Getting kids to bed can be near the top of a parent’s list of most stressful times. Whether it’s crying, whininess or outright defiant behaviour, parents can often have the feeling of “losing it.” (I know I have especially when it’s after I’ve been alseep).
Here’s how to work towards makiing bedtime with your kids enjoyable. See specific ideas after the following principles:
Create a routine. While routines are sometimes disrupted (ie. staying up later, travelling, etc.) a normal system of rituals before turning the lights out can be extremely helpful. Rituals can include brushing teeth, bath, putting on pajamas and bedroom stuff.
Be consistent. Simply being near on a regular basis goes a long way. Kids can be saddened when they are alone. This sadness can lead to constantly coming out of their room asking for things (because they want to be with you). Also, be consistent in your expectations and follow through.
Allow some grace. Don’t simply ignore a request to go to the bathroom. They may wet the bed! One small drink of water won’t hurt. Differentiate between manipulation and legitimate need.
No talking (regarding the specific act of staying in bed). When the time comes for lights out you don’t need to explain or become exasperated when they cry out or come downstairs, etc. Simply go to them and put them back in bed. If they are old enough a brief instruction is enough.
Be understanding. My daughter began to sob as I was about to leave her room for the night last night. I could have simply left in a huff to get to whatever it was I wanted to do. Instead, I laid down beside her, stroked her cheek and talked about why she was sad. A few minutes later she was ready.
Be patient. Losing your cool doesn’t accomplish anything. Neither does yelling, forcing, sighing, etc. Sometimes God is testing your character through your kids. What is really going on in your heart comes to the surface in trials like these. Let God’s character reign in you.
Enjoy your kids! Kids really are a gift. Do you love to see them smile? Do you like talking with them? What a great time to just get to know and be with your precious children! Play with them…a little rough-housing before bed remarkably prepares them for sleep.
Train. My son recently gave us a few weeks of loud crying as we were training him to fall asleep in his own crib without falling asleep in our arms. Sometimes this takes a long time! It’s okay. Stick with it. Endurance pays off.
Rewards. Set goals and remember what you’re training them for. Independance, peace (your home as a refuge from the storms of life), security (knowing they are ok and that you are there for them), God’s care (even when you aren’t right there with them teach that God is), etc.
Creative Ideas: Read books together (especially the Bible), draw together, snuggle, play with sock puppets, talk about the day, pray, bounce on the bed, march stuffed animals and make them talk, hide in the closet, play a tape or cd, Adventures in Odyssey are great audio stories, let your kids climb on you, hug and kiss, sing (songs from church are a great tool), say a blessing.
Blessing. Say a positive word over your child. Emphasize God’s power in your child’s life. Use verses like (Ephesians 3:17-19; Numbers 6:24-26; Matthew 5:14,16; Galatians 2:20; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
Questions. Ask questions like these: What was your favourite part of the day? What’s the best thing you learned today? What didn’t you like about the day? What made you sad, happy, upset, etc? What did you think about Jesus today?
Doodle Pad. We have a “doodle pad” where we write and draw. We talk about special things that have happened recently. We draw pictures. You can teach shapes, numbers, other fun school work, etc. I made shapes into cartoon characters once. We notice positive character in our kids (ie. Sonora shared well today with…, Josiah made me laugh when he…)
Hope your family will begin to enjoy this wonderful time!
Keep Jesus at the centre of your family,