How to Stop Common Bedtime Killers
I don’t know about you, but once it’s time for my kids to go to bed, I’m D.O.N.E.
I just want bedtime to be easy & fast.
And meltdown free.
But, lots of times, our kids have other plans for the evening….
Plans that involve taking f o r e v e r to complete even the simplest tasks like brushing their teeth.
Or simply refusing to do something as easy as put on PJs.
Or having a nuclear meltdown because they don’t want to take a bath.
I call these situations Bedtime Killers.
Because in these moments usually one of two things happens:
... Either we get super frustrated and lose our temper because we’re tired and short on patience after a long day.
... Or we just give in to our kid’s demands over and over and over again in an attempt to keep everyone calm.
Both options suck.
They end up delaying bedtime and just making everything worse.
So, I’m going to run through some common Bedtime Killers and some ideas for how to move through these challenging times with ease.
I’m a big believer in giving kids autonomy so they can learn to be successful and do things on their own. But they have to learn how to brush their teeth correctly before you can trust them to handle it solo. And trying to help with teeth brushing can easily become a Bedtime Killer.
Think of these steps: hear your child’s complaint, state the rule and then give a choice.
Issue: “I don’t want to brush my teeth”
Response: “Your teeth have to get brushed tonight. So, either Mom can do it for you or I can go first and then you can have a turn?”
Issue: “I want to do it by myself”
Response: “You’re still learning how to brush your teeth well. So, either Mom can go first and then you can have a turn or you can go first and then Mom can have a turn.” Feel free to say “the dentist said so” - kids usually have a lot of respect for authority like doctors, dentists, police officers, etc. 😉
Taking a Bath
It seems like kids either hate the bath and won’t get in, or love the bath and won’t get out. Every day could be different - heck, they might even cycle through both emotions on the same night! That was my daughter's go-to move.
Hear your child’s complaint, state the rule and then give a choice or make it playful. Making these mundane tasks a little more fun can go a long way towards a peaceful evening.
Issue: “I don’t want to take a bath”
Response: “Tonight is bath night. Wanna use a timer and see how fast you can get washed?” or “Do you want to take a shower with mom or take a bath by yourself?” or “Do you think you can take the whole bath while singing Baby Shark?” Or some silly challenge like keeping their eyes closed the whole time, or turning off the lights and using a candle or flashlight.
Issue: “I don’t want to get out of the bath”
Response: “We have to get out so we can get to bed. I’ll give you a little extra time if you ask me nicely, do you want 120 more seconds or 180 more?” or “Okay, I’ll trade you a few more minutes in the bath for not playing on the iPad tomorrow.” They'll hop right out with that offer!
Putting on PJs
The wrestling matches that can occur while putting on a toddler’s PJs should be on pay-per-view! You’ve got a cranky, maybe even wet from the bath, kid and you’re trying to shove their little legs into skin tight PJs while they try to wiggle away from you. Not fun.
If this is a constant battle, you can always try moving this step away from bedtime. There are no rules that say you have to put PJs on right before bed. Why not put them on before dinner? Or before something fun like watching a TV show?
Issue: “I don’t want to get my PJs on”
Response: “You have to get ready for bed. Do you want to wear PJs inside out or right side up?” or “How fast do you think you can get them on - faster than 1 minutes?” or “Do you want to wear your soccer jersey?” Offering non-PJ items can be a fun change of pace.
Issue: “I don’t like these PJs”
Response: “You have to get ready for bed so you can pick different PJs if you can do it before I count to 20!” Using a timer or making it a race can get you both laughing and break the tension.
Sometimes even just saying “time for bed” is enough to cause a meltdown.
You could try racing to the bedroom but you end up fake falling or fake running into the walls the whole way. If you have 2 kids, you can have them race. You can offer 10 minutes of extra TV time tomorrow if they get done with teeth & PJs in 10 minutes. Anything creative that can lighten the mood and break the cycle of tension will help to keep bedtime running smoothly.
If there is one consistent Bedtime Killer in your house, try getting that thing done earlier in the evening so it doesn’t derail things when you’re finally ready to get them to bed.
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