Bedtime… how can one word evoke so many different emotions? Joy — because your job of parenting is done for the day and you finally have a few moments to yourself? Dread — because you know there is another battle coming — the battle to get the teeth brushed, jammies wrangled on, and kids to fall asleep and stay in bed? Worry — because the kids stayed up a little too late and now you don’t know what to expect?
Whatever emotion you may feel at bedtime, let’s talk about turning one of the hardest parts of our day into a sweet time with your family.
I’m not claiming to be a sleep expert. I have no magical answer, but I do know what has worked for our family and I hope it is a blessing for you as well.
So often our day is chucked full of activities. We rush from one appointment to another. We run at full speed all day and then expect the kids to come to a screeching halt as soon as you say the words, “Time for bed!” Instead of rushing through another routine and checking another “to-do” off the list, let’s take a few moments to unwind BEFORE heading towards the bathroom and bedrooms. We can read a story together with the kids, drink some cuddle-time tea, play a quiet game together. Whatever we choose to do, let it be a time to settle down and unwind. One adorable little story is Go to Sleep, Sheep! This is a fun bedtime book for kids ages 2 to 5 years. With a funny story and engaging artwork, the Bedtime Barn is sure to be a favorite bedtime story for your little one.
You know that one kid who melts down at 8:15 every night? That one may need to start the bedtime routine at 7:45. Part of being a parent means strategically avoiding potentially bad situations. Unfortunately, kids are always changing and evolving, so that means we are constantly reevaluating to outmaneuver them! But we can do it!
It doesn’t seem fun, but we do have an obligation as parents to set boundaries and expectations. If we expect our children to get ready in a certain amount of time and not dilly dally, set a timer. We can be sure to let the child know what the consequence is for procrastination: no story before bed, lights out early, etc. Kids like to push boundaries, but they also like to know that those boundaries won’t move when pushed on. Stay consistent. There may be a period of transition as they test, but we can be clear, firm, and loving about the fact that we expect positive behavior and obedience. Slowing down and starting early, as mentioned above, help to make the expectations a little more reasonable to a child. When a child feels rushed, they will inevitably drag their feet as much as possible. Sigh… human nature.
Oh the sweet joy of the snuggle!! Those first couple years of a child’s life are basically “do what works in the moment” strategies, but as they grow and begin to communicate more and more, bedtime can transition into such a sweet time. Even though I may be ready to throw the munchkins in bed, go watch a show on Netflix, and unintentionally eat a whole bag of chips, taking the time to lay down and snuggle with them usually turns into the highlight of my day.
It’s during those quiet moments just before sleep when the lights are dim that a child opens up their hearts and shares their joys and fears. My kids and I have had deep conversations about faith, hurt feelings, and how we should live our lives in peace with others. I’ve had the joy of answering deeper questions than I even realized a mind that young could contemplate. Had I not spent the time snuggling, I would never have known they pondered such important questions!
Deuteronomy 11:19 says,
You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
As I spend sweet time talking with my children before bed, I realize why the Bible specifically mentions teaching our children about God “when you lie down.” It’s a moment of vulnerability and open-heartedness that is only glimpsed in those brief moments before sleep, when there are no distractions, no “to-dos” and nothing more important that that moment.
So, let’s take the time to talk with our children, slow down, and just be present… The sweet bedtime routine will eventually fall into place. It may not happen every night, but intentionally trying to cultivate a sweet bedtime routine will lead to a great reward!
What have been your toughest struggles at bedtime with little ones? What works best for you to bring calm to bedtime? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!