Something Borrowed: A Better Bedtime

Dear Mom with a Lesson Plan,

A few weeks ago I came across your post entitled “A Better Bedtime” in my Facebook news feed, and since bedtime for our 4 and 2-1/2 year old had become quite the long, drawn out, make-me-desperately-wish-it-was-my-bedtime-too battle, I figured it was worth reading.  

used with permission from A Mom with a Lesson Plan

I have to admit that at first, I was a bit appalled at the thought of letting my kids choose their own bedtime, but as I read more, I realized it wasn’t total freedom you were granting them, but rather a small choice within a carefully controlled situation.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that one tiny choice might stop the crying, fussing, I-need-to-go-potty-one-more-time, can I have one more hug?…one more kiss?, I need another drink of water, and so on and so forth that had sadly become our nightly ritual…sometimes lasting two hours plus!  

I waited a few days while pondering all the details, I discussed it with DH who thought it was a good idea, and we agreed on a night to start.  

On the night we were to begin, we explained to Luke and Lilah the plan for the evening.  I have to say they were a little confused — We can PLAY in our rooms and then TELL you when we’re READY for bed??? — but they were excited!  We did our normal nightly routine — brushing teeth, going potty, PJs, reading books — and then told them they were free to play in their rooms until they were ready to go to bed.  They each had to stay in their own room and play quietly.  We ensured they were in their rooms for playtime about 30 minutes before we really wanted them to be asleep.  

On the first night, within 20 minutes Luke came out of his room and said he was ready for bed.  We tucked him in, gave him a drink of water, kissed him and that was that.  About 10 minutes later, Lilah followed suit.

I told DH that first night that even if “A Better Bedtime” only worked for us this one time, the peace and quiet we were able to enjoy was totally worth it.  We literally sat on the couch and just listened to the unbelievable silence for quite a while!

Night number two was similar.  Luke within 20 minutes, Lilah within 25.

Night number three, Luke was ready in about 10 and Lilah in about 15. 

It got to the point for DH and me that we’d put the kids to bed, start doing our own chores or watching TV, glance at the clock, and one of us would exclaim in surprise something like, “Wow, it’s only 8:30 AND I’ve already folded all the laundry????”  We had gotten so used to spending such a long time going back and forth to the kids’ rooms at night trying to get them to calm down and go to sleep that suddenly we had all this extra time on our hands and it was shocking!

Fast forward to nearly a month later and “A Better Bedtime” is STILL working!  Oh, it’s not a guaranteed thing that we NEVER get called back into their rooms at night, but it is amazing that almost all bedtimes over the past month have been tearless.  Just that fact alone has cut down on the stress of bedtime so much!

My favorite part of it all is the moment one of the kids runs down the hall to where we are and says in a sweet little voice, “I’m ready for bed now!”  Then they’ll run back to their room, climb into their bed, and wait for us to come tuck them in.  It melts me every night…and yes, it still shocks me.

I don’t know how long this will continue to work (one more night? another month?  indefinitely???), but it has already given me so many nights of peace.  I feel so much better that we can tell the kids good night with everyone in good moods, relaxed, and happy.  It is such an improvement over what it had become.  I knew we needed some fresh, new idea to try, but I was so bogged down that I couldn’t come up with anything.  I love the simplicity of “A Better Bedtime” and I thank you, Jillian, so much for sharing it!  It has made the biggest difference for us!!

A Better Bedtime” Believer

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Genny Upton

A former teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children. Creator (and writer) at In Lieu of Preschool and Parent Teach Play. Currently publishing my first children's picture book!

  • Dear Genny, You have brought tears to my eyes and my heart will be singing for the rest of the day. Thank you for sharing and I am so, so glad that this little trick has had such an impact for you and your family! Yours Truly, Jillian

  • savvychic says:

    Sounds great. What do you stipulate as being play though? Is it reading in bed only? Do they make a mess in their rooms?

  • Genny Upton says:

    Kym, it worked out that just before we started “A Better Bedtime” we had rearranged the kids’ rooms including a few toys. (They both have low loft beds, so there’s room for toys underneath.) Luke (4 years old) has all his Lego cars he’s built on a low dresser along with his parking garage in his room. He also has a toy bin under his bed with lots of other cars, trucks, etc. and a road rug under there, too. Lilah has some dolls, a few pieces of doll furniture, and a dollhouse. They play with their toys quietly in their own rooms before bed. Luke is a bit of a natural clean freak so he cleans up his room himself before he tells us he’s ready for bed, and the last few nights, he’s been saying he’s ready for bed within about 5-10 minutes. Lilah’s room sometimes gets a little messy (she’s 2-1/2), but b/c there aren’t a ton of toys and everything has a “place”, it doesn’t take long to straighten. They both also have lots of books in their rooms to read when they want and they often take the books we read that night to bed with them to look at on their own. Hope that helps!

  • Anonymous says:

    I def want to try this, however we just put both kids in the same room, they each have a bed, their clothes and their books in the same room, and we have a toy room. Do you have any advice for keeping the toys cleaned up. I would appreciate any advice. TIA

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