Kids have to go to bed-for their sakes and ours. By the time the magical hour rolls around, parents are far more ready for it than the kids. At least that's how it appears. Actually, the kids are ready, too, they just don't recognize it. Staying up as late as they can seems to be the goal of nearly every child, no matter how tired they may be.
Here are a some suggestions that may make bedtime more peaceful for you and them.
1. Don't boss them to bed
Kids resist being bossed. In aforum address at Brigham Young University, Liz Wiseman, suggested a better way. She said she usually she gave a list of bedtime commands to her children: "'Time for bed. Get your pajamas on. Brush your teeth. Time for a book. Say your prayers. Get in bed. Go to sleep.'" A colleague suggested she try using questions instead.
She said, "I was intrigued by the challenge. That evening I asked, 'Kids, what time is it?' And they said, 'Bedtime.' 'Who needs help getting their pajamas on? Who's going to be first to brush their teeth? What story are we going to read?' They responded with remarkable understanding of our bedtime routine. My last question was, 'Who's ready for bed?' They gleefully raced to get into their beds. I was left wondering, 'How long have they known all this?'"
2. Stay calm
When parents lose patience and start yelling at their kids, it only goes from bad to worse. Even though you're exhausted and would love to be the one crawling in bed instead of them, show a little patience and keep calm. Impatience and loud commands cause children to resist whatever a parent may be wanting them to do.
If you feel a yell coming on, try this: Bite your tongue and take a deep breath. In fact, take three or four deep breaths. A little more oxygen in the brain may make a clearer path to more peaceful communication. Say to yourself, 'Speak softly.' Remember that Bible passage, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Proverbs 15:1, NIV)
3. Remember how much you love these little ones
Close your eyes and think for just a moment or two how much you adore these unwilling little beings. They are precious and deserve a pleasant few minutes before they settle into dreamland. Which brings up the point: Enjoy them. The day will come far too soon when they will be grown up and gone. It will happen. The time you take now to show your love to them will reap great rewards in their future. You will be amazed at how much happier you are when you take the time to make their bedtime a pleasant experience.
Instead of sending them to bed, escort them. Not as a drill sergeant but as a loving parent. Help them with their prayers, tuck them into bed, then stick around a few minutes. Read a story, sing a favorite bedtime song, or let them talk about their day. Show them you love them enough to linger a few minutes. Then kiss them, tell them you love them, and say "Good night."
Nothing is quite so maddening as, after tucking them into bed, you hear, "Mommy, I want a drink of water." When you give them the drink before bedtime, you might mention that there will be no more drinks until morning. Fair warning helps. If they are not reminded, they may try for another one. Also, make sure they go potty before climbing into bed.
6. Reward their good bedtime behavior
How about surprising them now and then by saying something like, "You have all been so good about going to bed on time that we want to let you stay up late this one time and watch a movie with us." Or, "We're going to go out for some ice cream, because you've all been so good about going to bed on time." Think of something you know they'll enjoy and tie it to how good they've been about their bedtime manners. It doesn't have to be often but periodically. It may be the cherry on top that keeps them motivated to be obedient at bedtime.
These are just a few ideas that may help this family ritual be more pleasant. Your kids will be happier and so will you.