How to get your kids to bed on time

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Bed time can be the bane of parents’ lives. Dragging overstimulated kids up the stairs, kicking and screaming, knowing that simply putting them in bed is never going to get them to sleep.

But if done right, bedtime can be one of the most rewarding parts of being a parent. So what’s the secret? Should your routine be rigid or flexible? What’s the best way to cope with school holidays and what on earth can you do with teenagers?

With the Easter holidays set to mess up bedtime routines left, right and centre, we caught up with some top blogging mums to find out their secrets.

The day-to-day

A daily routine is important because it gives kids a sense of security and helps them develop self-discipline. However, being too strict can cause arguments, dulls creativity and is just a bit boring. So it’s important to get the balance.

The same is true with bedtime. Luschka from Diary of a First Child says:

“While it's important that children have routines, we've learned that the most successful way to have a peaceful bedtime is to listen to the children, and give them freedom within our limits.

“For example, sometimes my five year old doesn't want to go to bed at her bedtime of 8 o'clock. She is allowed to then stay up and read to herself in bed till she falls asleep. This is normally well before 9:00, but means that she has gone to bed without fighting.”

Luschka also has some great tips on how to encourage your kids to read, which really help out in this situation.

Caroline from Diary of a Mum of 3 says the key is to leave plenty of time for everything:

“A good evening routine for us always starts with a stress free meal time, we like to be sat down for dinner by 5.30 at the latest, this gives us time to enjoy our meal without watching the clock. We then have plenty of time for a bath — and bath time is much nicer when there is time to have a bit of fun. We like singing songs whilst they splash around."

More than one kid?

Getting one kid to bed is hard enough as it is, but what about when several sprites must be seen to? Things can get complicated, especially when the kids are all different ages.

Here’s how Charlotte from Mummy Fever manages:

“I have four children so for me the best way to get through bedtime is for them to all go upstairs at the same time and have a bath/shower together. They chop and change depending on what they want to do. They sing and laugh and we chat about the day.

“After that it’s everyone changed and into my room for stories. The big kids each read to one of the babies, which helps them practice their reading, and then I read one to settle them all.”

Coping with holidays

So you’ve got the nippers ticking along nicely in their routines, everyone’s going to bed and getting up on time… then BOOM. Two weeks off school, and out pour the inevitable pleas for later nights and lie-ins.

What do our top mums have up their sleeves to cope with these speed bumps? Trusha from Secret Style File thinks keeping things strict through their early years is the key:

“My little girl is now four and when she was a baby I was quite strict with her routine as it made life easier for both of us. Now that she is a little older, the routine is built into her body clock, so during the holidays I can push everything back an hour or two, but otherwise the routine is the same.

“This makes getting back into the school routine is a lot easier, as we’ve kept with our routine, so a week before going back to school I start introducing bedtime at 7pm again rather than 8 – 8.30. After all, even if it’s the school holidays, most parents still want the kids to early so they get a break in the evenings!”

What about teenagers?

As your kids get older and gain more freedom it inevitably becomes harder to get them sticking to routines. Technology certainly hasn’t helped this, with kids easily staying up to the early hours chatting online or playing games, especially when there’s nothing to get up for in the morning.

Alison from Dragons and Fairy Dust thinks she’s cracked it. Here are her top six tips for getting your teen back into the school routine, stress free:

1. Get them to help get everything ready for the next day, stopping any last minute panics in the morning.

2. Make sure they know what time bedtime is, telling them well in advance and starting this a few days before they go back to school. Make sure they’ve had a bath etc well before this time.

3. Give them a warning and allow them about ten minutes extra. This allows them time to say goodnight to their friends. This makes them feel they have gained a small victory!

4. Ensure they have put all their gadgets away before bed. Make sure they’ve handed in their iPods, phones and any other gadgets before they go into their bedroom. If you don’t, they’re likely to spend all night chatting and pretending to sleep.

5. Allow them to read for half an hour after they go to bed. This allows them time to wind down and relax before they go to sleep.

6. Give them some time to snooze in the morning by knocking on the door and allowing them fifteen minutes to surface.


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Image via Sven-Kåre Evenseth