Bedtime Rituals, Bedtime Routines
Berkeley Parents Network >
Bedtime Rituals, Bedtime Routines
My husband and I are struggling with how to handle our 3.5 year
old son's bedtime routine. I'd like him to be in bed, lights
our by 8:00 PM and I have a simple routine of books, pajamas,
teeth brushed, and rocking with music that takes about 30
minutes. When my husband isn't home, this is what I've done and
it's worked pretty well. Upstairs at 7:30, lights out at 8:00PM.
On weekends, my husband is home and he has different ideas. He
takes up to an hour for bedtime reading many more books, giving
in to requests for ''one more...'' and usually starts putting him
to bed at 8:00 so he's really not done untill 9:00PM.
On occasion, my husband will be home early enough to put him to
bed on weeknights and here lies the problem. Because we do
things differently, my son has come to prefer having his dad
put him to bed (and I can't blame him, he gets everything he
wants and gets to stay up an hour later) and he is fighting me
to stay up until his dad comes home so that he can have Dad put
him to bed. What's worse is, his dad will often tell him that
he's going to ''try to get home in time'' to put him to bed, but
often doesn't so my son cries and whines refusing to let me put
him to bed.
We have two children, the babys routine, thankfully is quite
simple. But I am exhausted by the end of the day (I also work)
and want both children in bed by 8:00 PM so that I can have
some much needed quiet time. I've asked my husband to stick to
the same routine that I do at the same time, he says he will,
but then just does it his way. He says I'm too rigid, but I
think he really just enjoys knowing his son prefers him.
Short of just giving up and letting dad put him to bed, at
whatever hour, what can I do? I've been quite sad about this,
each night my son whines on and on about wanting Dad on
weeknights when I'm not sure when dad will be home, but I'm
ready to call it a night. The hours between 6-8 are horrible. I
feel so defeated and unnapreciated.
The problem with these sorts of conflicts with a preschooler is that it
into a power struggle and the preschooler has a lot more energy and will
win! Nip the problem in the bud and just don't fight him. Let your
husband put him
to bed. Either your husband will get sick and tired of the inevitably
longer process and will switch to a routine similar to yours, or you all
yourself with this new routine that takes one more responsibility off of
Also, it sounds like you are on the verge of taking it personally,
having your feelings
hurt by your kid's reaction. Remember that he's just a little kid and
wants to have
more say in his life. Its not personal. He loves you just the same.
i have a similar situation though my son is younger and i think
my husband will go for the argument that DS will sleep better
(fewer wakings in the night, will feel more rested in the
morning) if he goes to bed by 7:30. could you use that
argument with your husband?
It sounds to me like you need to get strong and lay down the rules for
your son AND your husband. Unless your husband is willing to come home
early and help out or simply take over, he has no right to question how
things or undermine your parenting. And it is very unfare of him to tell
that he will try to come home early and put him to bed and then he
show up. That's totally NOT FARE to you or your son. Not only does it
undermine you, but it is hurting your son. Your son is filled with hope
anticipation that his father will come home soon and put him to bed.
this do to him everytime his father doesn't show up? What kind of
he sending to his son? It shouldn't be up to you to fulfil that hope and
awake. It is the responsibility of your husband to fulfil his promis and
mislead his son or give him false hope. You also need to tell him that
exhausting for you to have to battle with the bedtime routine. Your
needs to understand how important it is for children to get plenty of
how improtant it is for a routine, and especially how important it is
for you to
get both children in bed at the same time at 8PM SO THAT YOU CAN REST!
Does your husband really need to work late? If so, then he needs to
that you are having to work extra hard after you come home from work
care of the kids and putting them to bed. If he feels like he needs to
with his son and spend quality time, then he needs to come up with a
plan that doesn't cause stress for you or interferes with your routine
children. He needs to either come home early and put his son to bed by
he needs to wait until the weekend and spend the whole day with his son
still put him to bed by 8PM. If he wants to read him a lot of stories,
he can do
that during the day.
I swear, when I was reading your post, I was thinking, ''Did I write a
post to BPN and
forget?'' I have your EXACT problem! I am sure my friends will think I
wrote it -
except I don't have a job. I have no advice, my husband and I even went
for 6 months over this exact issue, and...nothing changed. Except we
ran out of
money, with the cost of therapy and babysitting. All I can say is, if
you want an
understanding ear, e-mail me. I have stopped talking about it with my
mommy friends because I think I am becoming annoying. But the therapist
was terrific, her name is Claire Stone and she has a website - you can
You may have better luck than us.
Another frustrated mommy/wife
Good job getting the kids in the routine! If it were me, I'd
offer my husband a couple of options, and explain how difficult
it is to essentially be a single parent most nights of the week.
1. If you want to come home earlier and start the routine
earlier so they're still in bed by 8, then great.
2. If you are dealing with the kids all the time and you want to
do it your way, then great.
3. Since I have to deal with the aftermath of the routine when
it's messed up, if you can't come home earlier/get the kids up
and out in the morning, etc., then you have to get the kids in
bed by 8 or let me do it. Period. This is a problem.
I envy you being so organized as to get something done in the
evening, and it is hard when you're a ''single parent.'' You can
also try telling your husband that it's great that your son
wants him to do the routine, but it needs to be a routine that
works for both of you. Kindly but firmly, if you can, you need
to educate your husband.
How about making the rule that it's your schedule during the
week and his during the weekend? That's a simple enough rule
for your 3.5 year old to understand. That'll give you ''your
time'' during the week when you REALLY need it. And then
(hopefully) your husband helps out on the weekends so that 9
p.m. is not as exhausting as it would be during the week for you.
On the bright side, it's nice that your husband wants to see
your kids at the end of the day. There are families where the
children go to bed by 7:30 or earlier, with parents who come
home home regularly after the kids' bedtimes.
I think that you should be way too exhausted to have sex if your son
get to bed until 9. But if your son gets to bed at 8, you are raring to
Try that and see if your husband figures out what's in his best
interest. Mine did.
"Consequences" work with everyone
My main thought was that I wondered whether it would be possible to make
permanent shift in your son's bedtime to 9 pm, while also trying to get
him to get
up an hour later. Could your entire routine be shifted throughout the
day so that
lunch is an hour later, etc. and the baby's naptimes too?
I was thinking if everything could be shifted an hour later, then your
son and his
father would have more time together during the week, which may be what
this is all
about. It's great that your son's dad really wants to spend time with
him after work
and put him to bed. I'm sure your son is yearning for that time to
connect with his
dad. My son, who is 2, has a really hard time if he doesn't get to spend
at least an
hour with his dad each day. Your son may be feeling the same thing. My
too has an awful work schedule, but I try to shift bedtimes/dinner times
a bit each
day to make it more likely that they'll be able to see each other. It
work, but when it does, it's really great for both of them to have that
Best of luck,
Yes you do need time to unwind at the end of a long day and
9:00 pm becomes too late for you. May I suggest that, you and
your husband agree that he take on the more flexible, longer-
lasting, later bed time routine which fits his style on Fridays
and Saturdays when you and he do not have the preasures of the
work day ahead of you the next day. You can do some relaxing
while your husband is doing the bed time routine. During the
week however, you take on the bed time earlier routine. If you
institute this consistantly, even call it ''weekend go to bed''
and ''weektime go to bed'' to clearly distinguish the difference
and give your son no options in the matter, he will adjust to
the routine, but it must be a routine. This way you all get at
least some of what you want. Good luck!
My husband and I seem to be at an impasse regarding an
appropiate bedtime for our toddler. Early on in our son's
life my husband expressed an interest in bathing him and
reading him a story before bedtime. I have been supportive of
him completely as I am a stay at home mom and felt this was
good for father and son I feel a reasonable time to start the
bath is 7pm or shortly after so that our son is ready to
transition to bed by 8pm. My husband has really never got it
together and seems to always be finished by 8:30pm or 9pm. He
does not seem to understand that bedtime rituals is a time to
wind down not gear up. (my husband is a night owl, our son is
not). I am concerned about the wellbeing of our household. I
would appreciate any suggestion, especially from fathers on
how to be firm in making this happen closer to the time I see
as appropiate for a 2 year old.
Tell your husband that a child this age needs about 12-14 hours
of sleep a night. If going to bed that late deprives your
child of a full night of sleep, then your child is at risk for
growth, development and behavioral problems.
I am father, who also does the nighttime ritual with my two
young sons. My wife works most nights, and it's been mostly my
responsibility since the boys were babies. But like at your
house, my wife and I have been at constant odds about the
timing of bedtime. I know now our disagreement arises from a
number of different issues. First, my wife can't control the
ritual when she's not there, so too easily makes the assumption
that it's not done right. I sense you're suffering the same
frustration, as you said that you and your husband are at an
impasse. I suspect the only one in the relationship feeling
that there is an impasse is you: as the bedtime ritual is the
one thing you can't exclusively control, you may too easily
make the assumption that it's not done right. Perhaps you also
blame your husband for a late-night bedtime whenever your child
is a little cranky on any day. Second, men and women think
differently about time. A woman may say ''8:30 bedtime'' but
more probably means a process of reducing activity that centers
around an average of in-bed but not yet asleep at 8:30. A man
may more typically think 8:30 applies to only a component of
bed-time, like falling asleep on the dot at 8:30. It's a
difficult thing to achieve. Third, there's no good time to
start the process of going to bed. Depending on the activities
of the day, my children ! will go to bed readily or not readily
at all. One has to read their energy levels, and start the
process accordingly. Often I do try to get them going, playing
and wrestling with them, to get the energy out they haven't yet
had a chance to release during the day. What I've done to help
reduce the blame of late-night bedtimes, is to mark on a chart
on the wall in the children's bedroom, timing and content of
each nighttime: time-in-bed,time
asleep,activities,reading,bath/no bath,problems like sickness.
Of course, it's no picnic to have to try and prove parenting
competencies etc to one's own spouse. But what I've found is
that my in-bed average does center on the same ''bedtime''
insisted by my wife, though the actual time varies
considerably, and time-asleep can be widely variable. It's
been useful too for monitoring nighttime activities (always
some reading, less TV than I had thought, ! different games and
A stay at home when not at work Dad
You might think about how it matters that baby gets to bed late.
I have to start the bedtime routine by 7 or my daughter gets to
bed at 830 or 900, which is too late for me, particularly since
we have to get up early in the morning. On the other hand, if I
were a SAHM, and my husband actually had the initiative to do
it, I'd probably welcome it either way. If it works for you
except for the time, maybe you can encourage your husband to
start earlier in other ways, such as asking for a little time so
the two of you can visit, watch a show, play a game, cuddle,
etc., and ask him if he minds if you remind him to start
earlier. For me, I just have to do it myself, and start when it
works for me, although I'm working on having him help more.
(Although he cleans up the kitchen, my husband gets to relax for!
up to an hr while I do the bedtime routine, then I have to do
other cleanup and prep, which tends to annoy me, but he sees it
as his free time... so I would welcome the help!).
If the later bedtime is negatively affecting your son's behavior
or health, then I am sure that pointing this out to Daddy would
be enough to get him to at least make an effort toward starting
the bedtime ritual earlier. But if the only reason you want
your son to be asleep earlier is your own concept of what
is ''appropriate'' for his age, I think the best solution to the
problem is for you to adjust your expectations, rather than for
Daddy to change his habits. If Daddy is in charge of bedtime,
then Daddy is in charge of bedtime, and that includes the time.
In my own household, by the way, both parents work and on a
somewhat later schedule than most people, so a traditional early
bedtime has never been practical. My son's bedtime has never
been earlier than 9pm, and by ''bedtime'' I mean that's when he's
in pajamas and in bed being read to -- he doesn't actually fall
asleep until somewhere between 9:30 and 10:00 most of the time.
He gets enough sleep and wakes happy, so I think that's
perfectly appropriate. In fact, when he was 2, he tended to go
to bed later rather than earlier, because there was no
particular reason he had to get up at any set time in the
morning until he started preschool.
Obviously your own household is different and it may be more
convenient for you to have your son in bed earlier -- but if
it's more convenient for his father to put him in bed later, and
it's not causing your son to sleep poorly or behave badly, I
think you should leave well enough alone.
Night Owl Mom
Our son is two also and we do the same thing you do- bathe
him and read a story. We also want him to bed at 8 but it
always seems to be later. I used to think the later the better-
more time for 2 working parents to spend with him, but I've
realized that's selfish, and he needs his sleep more. What
helped to actually get him down right at 8 or even 7:45 was
to have dinner early, like around 6. (and as all working
families know, that's no easy task when you get home at
4:30 or 5) So if we have dinner at 6, then by 6:30 one of us
can give him a bath while the other clean! s up. He's in his
p.j.'s by 7 and you've got an entire hour to read books, have
a bottle, nurse, or whatever. He's very relaxed when he's in
his jammies and spending time with us. He's not worried
about going to bed or anything. It seems like the key was the
early dinner (or if you already eat at that time, put him right in
the bath after dinner) so everything else can take a little
I have a 3 and 5 year old, and struggling with ways to get them to brush
their teeth, put on pajama's , and stay in bed. any fun suggestions/tips?
anything? thank you so much.
We use a timer and race to get everything done. It works like a charm.
I usually set it for about 10 minutes and then dramatically and
frantically try to beat the clock with lots of cheering when we do. As
far as staying in bed, I used a chart. The got a smiley face for
every night they stayed in bed and a frownie face if they got out of
bed. The smiley face was accompanied with lots of high fives and ''You
did its!'' I highly recommend the book ''How to Behave So Your
Children Will Too'' for more tips.
Have you tried a bedtime chart, made with their help, that shows
each task to be done before bed? Kids seem to get a kick out
of ''checking off'' each step.
And regarding staying in bed, we tried something that sounded
too simple to be true, but it worked. Each time our son got out
of bed, I would kindly and gently but wordlessly lead him back
to bed and tuck him in. Since I'm not speaking, there's no way
to get wrapped up in the game to see how long he can keep me
there. And seriously: 2 nights and he was done getting out of
bed. Good luck.
I actually just accidentally discovered a so-far quite effective
way of keeping my 4 yr old and 2 yr old in bed after lights-out.
I put on a CD or story tape at low-volume and let them listen to
it until they fall asleep. The 4 yr old in particular doesn't
want to miss any of it, so she stays in bed, and they always are
asleep before it finishes.
We have always been oriented toward the attachment parenting
side of nightime parenting but the ever-lengthening bedtime
ritual with our 2 1/2 year old son is now eating up every second
of my personal time I have after working all day. Since he's
been in his big boy bed, (about 4 months now) he won't go to
sleep unless I actually lie down with him. (This is after
reading or telling him stories for a good hour!) I love the
snuggling and closeness but half the time I fall asleep with him
and wake up at 10:30 pm. I've tried leaving him to let him fall
asleep alone but he just keeps yelling and crying for me and it
doesn't feel right to have him fall asleep in anger and misery.
He won't let my husband put him to bed at night if I'm around as
he's into a very serious ''Mommy-only'' phase right now so it's
not even like we can take turns. He wakes up once at night
usually and will come into bed with us to finish sleeping or
will go back to sleep if we hang out with him by his bed. I can
handle this but I'm really starting to get a little nuts from
feeling like the only way to get him to fall asleep is to end my
evening at 8:30 and just lie down and fall asleep with him. I'm
sure I'not the only one out there. Has anybody successfully
helped make this transition?
I hear you on the long bedtime rituals. Ours were also very
long in the beginning of the Big Boy bed. At about 2 1/2
though, my son also gave up naps for good, and so his bedtime is
now earlier (like between 7 and 7:30 if no nap) and he also
falls asleep more quickly it seems. I still read him stories,
but tell him to pick only 2 (short) books (from the ones we keep
in his room for just this occasion. You can edit!!!) Sometimes
I tell him that I need to do something else (use the potty,
clean up upstairs etc) and that I will come right back, and by
the time I come back he is asleep. Sometimes I lie in the bed
or sit on a stool by the bed until he falls asleep, mainly now
because we have another new baby and this is some of the only
really ''alone'' time we have with each other. I think with time
as they get used to sleeping alone that they require less
routine. BUT you really need to set the limits of time (maybe
start earlier) and also of #'s of books/stories etc. in the
routine instead of just doing whatever they ask, and then they
will probably follow. As an interesting note to this, when I go
out for the evening to a class and my husband puts my son to
bed, he gives him a drink, tucks him in, kisses him goodnight
and my son goes to sleep without a big fight at all. This
abbreviated bedtime comes as a result of us now having two kids
when only one parent is available at bedtime and so not being
able to devote so much time to just one at a time.
Interestingly enough, my son was also at a ''Mommy Only!!'' phase
at this age and has pretty much gotten over it by now (3 years
and 3 months) though he still prefers me when he has a choice.
He would not let my husband go to him in the night, get him
dressed, or even serve him breakfast if I were around six months
ago. I gather from friends and other posts in this newsletter
this is very common at your son's age, and be comforted he will
outgrow it, especially as you can reason and discuss more with
him with his expanding verbal and reasoning capabilities.
I am in the exact same place as you... with my 3.5-year-old. So I
don't have the sort of advice you're looking for, but if you
can't bite the bullet (like me) here are some things we have done
to make the process easier:
1) My husband does all the getting ready for bed stuff (teeth,
washing up, etc.) and reads the bedtime stories. She accepts
this, knowing that I will put her to sleep. This gives me some
free time. I tell her that if she doesn't cooperate for her dad,
I won't come up at all. It's also good for my daughter and her
dad to have that time together. (If this proves impossible, i'd
also suggest cutting the storytime back. We've imposed some
limits, such as 2-3 very short books, 1 long book, etc.)
2) I put an armchair next to her bed. Often I can just sit in the
chair while she goes to sleep (again, one can threaten that it's
either Mom-in-the-chair or No-mom-at-all). Or sometimes I sit on
the bed with her head on a pillow in my lap. Sitting up keeps me
3) Shortly after the lights go out I enforce quiet rules. If she
can't be quiet, I leave the room for a minute.
4) I try (and this isn't easy) to focus on positive things while
i sit or lie there with her -- like nice things we did that day.
I try to avoid thinking about the long list of other things i
need to be doing. Also, sometimes when I sit or lie there in the
dark, I try to use the time constructively -- practice a yoga
stretch, if she won't notice, do some of the deep breathing and
relaxation exercises that i'm supposed to do (of course, that can
lead to sleep...)
5) Sometimes, especially when she's having a late bedtime and
maybe I'm extra tired, I just accept the fact that I am going to
fall asleep. I get ready for bed and climb in with her. If I
wake up extra early as a result then I can have some free time in
6) For a period, when she was really obsessed with being a big
girl, I told her that big girls go to sleep on there own. This
actually worked a couple nights! But now she's in a regressive,
baby stage, and that argument won't get us anywhere. But if yours
goes through an eager-to-be-older stage, try it.
It's sounds like you are really trying hard. You must be so
tired. My husband and I did not go the attachment parenting
route. We developed a routine with our son early on that
involved reading 3 books, then cuddle time while listening to a
toy that plays music and shows ceiling lights (the up side is
that when the music ends, we have a clearly designated time to
get up, and leave the room), and good night kisses. Although
our son had been used to this routine since he was about 5
months, at 2 and a half, he suddenly seemed to have difficulty
with us leaving the room. It was startling for us, because it
hadn't been an issue until then. For several months, we began
staying with him until he fell asleep. But, this didn't work
for us for two reason. First, he seemed to stay awake longer
trying to be sure that we did not leave him. And, second, since
we both work and rise very early, if our son is not asleep on
his own by 8:45 (we start bedtime around 8 or 8:15) we have no
time at all with each other and no time either to prepare for
the next day or just wind down as adults. Even though I love my
son and cherish our time together, I began to feel resentful and
a bit desperate that there was no time during the day for me or
for me to have time with my husband. It didn't seem like the
best way to have time with my son, and it also didn't seem like
it was making him feel more secure. So, we went back to using
the music as our cut off time. Also, we do the bedtime routine
together. My husband does the toothbrush routine. I usually
read the stories - but sometimes my husband reads one or two and
I read the last one - and sometimes we just all three lie
together in our son's bed while we read. Then, I cuddle for one
song. When it ends, my husband comes in and cuddles for one
song. (This way we each get a little trade off time too - a few
moments to ourselves which feels nice as well.) When the song
ends for the second time, my husband goes out. Our son took a
while to get used to us going out again, and that was hard.
But, it felt important to me that my husband and I also get a
little time together as adults. If our son became very upset
after my husband left, I would go back in, kiss and sit with him
a moment, explain that we would leave the door open, we would be
in the living room, if he needed anything we would be right
there - but, that mommy and daddy need a little special adult
time together, and it was time for him to go to sleep. If
necessary, I would repeat this a couple of times - the
explanation, kiss and exit - each time explaining that mommy and
daddy needed a little time as adult time. Eventually, he seemed
to accept this and stopped calling out. You really do deserve
some time at the end of the day to yourself. It's important. I
find that it makes me much happier and much better able to be
the kind of patient and loving parent and person that I strive
to be the rest of the day.
My daughter needed for us to cuddle her or lay down with her in
order for her to fall asleep or fall back asleep until age 2.
At age 2, we moved her to a bed and gradually eased her into
falling asleep on her own. At about 2 and 3 months, she was
able to fall asleep on her own and sleep through the night
(hooray!!!) Here's what we did:
1. Made several tapes of me reading stories. Play tape while
falling asleep (I think in addition to getting to hear me, she
had to lay still to hear the tape which helped her fall asleep.)
2. Transition from cuddling/laying next to to sitting in a
chair beside the bed and holding her hand or rubbing her back.
This involved some crying/begging at first, but I stuck
to ''Mommy can't lay next to you, but I would love to hold your
hand/rub your back.'' After about a week, no more crying.
3. Then sit next to the bed without touch (again, initial
crying, but passed within a week)
4. Then, gradually move chair out the door (several week
5. Then, I would sit outside the door for a few minutes and
then say ''Mommy needs to . . .(some chore) I'll come back in a
6. That was it. We still play the tape for night and nap, but
other than that, our daughter falls asleep on her own and it
wasn't too painful. Again, it was about a 2 month process, but
it seemed like a loving transition.
Hope that helps.
We have a CD of lullabies that we have played while my son
nursed to sleep since he was born. It is now the last step of
his bedtime routine; I push ''play'' as soon as we finish reading
the last of three (and only three!) books/stories. When,
shortly after he moved to a 'big boy bed', he developed a habit
of a lot of wriggling around, refusing to nurse, refusing to
settle, etc. we made a rule that Mommy only stays with him while
the music is playing, and leaves when it stops whether he's
asleep or not. If he is still awake and messing around by the
time the second- or third-to-last song begins, I start warning
him that Mommy is going to leave soon, when the music ends, and
usually that's enough to get him to settle down. When it's not,
I get up and leave anyway; sometimes Daddy goes in to soothe him
and take a turn lying down with him, and sometimes my son asks
to go to sleep in Mommy and Daddy's bed (even without us there)
instead of his own, but he got used to the new rule pretty
quickly and most of the time he's asleep well before we're
anywhere near the end of the lullabies.
The other thing that has really helped is to adjust his naptime
a bit earlier, and we've made an effort to have dinner a little
earlier as well. That way, he's more ready to sleep at bedtime!
I do still fall asleep in his bed sometimes, usually when I'm
low on sleep myself. But usually I keep myself awake by
reading; a small directional lamp on his headboard helped a
lot. And if my husband notices that the music has stopped and I
haven't appeared, he'll come and nudge me. :-) I figure if I'm
that tired, I should spend my ''personal time'' sleeping anyway.
So it works out.
Here is what you can do, it worked for us. At 2 1/2, they
understand what is going on. You can say that, in order for you
to be a good mother, you need him to sleep on his own so you can
get some time to yourself. Then put him to bed. Put a gate at
his door if you think he is going to get out of his bed and
say: ''You can cry if you want to but I am not coming back. You
need to go to sleep now. I love you.'' Then when he cries, send
your partner. When he sleeps, take the gate off. It took about a
week for our first two kids. It's hard though but I needed some
time too and I was a better mom the next day...
I'm tired of arguing with my husband about our 2 1/2 year old
daughter's bedtime ritual. He thinks it's too ornate. It takes
about half an hour to 40 minutes (including pajama-ing and teeth-
brushing). I read her a book or 2, we read a couple of pages of
Goodnight Moon (she flips thru the book really fast), I turn off
all of the lights and nurse her while playing 2 mellow songs and
then I sit w/ her for a few minutes in a chair in her room.
Does that seem excessive to you? What is your bedtime routine and
how old is your kid? I'm curious to know, too, how it has changed
as your child gets older. Thanks!
Your bedtime ritual sounds pretty normal to me. You have to get
them in their jammies and brush their teeth. My only suggestion
to you would be that whatever you do, you'll end up having to do
the same thing every night because kids don't like change.
Eventually you may want to eliminate the bedtime nurse and
sitting til she falls asleep. It is really a matter of when you
get tired of it. I eliminated the bed time nurse by having my
husband take over the actual putting to bed, including the
reading of the books. He reads two books and no more - (because
otherwise there is negotiations to read more, also the books get
longer as they get older). My son has a ritual of how he says
goodnight to me too, same words everynight. It will get a bit
shorter as they get older, but 1/2 hr to 40 min. sounds standard
We also have a 2 1/2 year old and her bedtime routine probably
takes about 10 - 15 minutes. We change her p.j.s, brush her
teeth and have her use the potty, then read 2 books to her and
sing her a short song. It sounds similar to your routine, except
without the breastfeeding...does that take a lot of time for
you? We also have a 7 1/2 year old and her routine takes about
the same amount of time...she puts her p.j.s on, brushes her
teeth, we read a little from a chapter book and it's lights out.
On days that she does not have to wake up early for school, she
is allowed to stay up a little later and read a book by herself.
I have to say that I have tried to streamline the bedtime
routines because, by that point, I just want them in bed and I I
need a break! I'm not sure that I would have the patience to go
through a 40 minute routine! However, if we change the routine
or try to cut out a book or song, the 2 1/2 year old has a hard
time settling down and it ends up taking longer to get her to
Your bedtime ritual is ornate because you have the freedom to make
it so. Lucky for you, and for your daughter! With my first
child, I read her three books every night, rocked her, sang to
her, and both she and I loved it. With my third baby, I simply
throw him in his crib and say goodnight. I would not say that one
way or the other is better--just different. I simply do not have
the time anymore, and there is always something that needs to be
done (dishes, things picked up, mail to sort, laundry to fold...).
These early years pass so quickly that I say do whatever feels
good for you and your daughter. It is a wonderful bonding time,
and one that will be gone all too soon. As long as she is not
''making'' you stay in her room, and as long as you do not feel
resentful or forced into the time you spend each night, what is
the harm? Enjoy it while it lasts.
Sounds about right to me. We have a 4.5 yo and a 2.5 yo and we
read about 3 books, turn off the light, lay down with our kids,
and we are usually able to leave about 10 minutes after that. So
about 45 minutes seems right.
Your bedtime routine seems entirely typical to me. Pajamas,
brushing teeth, reading, lights out and nursing is exactly what
we do with our 2-year-old as well, and it takes about the same
amount of time. When he's with a babysitter, of course, he
doesn't nurse, and she's generally able to tuck him in and
leave. When we're home, we have to stay with him until he falls
asleep (otherwise, he gets back up and comes looking for us, and
it's easier for us to lie down with him than it is to keep
putting him back to bed) so it takes a bit longer. I do have a
rule that Mommy leaves the room when the music stops -- we have
a lullaby CD that we always play when we're finished reading --
and if he's not asleep yet at that point usually Daddy relieves
A recent informal poll of another online mom's group I'm
involved in revealed that most people take about a half hour for
the kids' bedtime routine, often longer if they include a bath
as part of it.
In short, what you're doing is reasonable and normal, and it's
your husband who's out of line with his complaints.
I just wanted to mention that we just recently modified our 2
year old daughters bedtime routine without much of a problem
whatsoever. We were scared to tamper with what seemed like such
a critical pattern, but in the end, it was actually no big deal
to her. She sort of asked about a few of the things that
disappeared for a few nights, but that was it ... and then, she
began to request/make new changes herself. Now I think she
actually likes it that things (within reason!)don't have to be
exactly the same every night.
My husband has the same complaint with my bedtime routine for
our 2 children, 2yo and 3.5yo. While still nursing our
youngest, bedtime could take up to an hour, as both our children
did not want me to leave the room.
I got into the habit of laying down with them for 10+ min. each,
and then often fell asleep with them. This did not go over well
with my husband, who wanted to spend time together or get stuff
done with me. He would sometimes come in and read to the kids
too, and would often crash on their bed. This was not the kind
of routine that we wanted to continue, as it didn't lend to
getting things done at night, nor much intimacy. We also
noticed that the kids seemed too dependent on us to go to
sleep. So we finally agreed to change things.
First we determined that each of us had separate ideas of what
bedtime should be -- I wanted to stick to a routine of bath,
teeth brushing, pj's, books, and prayers. He wanted to stick to
a bed TIME. What was happening was even if I got a late start
with the routine, I would keep the routine which spread bedtime
past the time my husband wanted them in bed. So, we compromised
by agreeing to start the ritual earlier, and if it got too late,
we'd default to the kids' bedtime and skip some of the other
stuff. Both kids try to stay up, so keeping to a time instead
is better, because they always seem to stay up past bedtime
anyways. Good luck!
Hi! My first reaction was, does your routine work well for your
child. The second was, your routine sounds just about as normal
as can be to me. Adults have the capacity to read in bed or
listen to music, or something that turns them over from hectic
day/lots in your head to white noise. Children don't. Starting
with pajamas and toothbrushing, etc is the way to calm them
down and know that bed is coming. 30 minutes is about how long
it takes us with our 1 1/2 yr old to go from 'ok, lets go
upstairs and get ready for bed (750) to lights out and in the
crib(820 or so). Sometimes more, if i think he's too alert to
just slip into sleep, sometimes less (oops, i think he's about
to fall asleep on the changing table ) One of our male friends
who takes care of his child fulltime noted that men have a
harder time calming their children down, they like to be 'up'
with them, be animated, wrestle, etc. Maybe your husband just
isn't that keen on the quiet time, and maybe it can be your
special time with your child.
All in all, with all the advice you might receive, if it works
for you and your child, and it isn't harmful, then its right!
I don't know if there is a right answer -- *anything* with a 2
1/2 year old involves mediating between your needs and theirs.
But your ritual is not excessive at all. Forty minutes sounds
about right. In our house, especially when our boy was that age
(he is 5 now), we let him ''drive'' to some extent. It rarely
stretched out too long, and when it did, there was often a
reason for it -- something on his mind that he needed extra
assurance about, and he needed some ''space'' to work it out. I
think small children can feel especially vulnerable during that
pre-sleep time. It is part of our job as parents to help them
to feel safe and loved. They also process things differently
than we do, especially those small separations (bedtime, etc).
They need our support.
I have to ask -- where is your husband during this time? What's
his hurry? If I were him I would cherish every minute and leap
at the opportunity to make his little girl feel cared for. He
can't nurse, but he can participate in all the other
activities. With all due respect, your problem is not with your
girl's bedtime ritual, but with your husband's attitude.
My son is six, and it takes 30-45 minutes easily w/ dressing,
washing, brushing, and reading, and story telling. Then I
scratch his back for a few seconds, and he is out. I can't
really see any real way to cut that back, nor would I want to.
I find it to often be the best part of my day, and we both
enjoy the ''ritual'' aspects of it, I think.
Bedtime is a special bonding time that I think my son will be
willing to give up before I am. He's almost 11, and he still
gets read to for 1/2 hour every night just before bed. I
usually lie down next to him for a minute, but it's only for a
good night hug and kiss. Used to be, he wanted me to stay a
while. It's really the only time of day he tells me things, so
I was often willing to comply.
So my answer is that I don't think spending 30 to 45 minutes
with her is too much! Perhaps you just need to make sure you're
not too tired after it to have ''alone time'' with your husband.
Or make bedtime a bit earlier so you have more time with him.
Or even get him involved in bedtime. My son's dad and I used to
alternate reading to him. So every other night I got to take
Thirty to 45 minutes seems to be the average in our house too,
and personally I don't think that's an excessive amount of time.
We have a 3 1/2 yr. old and have been doing the same routine
since she was about 2. It usually goes like this bath, teeth,
pajamas, read 2 books and sing 2 songs (Two seems to be the
magic number for her). I let her pick the books. If she picks a
longer one (like Dr. Suess) I tell her we can only read one.
This all takes about 40 minutes. I guess some parents might see
this as excessive, but since I work all day, I actually look
forward to this time I get to spend alone with my daughter.
Your husband might think your routine is too ornate, but if you
enjoy doing it and it works for your child, does it really
matter? I have never heard of a toddler who could just be put to
bed without some kind of routine. They need the wind-down time.
If your husband is annoyed at how long it takes, maybe you can
trade off with him - one parent does the bath routine and the
other does the reading, etc.
Your routine sounds pretty streamlined to me. My 4 year old's
routine is more extensive bath, brush teeth, jammies, watch
a ''couple three minutes'' of TV if he is good about
teethbrushing, read three books (one long, two short), pray,
sing (four short songs), daddy comes in to tell a story (an
ongoing saga he's worked up), mommy returns for hugs and
kisses. It takes a while, but once we're done, we're done. My
husband feels our routine is too elaborate too (it probably is -
a word of caution - never ADD anything to your routine bcs you
can't take it away again) - so dad's role in it has become
rather minimal (he cleans the kitchen while I start the drill,
then he gets to lie in bed reading Sports Illustrated until
called on stage to deliver the story). I say if she goes to
sleep without a struggle then whatever you are doing, by all
means, don't mess with it.
Too ornate? I am puzzled why your husband would care. But, anyway, reassure
your husband that this is *exactly* the right thing to do. First of all,
children have difficulty with change, particularly abrupt change (e.g.
changing from being up and about to being in bed). By making ''going-to-bed''
a process, your child has a nice transition period for going to bed that makes
it less upsetting. It seems odd to us as adults, but this is often why
children become fussy about going to bed, even when they're tired. Ditto
taking baths (it can be a struggle to get them in and then a struggle to get
them out! ) Making going to bed a lovely experience has the added benefit
that, when your child is a little older and you want him to go to bed (so that
you and your spouse can have some alone time), you will be a lot less likely
to have to struggle with your child about it, because going to bed has become
something that he associates with being loved (that's why it's a good idea
NEVER to use sending them to bed as a punishment). What you're doing isn't ornate and
is a perfect way to help your child adjust to having to go to bed. Good for
That's a pretty sound critique coming from someone who doesn't
participate in the bedtime ritual. It sounds like your husband
needs to take some responsibility for putting your child to bed.
I would suggest that he do the jammies and the teeth and the
reading and then you nurse and sit, that way you break down the
actual time and he might get a better idea of what your
daughters needs may be. For my own daughter it has mostly been a
drink and a nurse and she falls off fairly quickly (5-15
minutes). We read a book or three before hand and have been
getting the routine shortened as her days get longer and she
gets more active. She's three now and i believe she's doing fine
with the bedtime routine, although i have similar arguements
with my own husband and and still feel that if he wants to
critique he needs to actively participate in the ritual.
My Two Cents
yikes! my 2 and 1/2 year old and i have pretty much the exact
same bedtime ritual as you do (minus the mellow music), but it
takes us at least an hour. what is your secret to doing it so
i don't understand how your husband could think this was too
ornate. what should you cut out? the reading?
Your bedtime routine sounds a lot like ours, and I think we're
pretty efficient. My daughter is almost 2 1/2 years old and I'll
spend anywhere from 30-60 minutes on bedtime. Has your husband
ever put your daughter down? If not, maybe he doesn't realize how
suitable the routine is for your daughter. Have you asked him how
long he thinks it should take and what he would get done in the
allotted amount of time? (i.e. brushing teeth takes 10 minutes,
reading books is 10-15 minutes, changing clothes can take 5-10
minutes depending on whether I do it or my daughter does it ''all
by herself.'') I love the time I get to spend with my daughter at
bedtime, winding down and lying with her to the exclusion of
almost everything else (tv, phone, reading, cleaning, etc.) The
down side is it leaves little time for hanging out with my
husband or our hang-out time goes into the wee hours. Maybe your
husband misses you?
Mom with two kids
For that age, that sounds like pretty good timing! If anyone can
do it faster, I'd love to hear how they do it. But then again, a
half hour is what some adults take, and that ain't a lot of time
out of the evening to spend some (hopefully) nice time with your
Considering half of our nightly struggle with our 3 year old is
the teeth/pajamas routine, we all need nice quiet time with a
book/chat/music for at least 15-20 minutes.
I would like to wonder politely what your husband's expectations
are, and why isn't he doing any of the routine?
The quiet bonding time goes a long way in creating happy times
for you and your child.
Molly, I think your bedtime routine is great. We decided to move
nursing a little earlier hopefully in preparation for weaning
someday, but it is otherwise similar for our 27 month old. We do
bath, jammies, nurse, toothbrushing, 1 story cuddling in bed with
the lights on, lights out, still cuddling in bed together talk
about ''Zeke's big day'' very soothingly naming the things he did
that day, then sing 3 songs (the same ones every night), kiss him
good night, sing half of his prayers sitting on the bed, the
other half standing by the bed, then good night and door closed.
I'd say that not including bath it takes 30 minutes or so. I do
have occasional concerns that it won't be reproducible for a
babysitter, but it works for us.
I wanted to say that I wish our daughter's bedtime routine were only
30 minutes long! She is just about 5, so it may not be relevant, but this is
her routine: potty, bath, brush teeth, pajamas, stories, songs, and music box (I
leave after winding up the music box). Whew! Potty takes forever as she likes
to ''read'' on the potty. When she was potty training, we encouraged her to have a
book. She so loved it, she has always continued that. It's a drag in terms of
the length of the nighttime routine, but we don't want to discourage her love of
books. As for how many books we read after washing up, it depends on how
late it is. We've done as many as 5 and as few as 1, though often she is
negotiating for one more book. Frankly, I'm just happy that she goes to sleep
easily on her own and sleeps through the night, but I do really wish we could
somehow get the routine cut back. At the same time, it is special time for us.
I found your question interesting on a lot of levels.
It wasn't clear what your husband issue with your daughter's
bedtime routine truly is.
1. Routine taking too long? 30-40 minutes including brushing
teeth is absolutely not too much time. I do at least that with
my daughters (6 & 8) after the brushing teeth. We need the
snuggle and the closeness. Each of us reads (me for the longest
time), sometimes sing together, give each other foot massages,
2. Too many different activities? It's what you have evolved
to, and it works for you. It doesn't seem too complicated. Why
would he care?
I wonder if there is something else going on.
* Is he concerned about your breastfeeding? Maybe he thinks
it's time to stop but doesn't want to say it outright.
* Does he ever get to put his daughter to bed? She can handle
somewhat different bedtime routines with different parents (my
ex's routine is different from mine); maybe he is feeling left
My child is much younger than yours (21 months), but her
bedtime routine (bath, PJs, milk and books, teeth) sounds
similar to your child's and I think it is appropriate.
Sometimes it does drag on, but it seems to work well for us.
A few more words about the ''ornate'' bedtime (1) Yes, it is nice
to have some relaxed, leisurely time with one's child at the end
of the day. (2) Remind your husband that inevitably his sweet
little girl will become a surly, independence-seeking adolescent
and that at some point during those years she is almost sure to
look at him and say, ''Don't come in and kiss me goodnight any
more. I'm too old for that now.'' Which is not fun at all.
I'm glad someone finally stated the obvious --- it sounds like
your husband misses you and is envious of the time you
and your child spend together at bedtime. Perhaps there is
a way for this to be positive for all three of you.... remind him
that he gets a little solitude and peace while you are tucking
her in --- and be sure that he gets some time with you as
Perhaps while you are busy he can make a pot of tea, and
the two of you can sit down together and talk or read when
you're done. Its tricky -- I know I used to crave being ALONE
after the kids were down...but you need to take him into
account, and let him know he matters. If evenings have to be
your alone time, set time aside in the morning, or SOME
time. Your healthy marriage is a gift you give your children.
Thanks to everyone who posted in response to this, my question. I
want to clarify, as my husband feels a little maligned. My husband
*does* help with the bedtime routine. He diapers and pajamas our
daughter, he tends to our newborn while I read to and nurse our
gal to bed and he goes in and comforts her if she fusses after
bedtime. Your posts helped a lot. It helped for him and I to sort
out what his problems are with the routine, mainly that she wont
be nursing forever and that I turn out all of the lights in the
house while nursing her. It helped, too, to know that the time we
take is normal.
Our spirited 3.5 yr old boy has started a new series of bed time
issues. The worst of which is he wants to eat again b/c he's
We serve him dinner around 6-6:30PM. Usually he eats well. If he
fools around, and doesn't eat that much we remind him that we
won't feed him later, dinner is the time to eat. Then he takes a
bath, reads books/plays and then we get him in bed by 7:45-
8:15PM. He then rolls around, sings, talks to himself etc. and
hollers, ''Mommy, I'm hungry, I want more food''. If the darn kid
would just close his eyes and go to sleep, then he wouldn't be
So far, we've fed him every time, but we're angry and resentful
about it(not good). Has anyone else encountered this hunger
situation? I don't want to feed him again b/c I'm being set up
for a nightly ritual which I might not be able to control/want.
It also re-starts the whole night time process, when he eats
again, brush teeth, calms down and it's almost 9:30/10:00 PM!
Also, we live in a small house, so when our boy screams hunger
he wakes up the baby, and we are faced with putting both back to
How do I stop this manipulative behavior FAST?
BE STRONG!! It really sounds to me like your kid is just trying
to prolong his bedtime and he knows what button to push with
you -- the ''I'm hungry'' one. Tell him in advance that there
will be NO more bedtime snacks/meals. The thing you should know
is that by this time (after a few days of eating at 8:30 pm),
his tummy is getting used to eating at that time of day... so by
this point, his blood sugar is probably dropping a bit at that
time and he really and truly is feeling hungry. However, he
does not actually need food (you did feed him dinner!) and after
a few days of not eating at bedtime, he'll be back to not
actually being hungry... though he might play that ''I'm hungry''
card again, so I repeat: BE STONG! :)
I have this issue sometimes. My brother in law is staying with us
and a few weeks ago, as my 3.5 y.o. daughter was upstairs calling,
I'm hungry'' I was asking him about this, is this manipulative
behavior, etc. She is my first born and he said, ''you know, who
knows. When your second gets to be her age, you may be able to
say, hey, she is still a baby. She doesn't have the same control,
and perhaps she is not old enough to eat when she is supposed to.
So maybe with the second you will simply give her a little cream
cheese sandwich and brush her teeth extra good in the a.m.'' We
went on to discuss how with the first born you expect them to be
older in some ways, forgetting really, how young they still are in
the scope of things. Well, I was really touched by this
conversation. Since then I have made less of a big deal over this
and oddly, since I huff and puff less when she asks, she has almost
stopped doing it.
sign me- letting go a bit
We had a little trouble with this with our almost-3-yr-old. I
think it started because she truly was hungry after not eating
well at dinner. So as you did, i focused more on making sure she
ate well. If she still didn't, I offered a snack before bed --
things that seemed filling: bananas, graham crackers, milk. If
she started asking to eat, but i knew she had eaten well, I told
her no, that she could have a bottle of milk, but that was it. If
she didn't drink it, I told her she must not be hungry. The
antics seem to have stopped (knock on wood.)
Good luck.(PS: my feeling is, if they occasionally don't brush
their teeth before bed, it's not the end of the world.)
''How do I stop this manipulative behavior FAST?''
Stop giving in to it! You recognize it as manipulative. He's just
found a button of yours that works when he pushes it. You can't
stand the thought of sending him to bed hungry, yet you recognize
both that dinner is the time to eat, and that he does eat at
With my son it was the two, three and four drinks of water after
bedtime (complete with plaintive yells, ''but I'm THIRSSSSTY!'')
until finally I said, ''One drink after toothbrushing'' and no more.
Now he never asks and rarely drinks even his one drink.
I suspect you'll get lots of ideas on general bedtime routine
stuff, but we, too, had the ''hunger'' excuse. What worked for
us (most of the time) was to not challenge whether he was
really hungry or not, but to start bed-time a little earlier,
with the first item (before toothbrush, story, etc) being ''do
you need anything else to eat or drink before you go to bed?''.
This way, you are giving him the opportunity to meet his needs
(as HE sees them), without having to argue about whether he
could actually be hungry after such a good dinner, etc. Of
course, it is up to you to decide what healthy foods to offer.
Now I can't guarantee he won't come up with another stall, but
this should take care of the hunger/thirst excuse (or need).
hi--i don't have a way out for you, but i can tell you that our
daughter started the same thing at about 3.5. she now always
wants a bedtime snack, whether or not she ate a lot of food at
dinner. instead of fighting it, we've given in somewhat
gracefully. we brush and floss right before bed and then she
has a choice between apples, cheese, nuts, and occasionally baby
carrots... the thing is, she goes through growth spurts at
unpredicatable times these days, and we figure that if she is
really hungry at bedtime, she should eat (and she does!). she
eats in bed (ugh, i know) as we read bedtime stories, and has to
finish before the stories are up, so she doesn't sit there
eating to procrastinate against sleep... so my advice would be
to give in, make a few guidelines that make you comfortable, and
then make sure the snack choices are at least super-healthy!
I am still pregnant with our second child and so cannot comment on the
possible issue of sibling rivalry. However, I can speak to the experience
of a 3.5 year old wanting a post-dinner meal, but only after having
skipped dinner. My 3.5 year old daughter has, on occasion,
COMPLETELY skipped her dinner meal, either because she simply
wasn't hungry or was too busy playing. Our general rule of thumb is that
she is invited to eat with us at the table until we are done eating. Since
dinner is just as much a social event as it is a fortifying one, she is
to play by herself until mom and dad are done eating. Being the
attention monger that she is, this rule usually lures her back to the table
to take a few (more) bites.
We pretty consistently offer a variety of foods in an attempt to avoid a
wholesale rejection of the meal, including NUTRITIOUS sides that we
know for a fact that she enjoys, such as garbanzo beans, apples,
oranges, and cheese. Although we do not include these extras on our
own dinner plate, it takes all of two or three minutes to prepare.
Right or wrong, no matter how well or how little she eats at dinner time,
we always offer her the choice of dessert, even if it's the same apple she
refused to eat at dinnertime.
On the few occasions in which she has asked for yet another meal after
already tossing in bed for awhile, we regretfully inform her of two things:
(1) that the next meal is breakfast, and (2) that it is our job as parents
make sure she eats nutritiously and on a healthy schedule. Of course,
this meets with resistance, but consistency on our part has convinced
her that a post-dinner meal will simply not be a part of her routine. It
sounds from your message that even though you have reminded your
son that another meal is not forthcoming, his ''antics'' have unfortunately
been rewarded with, ahh, another meal. As *mean* as you feel and as
unhappy as your son gets when you refuse him this last supper, my
guess is that after a week or two of really holding your ground, this issue
will be resolved.
This message assumes that your son eats enough good foods to
reasonably tide him over until breakfast. Good luck, and happy dining!
My 3.5 year old is very similar to yours. I think our son's
requests for food are probably a stall tactic so we try to offer
healthy bedtime snacks prior to brushing. Then he is read to,
sung to etc. for about a half hour before we leave his room.
Any requests after that are turned-down, and he knows that we
mean business and that he must stay in bed and read to himself.
We haven't encountered nightime wake-ups requesting food, but if
I did I would probably offer him bread or crackers with water to
fill his stomach and not leave lots of sugary residue on his
teeth. Maybe your dentist could recommend something else?
My daughter used to do the same thing. I suspected it was simply
an excuse to stay awake a while longer and get my attention.
However, just in case she was hungry, I gave her food---raw
broccoli, carrots or green beens. It was great because often she
would eat them--- which gave her a taste for raw veggies, and
when she actually wasn't hungry she would not.
Once she realized that at bed time only vegitables and water
could be eaten--- I told her it was bad for her teeth to eat
anything else--- she eventually stopped asking for food.
Now I make sure to take her to the bathroom and give her water
before taking her to bed, in order to get rid of any other
excuses to stay up later.
My son, and then my daughter, did the same. What I found was
that they actually WERE hungry, as evidenced by their ability to
eat. Having read that cheddar cheese does not contribute to
tooth decay, and may actually help remineralize teeth, we made a
new rule: when the children are in bed, and have been lying
quietly for ten minutes, one of us will bring them some cheddar
cheese. Sometimes, when they are really hungry, they specify,
''several, big pieces,'' other times it's just a symbolic scrap. I
won't say this has solved all our bedtime problems, but it has
certainly helped a great deal.
sign me ''It's the cheese!''
Thus far he probably doesn't believe you when you say, at dinner, that
you won't feed him later, because you always do.
Perhaps you could offer him a small snack (e.g. crackers and a glass of
milk) right before you brush his teeth the first time, If he eats, he's
snack and is not hungry; if he doesn't eat, he wasn't hungry in the first
place. Either way, when he yells out later that he's hungry, you can tell
him that no, you will not feed him, and then stick to your guns with a
clear conscience. It will probably require ignoring him while he yells for
a few nights, but if you are consistent, he will probably get over it
How to stop this behavior, which may or may not
be ''manipulative''? How about a later dinnertime? Or a post-
dinner snack *before* he brushes his teeth? Does he have access
to water by his bedside? (A sport bottle of water next to the
bed has been helpful for a great many of my mommy friends. Of
course, it can become a potty training problem, but it does help
with those late night pleas for drink or food.)
I suspect we've all been in the position of muttering through
our teeth, ''why won't you just go to SLEEP ALREADY!?'' but as I'm
sure you know this isn't very productive. Clearly something
about your evening routine isn't working for your son, and what
he seems to want now isn't working for you, so work on finding
some middle ground. Incidentally, if he's well-rested on the
nights he doesn't get to sleep until 10 p.m., maybe you could
aim for a somewhat later bedtime as well -- not as late as 10,
but not as early as 8.
You stop this behavior by not giving in to it. If he says he's
hungry, you tell him breakfast is in about 9 (or whatever)
hours. Being hungry for a few hours won't hurt him, but the
manipulation and angry feelings it arouses will hurt your
relationship. My younger (also spirited) daughter also takes a
long time to wind down in the evening after I've put her to bed,
but I've taught her that if she gets hungry she just has to wait
until breakfast. She can come out to get a drink of water,
which she can do by herself without disturbing the rest of the
family, and that sometimes helps her feel not quite so empty.
Of course if she drinks too much water then she has to go to the
bathroom again ... but she can also do that by herself. These
spirited kids (active, intense) can have a real hard time
letting go of the rest of the world at the end of the day, but I
firmly believe they need to learn how, and parents can be a big
help by setting a firm bedtime & having firm bedtime rules.
Your child is more advanced than mine is - mine didn't start
pulling this until he was about 3 1/2. We have the same dinner
schedule and he was doing the SAME thing, except wailing
plaintively ''I'm hungry.'' I felt like Oliver Twist's mother (if
that makes sense.) My solution is to tell him he can have a
slice of bread and some milk or water, sitting in bed. I figure
if he's really hungry he will chow down on that. So far what
he's done is taken a bite or two and a swallow of water and
that's that. Since I stopped fixing him turkey sandwiches at
8:30 he's eating a better breakfast, too.
Before thinking about how to solve this problem, I would
encourage you to try to connect with your son around what
may be the underlying cause of his behavior. I'd worry that
finding a solution without understanding the problem would
not meet either of your needs!
I'm concerned about thinking of his behavior as
manipulation, because I know I get angry any time I think
someone is manipulating me! I'd rather think of what's
going on without getting angry, so I'd try to look for his
feelings and needs. Is he still alert and feeling antsy, and
needing more outlet for his energy? Is he anxious because
he wants more companionship or attention? Is he scared
around sleep and needs some connection and
reassurance? Is he excited about life and wanting to
express his enthusiasm more? Depending on which it is
(and it could be many more), I would try to find a way to
connect with him around his need and try to meet it
EARLIER, or adjust the bedtime ritual to leave time for
I would also encourage you to pay attention to your own
feelings and needs. ''Bed time'' is a strategy which I imagine
you set to meet some needs of yours - rest for yourself,
sufficient rest for your child so you enjoy your day the next
day, time to attend to household activities, time for
conneciton with your spouse - and maybe others. You may
want to express to your son your frustration with this
situation and your need for support around getting these
other needs of yours met. I believe children are much more
responsive to hearing their parents' (or anyone's) underlying
needs than they are to rules and regulartions (which seem
to me to be made to be broken).
If you want more information about the connection process
I'm talking about here (it's called ''Nonviolent
Communication''), you can email me or check our web site
at www.cnvc.org and www.baynvc.org.
I hope all of you get your needs met more to your
WOW -- have you been set up, or what?! It is time to sit your
child down (before he gets into the bedtime antics, like first
thing in the am) and tell him, ''We have a new rule in this
house. When we sit down to dinner, it is time to eat. If you
choose not to eat, there is no more food for the rest of the
night. It is really important that you eat a good dinner so that
you are not hungry later, because starting today, there is no
food after dinner.'' Then, FOLLOW THROUGH! He is 3 1/2 --
he will not starve, even if he goofs off during dinner and
doesn't eat. Before dinner, you remind him again of the rule.
When you are brushing his teeth, you remind him again of
the rule and TELL HIM that even if he asks, there will be no
more food -- it is bedtime. When he gets into bed, he will
ask. Walk in once, remind him of the rule, then say, ''It's time
to sleep now. If I have to come back, it will be to close the
door (or whatever).'' Then FOLLOW THROUGH. He may be
indignant and protest for a night or two, but you need to
stand firm and NOT give in. He will not starve. This behavior
needs to stop so you all get some down time -- he's got you
wrapped around his finger! Be strong! Good luck --
Been there, done that!
I'm also the mother of a 3.5 years old and from speaking to friends around
with kids the same age, it seems that many kids this age are going into a
phase of bedtime/ sleep change. Our daughter who never slept in our bed and
always had great nights started to wake up at the most insane times and come
to our beds sometimes 3 times a night (I always put her back in her own
bed). She also came up with things like wanting light in her room, insist on
having the door open and other strange rituals. I give up with what I think
is reasonnable (the door slightly open) but stay firm on the others.
Regarding your food problem, it seems that he wants to get some control over
his daily routine, maybe you can give him something like a small bowl of dry
cheerios and a glass of water at around 7h30 telling him it is all he gets
for his bedtime snack, then brush his teeth and go on with his bedtime
routine so he's in bed by 8pm.
I have been thinking of linking the ''prize'' of being able to
watch one hour of videos (taped 1/2 hour TV shows) before
bedtime 4-5 nights a week with making my child start taking on
limited chores. This would involve cleaning up toys at the end
of the day, putting back clothes they have literally walked out
of, and getting dressed for bed. I worry that she will not do
these chores in the future without the carrot at the end of the
stick. But I also would like to kickstart regular chores over
the summer. Am I going down the wrong track here? I am so
tired by her bedtime with all of the nagging, that a little
peace would be welcome. I also am asking whether watching shows
a half-hour before bedtime has any stimulating consequences. I
would be basically switching the time of video-watching from 5-
6pm to 7-8pm (bedtime is 8:30-9:00pm).
Please don't put videos or TV into a bedtime routine. Take
the time to read or tell stories to your child. Think about what
the TV (including ads) is imprinting, besides it being
stimulating. Your child should have quiet time before bed.
Get the chores going before your child (or you) are too tired
to bother with them. Why give a reward for chores? You're
right, because where does the rewarding stop?
I'm in the no-TV and no video camp for yound children
especially. Read the literature about how TV affects your
children and then think again about what rituals you want to
I would recommend against the TV before bedtime because I have found it to be a
problem in the past with my four year old. On the rare occasions on the weekends
that I let her stay up to watch a movie with me, she tends to get over emotional and
over stimulated. It is actually harder (believe it or not) to put her down. I would
advise you to get your child accustomed to chapter books instead. We started with
Junie B. Jones and then moved to James and the Giant Peach, then came Charlie and
the Chocolate factory, Charlotte's Webb, and we are now about to finish Ella
Enachanted. It is great, not just for her but for me too, because I look forward to it
as much as she does, and I feel proud to be contributing to her love of books. I have
also noticed that her attention span is increasing. When we first started it was hard
for her to listen to three pages (ave. lenght of a chapter in James and the Giant
peach), but now we can read for an hour and she wont want me to stop. The best
part of it though is cuddling in bed before her bedtime, I think it calms her down
and she gets the attention from me that she needs just before bed. Since we started
the chapter books I have noticed it has been easier to get her into bed. Also now I
ask her to put on her pajama's brush, her teeth, and get ready for bed before we
begin to read, and i remind her that the longer she takes the less time we'll have to
read (she sees this as a horrible thing!). I will also ask her to clean up her toys
before she takes her bath. So it is: clean up toys, bath, she gets ready for bed (put
on pajamas, brush teeth) and then we read.
My 7 year old son has a hard time falling asleep at night; it can
take him 45 min. And getting up in the morning is not easy for
him. We have a regular bedtime routine which includes reading,
but I am wondering if you have any ideas that will help ease any
tension or anxieties so that he can relax more easily. Thanks for
It's not uncommon to take 45 minutes to get to sleep, but here
are a few ideas I tried for the same problem that worked. Try
and give him dinner before 6.30pm. Make sure he has had enough
liquids througout the day. Many children go to bed thirsty, and
what they drink at school is never enough. Give him more water.
Eliminate all sugar from his diet. Look at the ingredients in
the drinks and yogurts etc. that you give him. Sugar will keep
them wide awake. Make sure he gets enough physical excercise
every day, about 2 hours outdoors. Read low-drama books before
retiring. Keep to a schedule. Baths with essential oil of
lavender help. I also give my kids chamomile tea throughout the
evening. (Either Choice Organic from Natural Grocery Store, or
loose leaf from Lhasa Kharnak on Shattuck. You can buy a
Beehouse teapot in Andronicos or Peets which comes with inbuilt
strainer. If you need it sweetened, buy Stevia, a herbal
sweetener, also from Natural Grocery store.)Hope this helps.
Try rubbing his back. I did this for several years with my son
(now late teens) when he ws young. He ws always hyper at
bedtime even after being read to. So the routine was book,
then 10 min.'s or so of back rub, which inevitably put him to
When I was very young -- probably around 8 or 9, I learned a
little relaxation routine that I STILL use; it's very simple but
very effective. You might have him try it if his problem is he
I imagine that I am a cloth doll, filled with sand, and that
someone has poked a hole in my toes. I then imagine all of the
sand slowly draining out of each body part, and that the result is
that I am a floppy cloth doll with no sand in me.
I find that the concreteness of this imagery makes it much more
effective for me, even now, than just ''relax your feet, relax your
legs, etc.'' I start with my toes, and I'm usually asleep by the
time I reach my knees.
Another thing that occurs to me as I write this: does your son
get much exercise? I know for me the single most effective way to
make sure I sleep well is to get exercise most days of the week.
Just a thought...
My 7-y-o has a bath every night, and that calms him down a lot. We've been on
that ritual almost since the beginning, though, so it might not be an
fix for another child.
Another ritual, a big-R Ritual, is that after reading, we do ''blessings.''
blesses all the people he loves (or who are on his mind that night).
be Mom, blessed be Dad, blessed be Auntie Pat...'' etc. I don't know if it
him to fall asleep, but I think it's important to get him into the habit of
loving energy to the people he loves on a regular basis.
I have always been a firm believer that kids should get to sleep
at an early and reasonable hour, and that's the opinion I would
give any parent asking for help in this issue.....untill my 2nd
child came along and proved fully that he has his dad's night-
My boys are now 8 and 12 and it's really hard to get them to bed
during the week at any reasonable time.(we're pretty lax on
My 12 year old will usually turn in around 9 or 9;30 but then
may stay up for an hour reading, claiming that he's just not
The 8 year old will dawdle and dawdle untill it is at least
9:30. Lights out for him are almost never till 10.
I think this is way too late for school age children to be going
And aside from that, I need some quiet time without them in the
evenings before my husband and I go to bed.
I've tried starting to get them ready earlier, getting them up
earlier....the pattern seems to be set.
I'm hoping that with daylight savings time it might get a bit
Any tricks, suggestions, or are my children truely night people?
eating my words
Maybe you can have a set time for when your kids need to be in
their bedroom ready to sleep: pj's, teeth brushed, etc. Then
let them determine when they actually turn out the lights and
go to bed. They are old enough that there shouldn't be a
safety issue, and that way there is not a fight about it. If
they are having an issue getting up in the morning, then you
enforce a ''lights out time''. It sounds like the younger one is
enjoying the attention of the extra time after his brother is
in his room. Explain to your kids that you need time for
yourself and that is when you get it.
If your kids aren't overly sleepy or cranky in the afternoons,
they're just night owls and nothing you do is going to get them
to sleep any earlier. They're old enough to understand that
they must go to bed early enough to be well rested and get up in
time for school, and they should be taking responsibility for
that themselves. (Although you can certainly offer to help them
by getting them alarm clocks or suggesting other aids.)
They're also old enough to understand that Mom and Dad need some
time to themselves and that after 8 or 9 or whatever time you
designate they are expected to stay in their rooms and read or
do some other quiet activity, and not interrupt you except in an
emergency. (I live for the day my son is old enough to get
himself to sleep this way!)
Give up control of what time they actually turn out the lights
and go to sleep and I suspect you'll all be a lot happier!
A night owl whose kid goes to sleep at 10ish
Hmmmm. I would try first just after dinner homework (if they
do it at night) for however long, then half an hour of reading
time in bed so lights out would be 8:30 or so for the younger
one and because twelve year olds have more homework,
his would be maybe 9:30. If this doesn't work just let the
telve year old go to bed at ten. It really seems okay. But for
the little one give unlimited bedtime for a few days. He well
get very tired and almost BEG to go to bed early.
this page was last updated: Sep 13, 2009
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2013 Berkeley Parents Network