Are you doing the Back to School Happy Dance! YEAH!! woo-hoo!
But oh my what a pain it is to get kids to go to bed at night, so they can be on time for school in the morning.
Last spring, I wrote a blog about how to get kids out of bed in the morning so now seems like the perfect time to write about how the heck to get them to bed.
Here’s the problem: Some kids are easy. They just go to bed. This sets us up with the expectation that ALL kids should easily just go to bed. Combine our expectation that it be easy, with our own end-of-day fatigue, and you’ve got a recipe for conflict and drama.
If you struggle to get your kids to bed on time, read through these steps and see where you can focus your attention to help you get a peaceful evening routine.
The first step
is to accept that your child just doesn’t like going to bed, without blame or frustration. Being a night owl, and taking a long time to wind down at night, are wired into us. What makes people sleepy is when certain hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, rise during the day, and drop at night. Lots of things can mess with this hormone production: not getting enough exercise or daylight, getting too much blue light from screens, or artificial light after dark. When puberty hits, and stress of any kind, these hormones can get out of whack. It’s not always our kid’s fault if they are up until midnight and can sleep until noon. If you start trying to change your child’s bedtime routine by trying to change something you have no control over, you will frustrate yourself. Acceptance and compassion must come first.
The second step
is to get your kids on board with the idea. As you may have noticed, you cannot make someone go to sleep who doesn’t want to. Pay attention to what motivates your child. Some kids are motivated to please their parents and like being seen as responsible. (How awesome is that? If this is you, enjoy it!)
For the rest of us, we have to get clever. Some kids are motivated by fun, (and watching mom lose her sh*t at bedtime is entertainment for them!). Other kids are motivated with bribes (“I’ll give you a $1. if you are in bed before 9:30, but $5. if you are in bed by 9:00.” You can encourage going to bed without complaining by rewarding with treats in tomorrow’s lunchbox. If you have a kid that is motivated by power, partner with them to design a bed time routine that works for both of you, making sure they think it’s all their idea.
Many Supermoms can get caught up with an idealistic picture of what the bedtime routine should look like: reading books, cuddles, pillow talk, but if this isn’t working for you it’s time to let it go. My daughter hated reading (so much for the years I spent as a reading specialist.) Instead, we played games before bed for about 8 years. Now that she’s in high school and I’m older than dirt, I want to go to bed earlier than she, so we had to switch up our bedtime routine using step 3.
The third step
is all about making your home conducive to sleep. I remember one power outage we had. After our makeshift dinner, we hung out by candlelight, talked, played charades, and all 4 of us were SO SLEEPY and ready for bed. When we checked the clock it was only 7:30pm! Melatonin is released when it gets dark outside. If you want your kids to get sleepy, turn off the stimulation. Fast moving images on TV and video games, release chemicals in the brain that tell us to wake up and get moving. Try making it darker in your home an hour before bedtime. Light candles, take baths, play music or just turn the wi-fi off all together.
With our constantly wired world, sleep rates are dropping for kids and teens, making it even harder for moms to get kids up and out of bed in the morning. The first step in improving the morning routine, is to make sure they are getting enough sleep. By accepting the things you cannot change with compassion, understanding what motivates our children, and creating an environment conducive to sleep, you can create a more peaceful morning and evening for your whole family.
Are you looking for support establishing routines that work for you and your family? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me