Bedtime doesn't need to be a challenge. Here are some tips to creating a great routine.
Times up. Send your children to bed at the same time every night. After a few months of this, if you miss one night you will understand the importance of this routine.
Happy warnings work. Let your children know that they have 30 minutes or an hour to wrap up what they are doing. Everyone loses track of time, and no one wants to be cut off in the middle of a good movie or book. Shannon liked to give a 30 minute and 15 minute warning. No judgement or threat is ever involved, just information.
More is better. Many studies done all over the world have proven that children need at least 9 hours of sleep. Children in European countries get over 10. The more sleep your child gets, the better sleeper he or she will become. Both Erin and Shannon's children had a bedtime of 8 PM.
Teens, Tweens and quiet time. If you have a mix of teens and young children, establish bedtime rules. Shannon's children, when they were 12-years and older, were allowed to do quiet things in their room like read, write great stories and plays or even do homework. Initially she would find them asleep with a book and the light on. After time, they learned to regulate themselves and turn out their own light. You could encourage teens to participate in family prayer, or read books before bed. Then, after the little ones have nodded off they can get back on the TV. All of Shannon's children love to read. She made sure there was the newest most fascinating library and other books available.
Turn off the buzz. Media, phones, computers and TV should be off at least an hour before bedtime. Give your child time to unwind, and relax without stimuli. That includes Mom and Dads. If you must carry your phone, put it on mute or vibrate and gives your children quality attention.
Fill the love bank. This is a great time of day to give your children snuggles, love and one-on-one attention. Ask your family members about their day. Really listen, ask questions and connect. Children will begin to look forward to having your undivided attention.
Don't rush. Allow plenty of time to brush teeth and get dressed. If you hurry your child along, he will protest and wind up for a fit of immense proportions. Children, just like adults, like to be comfortable. Use this time to teach them that clean teeth feel good. Teach them the routine self-care that should follow them into adulthood. Nothing feels better than a warm bubble bath before bed, whether you are 5 or 50. Allow them to enjoy it.
Read. Not only will you give your children the gift of literacy, but you can give them snuggle time, warmth and attention. They have time to relax and feel safe and secure before they get into bed. We read 20 minutes of stories and 10 minutes of scriptures. Each child who can read gets to pick a book to read to the others. Shannon loved to reach chapter books to her children, one chapter a night.
Give them your time. Don't expect to do the fast-food-drive-by bed routine and have success. You can't zoom into their room, drop them in bed and zoom on out like you are picking up a burger and expect a happy child. Stop, focus and spend time talking with them in their rooms, one-on-one. They may have something important they need to say to you, without the entire family listening.
This is a great time to take personal inventory with your children. Ask them if there is anything they think went well in their day, or anything that didn't? Was there anything they did well or anything they wish they could do differently? Ask them how you did as a parent and be prepared for the truth. Accept it with a smile.
Give them routine love. Before our kids hop into bed, they have a special handshake with dad and a hug and a kiss for mom. Every kid has to have this or they won't go to sleep. Give your children your love, even if you've had a difficult day. It's important they go to bed feeling secure and happy.
Stick to the routine. I can't emphasize this enough! Routines mean everything to children in an everchanging and dangerous world. When they know what's about to happen there is no argument, only habit.
It's not too late. Even if you start with older children, find a routine that works and stick to it. It takes time to make a habit. Plan on at least a week or 2 before they get the hang of it and stop fighting. Expect it to take a month or two to become a habit.
Fill your home with love and peace at bedtime. Find a routine that works and stick with it. A good sleep routine can create a calm and happy child. A calm and happy child is a blessing to a parent.
Shannon and Erin are a mother and daughter with lots of children and Utah and Oregon roots.