It’s 8:45. You feel like it’s midnight. You’ve been up since 6:00AM dealing with car pools, lunch making, arguments, bath time and more. You want nothing more than to sit down with your favorite book and relax for the rest of the night.

There’s only one problem: your son does not know of your plans and he’s up way past his bedtime, fighting you at every step of the bedtime procedure. And when you try to soothe him and tell him it’s time for bed, he echoes the usual refrain, “But I’m not sleepy!!”

How can you argue with that?

There are a number of things that parents can do to ease the end of the day blues that occur when kids fight against going to bed.

1. Routine (maybe my favorite, oft-repeated word). Bedtime routines can help to make all of the difference when faced with reticent kids. Knowing what’s coming next can help your child get in the habit of calming themselves down or mentally preparing for bed. Bath time often accompanies bedtime for children and can be a wonderful way for parents to give positive attention while also being calm themselves. Showing your children the way to behave before bed can help them come down from the day and get ready for sleep.

2. Calming activities. Besides bath time, stories or other quiet activities often precede bed. These rituals should be followed all the time (or as often as possible). If your child has a hard time calming down before bed and you’re running a little late on his bedtime, don’t scrimp on the activities that might actually help him stay in bed and get to sleep. One calming activity that I really enjoy before putting little kids down is saying goodnight to the things in their room. Everything seems to be going to sleep, including the child, plus it’s a good time for a cuddle and whispered voices as you take them around the room.
 {{One other trick that I like to use for a couple of boys who sometimes get hyper at bedtime is the early to bed trick. We play Crazy 8’s or read on the floor before getting into bed and turning out the light. If they run around or are too loud, then I warn them that if they can’t calm down by themselves, that I’ll have to help them. They’ll be allowed to take part in the fun before bed, but they’ll be in bed already watching the fun from afar. I have had to put both of them into bed early only once and since then, the reminders help them to regulate their behaviors and their amped up heart rates.}}

3. Encourage autonomy during bedtime routine. Which PJs are you going to wear? Sharks or construction? Here’s the washcloth, can you please wash your tummy? Don’t forget to brush the teeth in the back. When kids have a job to do or choices to make, they often have to concentrate on the task at hand, which leaves less room for them to be running around, pulling toys from the shelves or telling you that they’re not sleepy. Plus giving them small things to accomplish allows for praise once they’ve finished or tried. And rewards could follow these jobs in the form of one more story or an extra few minutes in the bath, etc.

4. Make sure your kids are getting enough exercise during the day. If your kids regularly don’t spend their energy throughout the day, then you might want to think about encouraging outside play (when possible) or even a little run around in the basement. That way, they will be less likely to still be wide awake come 8 or 8:30.

5. Keep putting them back in their beds. I know it can be comforting for both you and your child to sleep in the same bed, but unless you want that to become the norm, you should put your kids back in their own beds when they get up at night. If they get up first asking for a drink, give them some water and promptly escort them back to bed. If they continue to get up, try not to talk to them once you’ve explained that it’s time for bed. Just keep putting them back in. If they’re getting up so that they can have some extra attention from you, limit the attention that you’re giving or you’ll most likely see them the next night too.

A good night’s sleep is important for every child, but it’s also important for their parents. Helping them sleep will help you sleep. Win-win!

If you have any other questions about bedtime, please ask!