Bedtime becomes less stressful for everyone if a night routine is set up for children. Our children used to call it their “ceremonies.” That framework permits children to expect bedtime and avoids their making it into a nightly exercise in avoidance. If there’s a reasonably regular structure, children actually respond more flexibly to exceptions.

    To establish a bedtime routine, make a list with your children of pre-bedtime tasks. For example, the list might include bath, dress in pajamas, get books ready for school next day, take clothes out for next day, etc.BEDTIME Ask them to tape the list to their mirror or wall. The final activities of the list might be snack, parent reading, chatting time, and quiet reading to themselves in bed. The last ones will vary with family preferences.

    Now, ask your children to follow their list and be sure that you don’t nag them through it. The last activities, snacks, story time and talk are dependent on whether the first are accomplished on time. When you explain this to your children, please be positive. Don’t threaten. Just say, for example, “I hope you hurry and do all the things on the list so we can have more time for reading tonight.”

    Once children have completed their ceremonies, explain that they must stay in their own rooms. If they insist on calling to you every few minutes or coming out to interrupt you, warn them once that if that continues, you’ll have to close and latch their door until they fall asleep. Assure them that you’ll open it once they’re asleep. Usually the warning is enough for them to know that you’re serious, but for some children, you may want to use that latch once or twice. If they’re frightened, they may leave a light on. Your intention is not to punish, but to set a definite boundary.

    Be sure to make exceptions for special occasions, weekends, or summer. Children respect fair rules better than rigid ones. However, do enforce the bedtime rules regularly for their sake and your own.


    2000 by Sylvia B. Rimm. All rights reserved. This publication, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author.