If you have children, chances are good that at some point you've felt like bedtime is out of control. We've all been there. Stressing out over bedtime is bad for parents and kids alike—so not only do easier bedtimes mean better sleep for children, but they also mean more quiet time for parents! What would you say if I told you that the secret to family happiness, especially at bedtime, is fewer rules? Here are some easy suggestions for changes that could make all the difference:
1. Decide what rules are important to you and lay out your expectations plainly. For example, "After dinner, I expect you to wash your hands and faces, brush your teeth, and put on pajamas." If your children are younger, expect to remind them pretty much daily.
2. Read together. Expand on the usual a quick bedtime story—or bring it back if your kids are older—by making it an event! Family story hour sounds like a thing of the past, but it's a great opportunity to share reads from your childhood with your children. Let everyone choose something—a younger child may really need to hear a favorite picture book, while Mom or Dad may want to share The Wind In The Willows or another favorite. If you have older children, you may find a new favorite yourself!
3. Enforce quiet time rather than bedtime. This might mean the family spending time together quietly in shared living space, or it might mean children playing quietly in their rooms, or some other combination—every family is different. If this doesn't work now, try it again when your children are a little bit more independent.
4. If getting up in the morning is a concern (for school, work, etc.), enforce a lights out time—but try going without for a bit first. Most children will self-regulate once they've gotten a little freedom out of their systems.
5. Make family movie night a regular thing. On weeknights, it probably makes more sense to choose a shorter show, but your family mileage may vary. (Some studies suggest screens before bed are not conducive to sleep. Do what works best for you.)
And a bonus suggestions, just for the adults:
6. Preload the coffeepot for tomorrow. You won't regret it…unless you aren't a coffee drinker!
Annika Barranti Klein is a homeschooling mother of two in Los Angeles, where she also runs a knitting pattern design business and officiates women's banked track roller derby. She blogs sporadically at Pig & Pepper (www.noirbettie.com/blog).