For those of us with children under 10 bedtime is often the most dreaded part of the day. You may even feel yourself tensing up as you take your first step towards bedtime – contemplating how to best rally the troops on this last home run before ‘me time’ and Netflix and the sofa calls.
Why is it that children often rev up in the build up to bedtime? And stall through various delay tactics or downright refuse to cooperate with us around the whole night time routine? Is there a way to avoid feeling weighed down with guilt and sadness at yet another bedtime ending in tears and battles of will?
The answer is yes. But the way to a good bedtime routine is less to do with a formula – and more to do with a shift in attitude. If bedtime is a struggle in your household – these 3 tips are going to change the way your child cooperates with you both when it comes to bedtime but across all other situations where you need them to work with you.
Decide to WANT to do the bedtime
I think we’ve all been guilty of secretly hoping that we get stuck in traffic so that by the time we get home our partner has put the kids to bed and we can come home to a quiet house. That is perfectly normal.
But if you’ve come to hate bedtime – it’s a good idea to look closer at what you believe about this time of day and how your attitude might affect your child’s willingness to cooperate with you. And yes, you can CHOOSE your own attitude. At any time.
When we become ‘sergeant mum’ the minute it’s bedtime, tighten up and get very task focussed – we can be sure that our kids will begin to dig their heels in. Why? Because no one likes to feel that they’re being expedited – that they are reduced to a means to an end (the end meaning our freedom).
One of the best things we can ask ourselves is not; How can I get my child to go to bed? But ‘Who do I need to be – in order for my child to want to go to bed’.
Can you hear the difference?
Switching from this end goal focussed mindset to a greater focus on the process. The HOW we get to the end – is a sure way to get your child to want to cooperate with you. Remembering that cooperation is a two way process – so that your own tone of voice and attitude will be a big part of setting the scene for better cooperation.
Remember that bedtime is a form of a goodbye
For a child to be able to drift off – she needs to feel safe. Sleep is a form of surrender. Of course few children will have words for this – and will instead invent logical and practical ways to keep us engaged:
Needing another wee
Coming into the front room
Needing the door to be opened
The lights switched on
Get us to check if there are any lions in the cupboards
This can get even the most patient parent to see red.
“This is MY time” – we think to ourselves. This isn’t fair. Our tone becomes increasingly annoyed and we feel tempted to bargain or threaten to get our child to be quiet and lie down.
There is no quick fix
Often the shortest route to our end goal – is to go with – rather than against. Especially when it comes to our kids.
Notice how much harder things get when you are resisting what is. When your son is full of boisterous energy and wants to wrestle – notice what happens if you give him your full attention for 2 minutes and meet him on that frequency and have fun with it.
When your kids are full of beans just before bedtime – rather than declaring war and getting fixated on things being calm right this second – see what happens if you allow for a little bit.. and lean into the fun without positioning yourself as an enemy.
When we are connected it is so much easier to influence and get our children to cooperate.
Remembering that many of the unwanted behaviours that occur around bedtime is your child’s way of stalling. Holding on to you. Asking – albeit in a very clumsy way; ‘Do I matter to you”.
- So connect as much as you can before bedtime.
- This need not mean reading 10 books. But reading your chosen amount of books happily.
- Instead of folding towels in the bathroom during bath time – have a bath chat.
- Hop on the trampoline for 5 minutes with them before the count down to bed begins.
- Sit down and watch the rest of their TV programme before you switch off the TV.
It is so much more likely that your child will cooperate with you when they feel connected to you. And while your family’s bedtime routine might benefit from a new structure or a family chat to get everyone onboard, getting more intentional about HOW we go about bedtime as opposed to focussing solely on the end result is going to really change your family dyadic for the better.