How to Get Your Kids to Bed Early!


By Jenna Hall

Have you seen this comedic clip from Jim Gaffigan? One of our favorite parts is on getting your kids to bed. It makes my husband and I laugh so hard, because we totally get it. We have been there, negotiating with our children to JUST STAY IN YOUR ROOM. There was a time when we would have done anything, or, ahem, did do anything to keep them in their rooms so we could have a few minutes of adult time to ourselves. But for all the bribes and back scratches and one-more-story’s, nothing was getting us closer to putting them to bed early and getting them to stay there. Until I had had enough.

When child number three moved to her sister’s room, things got serious. My husband starting traveling up to 200 days a year and I found myself waking up with the kids, spending all day with them, and then negotiating bedtime all evening, finally falling asleep with them. I had NO time to myself, no time to clean the house or pay bills or even read a magazine article, and after the hundredth time of coming downstairs to make breakfast and having to first clean up dinner, I was close to a breakdown. My kids’ bedtime routine was not sustainable.

I had to make a change. And I did. My four kids all go to bed at the same time, a little before 7pm. Once bath time is over, I plan on about 15 minutes of getting them in jammies and into bed. Here’s what worked for me:

Be consistent. I think this is the most important thing you can do. Whatever you choose to do, do it with consistency. Once you have bedtime down, you can make an exception for a late night here and there.

Do not be apologetic!  This may tie with the above as the most important thing you can do in this process. We don’t apologize for making them wear their seatbelts do we? Take that same mental approach as you tackle bedtime.

Don’t feel obligated to read bedtime stories. Read to them during the day instead. Or if the bedtime book is an important part of your child’s winding-down routine, rent books-on-tape from your local library and play books for them. Between three kids and two bedrooms, I was spending an hour reading books at bedtime. Books on tape saved me.

Give only one chance. For water, a special toy, using the bathroom. Preferably before they even get into bed. Once you have said goodnight and are out of the room, you are done being the waiter/grabber/million-kisser-back-scratcher. Give yourself permission to say no.

In the beginning you may need to tell them a non-negotiable comforting excuse as to why you cannot come back into the room right away. In the early days, I would tell them goodnight and that I had to go downstairs and do the dishes or nurse the baby. It’s not like you are having fun without them.

Tell them you will come back and check on them. As time goes by, stretch the check in longer and longer, until you are only checking on them before you go to sleep.

Do your kids go to bed and stay there? Or not? What has worked for you?

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