” (Jacobs, 1998, p. 206)