Bedtime Battles? 11 Tips For A Calm Bedtime Routine

Sometimes it goes smoothly. We let our kids know that it’s time for bed, and they agree.

They happily brush their teeth and put on PJs, and within a few minutes, they’re ready to be tucked in.

Other times, not so much 😆.

Here are a few tips that may help you get them in bed without too much drama.

#1 Give Them a Heads Up

Imagine you’re in the middle of writing an important email for work, and your boss walks over and shuts your laptop without a word, and informs you to “go to the portfolio meeting now.”

Wait, what?! 

You can imagine the frustration at being interrupted and caught off-guard.

This is what it’s like for our kids when they are busy playing or watching a TV show.

We can win a lot of battles by simply giving our kids a heads up.

  1. “Hey Buddy, in 5 minutes, it’s time for bed.”
  2. “Bud, in 3 minutes, we need to pack away your toys and get ready for bed.”
  3. “It’s time for bed. Please pack away your toys.”

You’ve given your kid loads of time to mentally and emotionally prepare for the change. (Even though you do the exact.same.thing. every night 😉).

#2 Use Their Competitiveness

Right now, our son will take ANY chance to compete and win.

We can often motivate him with sentences like:

  • “Can you sit on the toilet before I’m done making the bed?”
  • “Can you put on your PJs before I close the curtains?”

Kiddies often love competitions because they provide a sense of excitement and a challenge to overcome.

This can often work well on smaller kids around 5-8 years old. For toddlers, try the next idea…

#3 Give Them a Job

Kids love to feel important.

And toddlers love to showcase their newly learned skills.

  • “Please can you get/put away your toothbrush?”
  • “Please put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket”
  • “Please get your PJs from under the pillow.”

Giving toddlers age-appropriate jobs allows them to feel more in control and independent.

#3 Use A Routine Chart

There are some really cool ideas on Pinterest for routine charts. You can draw one up by hand or even design a cool-looking chart on free websites like Canva.

Keep the charts simple and visually appealing.

Include tasks for your evening routine like:

  • Playtime
  • Dinner
  • Bath
  • Brush teeth
  • Put on pajamas
  • Get into bed

Your child can tick each task off, or you can give them stickers or stamps.

It is so rewarding to cross off a checklist!

#4 Limit Screen Time Before Bed

Each family has their own rules when it comes to screens. Whatever you decide for the iPad or TV, experts recommend that kids don’t use screens right before bed.

The blue light from screens and the busyness of games or TV shows is very stimulating – the opposite of what we need at bedtime.

In our family, if our son is watching TV, we turn it off before dinner. Any activities after this are without screens.

We read books, play Legos or do puzzles.

And if he has loads of energy, we might even jump on the trampoline before bathtime.

#5 Use Relaxation Techniques

We can help our kids wind down by using different relaxation techniques.

Here are some easy ideas:

  • A bath with lavender-scented Epsom salts.
  • Gentle stretching (reach up high, touch your toes, stretch your arms).
  • Peaceful music while they get ready for bed.
  • Squeeze and Release (Make tight fists and release, tense up legs and release, scrunch up face and release, etc.)

Doing this can help create a sense of calm and prepare them for sleep.

#6 Choose Your Dinners Carefully

Some foods will cause our kids to bounce off the walls!

Especially desserts.

If you are a family that does dessert, keeping dessert and bedtime fairly far apart is a good idea. And offer only a small amount.

Other foods that can give some kids an energy spike are:

  • Breakfast Cereals
  • Fruit
  • Dried Fruits / Fruit Rolls
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Juice

#7 Create A Cozy Space

Look, not all of us have the creativity or budget to give our kid a Pinterest-worthy bedroom. (And FYI – they don’t actually need it).

But something we all can do is create a calming and cozy space for our kids.

For no dollars at all, keeping a room neat and organized will go a long way in giving our kids a sense of calm.

To create a cozy room on a limited budget, try these:

  • A soft blanket and a few soft toys
  • A reading corner or shelf
  • Warm white LED lights (rather than cool white)
  • Glow in the dark stickers
  • And, of course, fairly lights – always a win!

#9 Make A Game

You can make getting into bed a fun and playful activity.

Hop like a bunny, fly a spaceship or drive a tractor into bed. Anything that sparks your kid’s interest.

Making bedtime fun helps our kids to associate going to bed with positive feelings.

Here are some other ideas for a happy and calm bedtime:

  • “I Spy”
  • Guessing games
  • “Sleepy” Simon Says
  • Guess the song (hum the melody)

#10 Consider Underlying Issues

Ongoing resistance to bedtime can indicate underlying issues such as anxiety or fear.

Or maybe your kid desperately needs your undivided attention or physical affection.

Dads, take the time to observe your child’s behavior and talk to them. Try to understand their worries. 

It’s really important that we offer comfort and reassurance.

Phrases like “Come on, don’t be silly” or “You’re a big girl” can make our kids feel ashamed.

Pro-Dad Tip: If you find that your child’s fears or possibly uncontrollable behavior is getting severe, it’s always a good idea to meet with a registered child psychologist. With the right therapist, this can be a very empowering and positive experience for your family.

#11 Adjust The Bedtime Routine

The important thing for us as parents is to remain calm and consistent in the easy times and in the thick of the drama.

When we lose it, our kids will often respond accordingly, and things can escalate fast.

If you notice a pattern in your bedtime – of stalling tactics, too much energy, taking exceptionally long to fall asleep – consider adjusting your kid’s bedtime routine.

  • Maybe they need a little more time playing before bed.
  • Or they need a high-energy activity to burn off some steam after dinner.
  • You might be putting your kids to bed too early (they are not tired) or too late (they are over-tired).

Experiment with different activities or order to see what works best for your child.

Thanks for reading.

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