6 steps to a happier bedtime

>> Thursday, January 29, 2009

The last child is down for the day. I smile at the wonderful silence in the house for the first time all day. I begin an independent thought of what I can do for the next hour when suddenly my blood pressure shoots up as I hear:

• "I want to be tucked in!!!!!!"
• "I'm thirsty."
• " I need my bear right now!"
• "You forgot to turn on my nightlight!"
• " I want you to sit in here."
• "Can I tell you something?"
• "Why is it dark?"

It's enough for me to totally lose my patience. Just go to sleep!!!
To save myself from irritation of toxic proportions and eventual implosion, I have come up with the following 6 steps to a happier bedtime. Me, being the happier one, not necessarily the kids. On most nights, with most of my kids, though, it really helps.

6 steps to a happier bedtime

1. Set a quiet time before bedtime. This is a time for everyone including me, to calm down. Only quiet activities are allowed. No loud voices or loud music. This can be 15-30 minutes before bedtime.
2. Bedtime Routine. I know you've heard about this one, but my reasoning is a little different. If you have a routine including all the things that need to be done, then you won't hear the reminder yelling 10 minutes after you put down your little lovies,. (See above for examples.)
2a. For older kids, the schedule could be in the form of a checklist. They can earn something (in the morning) for each complete checklist they fill out without help from you.
3. Start the process at the same time, every weeknight. Try to stick to it on the weekends, too.
4. Just do it.  After the last item in your routine, whether it be reading or praying, tuck them in, give a kiss and hug, tell em you love em and LEAVE.
5. Set limits.  If you have a yeller or a questioner, you can give them three "Question" cards, one of which they have to give you if you are summoned to their room. After a few weeks, limit it to two question cards per night, then eventually one. Or none!
6. Enjoy the serenity, now!

By the way, if your child has had an unusual day, is getting sick or had anything traumatic happen, the above tricks may not work. The same may be true about your day.  Why just last night I tried all my tricks and found myself rubbing a back for 10 minutes, after I had to physically introduce the little charmer to his room. Tonight it's back to the above, though.