Are you looking for tips to help you get your kids to go to sleep and stay in bed? Try these ideas from parents who have been there.
Cleaning Up Bedtime
No matter what I said, my grade-school kids would find all kinds of excuses to get out of bed after being tucked in for the night. Putting them back to bed over and over again left me frazzled. But that changed after I created one simple rule: Any child who got out of bed was given a chore.
Suddenly, staying up didn't feel like a privilege. My children didn't wonder what the sibling staying up was doing. They knew their sibling was doing a chore.
Complaining decreased, and chores helped wear out the child who wasn't sleepy. This chore rule also helped my children remember to finish their bedtime routine (e.g., get a drink of water) before going to bed. And it reduced my stress because it was hard to feel cranky when the children were helping me clean the house.
When a child really needed to talk about something, I gave my kids a chore to complete with me. I have had some great conversations with my children while we folded laundry or dried dishes.
My husband and I would carry, rock and entertain my 3-month-old to stop his fussing and get him to sleep. One day, I was too tired. He had just gotten over a cold and had been especially difficult. I sat down, and with my head against his, I hummed into his ear. He calmed right down. Then he rested his head on my chest, and I continued to hum. Soon he was asleep.
The Sleep Garden
To help my daughter choose to stay and sleep in her own room, I taped a sheet of construction paper to the refrigerator. On the paper, I wrote the words: Watch my garden grow! Each time she lasted an entire night in her room, we pasted a beautiful paper flower on it. At the bottom was a legend with rewards: Three flowers equaled a new book. Five earned her ice cream from the grocery store. About a month later, we all had consistent nights of peaceful sleep.
When our children were young, they became talkative at bedtime. To take advantage of this special time when they felt gabby and reflective, I set bedtime a half hour earlier. This ritual helped my husband and me connect with our kids as they processed their day. Since they grew accustomed to talking about important matters, it became natural for them to talk about faith issues with us, too.
—Becky Cerling Powers
Lulling Them to Sleep
My 7-year-old son, Dante, has fought sleep almost from the day he was born. One night Dante and I were snuggling in a big comfy chair, and it was clear he wasn't going to sleep on time. I picked up the book I had been enjoying and began reading to him as I would a picture book. After a page and a half, he fell asleep in my arms. Reading aloud is the most effective thing I've tried to get my son to sleep.
Kids' Bedtime Worries
For years, my daughter's nighttime anxieties made it difficult for her to fall asleep, and she would routinely get up by midnight to let me know she was still awake. When she was 7, I created a "bedtime tools" scrapbook to address her specific fears and concerns. I instructed her to turn on her light and read it before coming out of her room.
Inside were five reminders, including "Say your prayers and ask God to help you relax" and "Daddy and Mommy are nearby, and you are not alone." The book included pictures, such as us smiling, and simple Bible verses. The final instructive read, "Still awake? Stop worrying, pick a verse (such as Psalm 4:8), and meditate on it."
It worked! My daughter found comfort — and sleep — in reminding herself of truth when she was afraid.
Transitioning to Big-Kid Bedtime
With six kids ages 1 to 9, we have two bedtimes in our home. The younger ones are in bed by 7 p.m. The older siblings get an extra hour of reading and talking until 8 p.m. Our 4-year-old has shown that he’s ready to transition to the later bedtime, and he’s not napping every day anymore.
To help with the transition, we’ve set a rule: On days he naps, he is allowed to stay up until 8 p.m. But no nap means the earlier bedtime. This rule heads off any arguments — and ensures that we don’t have a grumpy 4-year-old in the evenings.
It might not work for every kid, but it’s been a good system to help our son get the sleep he needs while moving up to big-kid bedtime.
Singing Bedtime Prayers
My husband and I prayed the Lord's Prayer over our two boys at bedtime, but they never responded to it. Then one evening I decided to sing it and made up a tune.
When I was done, our younger son exclaimed, "Again!" and our older son began to hum along.
Eventually, both sang it with us, so we continued doing this for years. The downside? When others asked our boys if they said their bedtime prayers, they said no. We had to explain that they singthem.