Why won’t my kids go to bed?


By: Cara Maksimow

Bedtime can be the most wonderful time of the day, with cuddles and hugs and intense conversations. It can also be the most exhausting and frustrating time of the day.
Why is it that children never want to go to bed? I haven’t quite figured out when children go from fighting the need for sleep to actually enjoying it. Bedtime in so many households with young kids is full of procrastination, negotiation and ultimately crying (by mommy).

It is as if it is a right of passage for kids to challenge the bedtime routine.

Here are 5 things I have learned to help make the difference between war zone and bonding time:

Routine is crucial

Decide what time you want your kids to go to bed, knowing that it may be different for kids of different ages. Start the process of getting ready in as much of a routine as possible. If you have things that don’t happen every night, try to keep it to specific days. For example, bath night for little ones is every other or every third day, then keep it consistent. For example every Monday & Thursday.

Do you read every night? If you are like me, you try to but some nights it can be daunting. If that is the case, try to read one or two pages. A few minutes to keep the routine can help.
A bedtime list is a great way to stay consistent. Get your kids involved with planning the routine. Start by asking them what needs to happen before bed and talk about why it is important to do things like brush their teeth. You can even make a list and keep it in the bedroom or bathroom. For kids who aren’t quite reading, use printed pictures of toothbrushes, soap, bedtime books and a clock with bedtime on it. When it is time to start getting ready for bed you and your child can go through the list together. It can give them a sense of accomplishment and pride to complete all the steps.

Build in rewards

So you have your list of bedtime things that need to happen. Create a reward that for getting everything done in time. Perhaps an extra bedtime story if everyone is ready with time to spare. Maybe pick one night a week like Friday when you know they don’t have to be up too early and they could get to stay up and watch a movie or play a game.

Keep electronics out of the bedrooms

I let my kids watch T.V. in bed as a reward. I limit it to just Friday and they do it in my bedroom, not theirs. We don’t have T.V. in the kids’ rooms because it can be too tempting and create sleep problems later. The same is true with the ipods and computers. Keeping the electronics out of the bedroom before bedtime and during the night prevents habits that are really tough to break. My 8 year old was having trouble getting up in the mornings and I did not know why until I noticed he had been hiding his ipod in his room and playing games long after bedtime. Now I am much more aware of where all the electronics are each night.

Keep it positive

We all have good days and bad days but bedtime we spend a few minutes reflecting on the good and the bright spots of the day. I have a ritual I call “Fill Your BAG Happy” where I imaging a BAG which has collected obstacles and negativity that can build up and weigh us down at bedtime. Together my kids and I imagine emptying it of the stress and negativity out onto the floor and then fill it up with three things that spell BAG. B stands for the Best part of the day, A for what we Accomplished, and finally G is for Gratitude.

Identifying the bright spots is a great way to end the day with positivity, bonding and sharing. More info on “Fill Your BAG Happy” can be found at http://www.maximize-wellness.com/bag.html

Remember tomorrow is another day

Expect bumps in the road. Know that there is no such thing as perfection. The more frustrated you become, the more your kids will react. Understand perfection is not reality. Know you are doing an awesome job! Tomorrow is another chance to try again.

More stories and tips on topics such as play-dates, food allergies, potty-training and more in the book Lose that Mommy Guilt, Tales and Tips from an Imperfect Mom. Get your copy here