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How I Got Out of Yelling About Bedtime

Posted by Jen on September 3, 2008 at 9:57 AM in Jen
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carter on the couch
what Carter looks like by midmorning on the weekend if he doesn't get enough sleep

I'm not the world's most anxious parent, truth be told--especially now that we are out of the zero to three category of parenting where mere survival is a work of art. Now that my kids are school-aged, I'm happy to let things unfold for the most part, read up on everyone's developmental tasks and go from there.


I do have one or two areas that make me slightly mental and one of them is bedtime. I don't care if you stay up way past the sun all summer long, but come school time, I want you on the schedule and fast. I don't mind anyone crying in their cereal if he's having an honest emotional moment (not to name any names here), but please, dear God, don't let it be because you didn't get your prerequisite eleven hours of sleep. (And trust me, it's eleven.)

I promise I'm not making it up. Every year we do our annual research on how much sleep everyone needs for their specific age and stage. (Your pediatrician is your friend on this one.) Then we get out a piece of paper and factor in how much time everyone needs to actually get ready for bed and then truly fall asleep. Those numbers put together help us find the ideal bedtime. And yes, when you add in all that dawdling for a certain person in our family, that means you have to start the process at five o'clock.


But really--factoring in prep time does eliminate tons of stress for me when I have to get everyone moving. When you've already confessed you need ten books and one hour to fall asleep, you're less prone to argue when I ask you to at least get started. Now. I still struggle to get everyone in bed and asleep at the ideal hour, but at least bedtime is more of a group project and not just some edict Mom passed down from on high.

If there's one thing I don't want at the end of the day, it's any sense of being rushed or hassled or of being a bother. I don't want bedtime to be a task to be completed or a chore to be accomplished. I want my kids to end their days gently and without too much drama. Figuring out a reasonable time that my negotiating firstborn can respect and my free-wheeling second born can accept helps every single one of us so much.

When we get off track, I can confess to the kids that I'm feeling stress over the thought of everyone not getting what they need in the sleep department. That's a lot less stressful for kids to hear than me yelling, "Get to bed! You have school tomorrow!" Nobody enjoys that.

I know sleep is a very hot issue with no easy solutions. How do you navigate the Sandman at your house? How are things going for those of you trying to easy younger kids onto a first time preschool schedule? We'd love to know.


Naomi writes...

There ARE no easy solutions! We have a 1/2 day-er in our house ... we have set 8:00 as our magic bedtime for him.

We do as much outdoor playtime as we POSSIBLY can right before dinner, and again for 10-15 minutes after dinner ... then its inside for a quick (and VERY warm) bath... brush teeth (some nights), stories and a calm cd.

We've not perfected it yet though, and I shudder to think what we're going to do when it's 20 below zero, come winter.

Meg writes...

Yes! Someone that understands the logic behind a bedtime schedule! We have always, since the kids were babies, had a very set routine at bedtime and that has helped us all along. No surprises and just going through the routine gets everyone feeling sleepy.

However. I have one of those night owls, grumpy in the morning critters. Starting bedtime at 5 pm would probably not be a stretch for us. That is absolutely what I need to work on, starting the process earlier so I'm not continually saying, "move along". I hate having battles at the end of the day, I want cuddles and happy reflections!

Karen writes...

This is a tough issue to negotiate! I am the guardian/caregiver of a special needs adolescent, and the Sandman is unfortunately an unwelcomed visitor. Bedtime can get way out of control until sleep deprivation sinks our ship! I am most successful when mentioning morning plans instead of the "B" word -- "sleep well so we can get up early to go to the farmer's market (or a coffee stop, or breakfast at home ...) before I drive you to your volunteer job" or whatever is planned for his day, and then I go to work. I also tie meeting bedtime to his weekly allowance - after it soaks in, this is a fantastic incentive. Pay 'em to sleep! I have no shame - it's out of sheer desperation.

Rebekah writes...

Bedtime is never a fight in our house, but this is why. I get into bed with my daughter for about 15-20 minutes and snuggle with her until she is calm and then I slip away. We put on calming music and I softly recap the day or read a soothing story. I turn out the lights and she drifts off. I love it because it makes me slow down and sometimes I fall asleep with her and get a quick catnap in! It may not work for everyone, but when I say it's bedtime, she heads right up the stairs.

simone writes...

My little girl was always the one who took quick naps, gave up napping early as a toddler and now her bedtime is later and later, in part because she's discovered that she can read in bed if she wants (or rather, look at pictures since she's only 4). I don't love this new development, even if she's quiet in bed, so I'm wondering about this question myself. It's really true that a very physical day is the only way to make bedtime go smoothly but that's not always the case. Maybe we'll take up running around the block in the afternoons.

PS. Yay! I'm so glad you're doing this blog. I've been reading your Minti advice for a long time now and was always checking to see if there were new posts!

Rebecca writes...

I just wanted to let you know that I am LOVING this blog. I just worked my way through the archives and I am so glad I found you! I'm looking forward to reading more from all of you - great job!

Heather writes...

Such a great thing to write about! Naptime & bedtime are usually when "Monster Mommy" comes to life. As a mother of 3 girls (almost 5, 3, and 6 mos.), I have come to hate most of the aspects of bedtime. There are those moments, though, when my 3 yr. old will come out for "one more kiss" or my 4 yr. old will yell out "I love you, Mom. . .even when you're mad" that make me realize how soon this stage will pass. It won't be long before I'm looking out the window at curfew, listening to them talk about boys, or missing them on sleepover nights! In this season of life, I often lose it at bedtime, but try to cherish those sweet moments that will be gone too quickly!

carol writes...

I too am adamant about my kids getting the sleep they need. And the later it gets without them soundly asleep the more stressed I get. I have even resorted to using Melatonin on occasion. Also, essential oils that are calming.

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