Got bedtime power struggles? Oh, friend, I feel you!
For me the bedtime routine is bittersweet. Sweet because I LOVE snuggling with a sleepy, freshly bathed kiddo in warm jammies.
Kissing their forehead and whispering prayers. One last hug before the day is done. But bitter because…well, let’s face it, sometimes getting there is a battle.
Some days, I get pushback. “But I don’t wanna take a bath,” they whine. “No brushie teeth,” my toddler says. “Can’t we just play five more minutes?” (You get the idea.)
Over the years, I’ve developed some bedtime hacks to end the bedtime battle once and for all. (Or at least make them a little more peaceful and less stressful for everyone!)
11 Tips for Peacefully Ending the Bedtime Battle
1. Get organized for bedtime right after dinner
If you have a partner or family member to help out, you can tag team to get everything ready.
One person can clean up the supper dishes while the other gets everything ready for bed.
(Pick out pajamas and lay them out, make sure everyone has a towel…
Are we out of soap again? Lay out clothes for the next day. Turn down the beds, find the blankie and stuffed animal, etc.)
Having everything organized will help things feel less chaotic and prevent running around all over the house looking for that missing teddy or the last pair of clean underwear.
2. Let them finish what they’re doing
For us grownups, it’s so hard when we’re in the middle of something to stop and leave it unfinished to go do something else.
It works the same way for kids and their bedtime routine!
If they’re in the middle of playing a board game or building with blocks, be sure to give them enough advanced notice so they can wrap it up before getting ready for bed.
Instead of, “Okay, it’s time for bed! Come downstairs right now!”, try saying, “It’s time to wrap up for the day. In 20 minutes we’ll start our nighttime routine.
What do you need to finish before you take your bath?”
Giving them enough time to wrap things up will help avoid a power struggle.
It also helps them feel prepared for what comes next.
Oftentimes my kids are so busy having fun that they don’t even realize it’s getting close to bedtime!
3. Validate their feelings
When rushing through bedtime routines it can be tempting to say, “I don’t care if you want to brush your teeth or not, you’re doing it anyway! You don’t want them to fall out, do you?!”
But one key to avoiding power struggles and helping your child feel heard is to validate their feelings and show them you understand.
“You feel frustrated when it’s time to put away your toys.” “I know brushing your teeth isn’t your favorite thing to do.”
4. Do the hard stuff first
Where do you usually get the most pushback? Teeth brushing? If so, try putting that first on your bedtime to-do list.
You can say, “As soon as you brush your teeth, we’ll (take a bath/read a story).
This will get the dreaded thing done and over with first so the rest of the night can be smooth sailing.
5. Offer a choice
If your child is resistant to doing the hard stuff first, you can offer a choice.
“Would you like to brush your teeth first or take a bath?”
This helps them feel more in control and less likely to initiate a power struggle.
6. Consider a routine vs. a schedule
What’s the difference between a routine and a schedule?
A routine is something that you do consistently, without a specific time set in stone.
For example, our family usually starts getting the kids ready for bed after homework is wrapped up.
It never happens at the exact same time every day.
On the other hand, a schedule is something that you do at a specific time every day.
For example, you might specify that at 6:30 pm every day, you will start your bedtime routine.
Personally, I find that a schedule can be too challenging for us to stick to. We have things that come up.
Sometimes we go out of town or run errands in the evenings.
Some people really thrive on having a schedule, but if you don’t, that’s okay!!
A routine might be a better option for you to allow for more flexibility. You may try experimenting with both to see what works better for your kiddos.
7. Provide visual cues
We put visual schedule in our kitchen and our kids can visually see what needs to be done before bed.
Of course, as I mentioned before, I do offer choices, so as long as everything gets checked off the list, I don’t mind if this happens out of order.
Many kids are visual learners, so having it right in front of them where they can see it really helps!
You can make a simple chart like this one with cardstock and sticky notes. Kids can move their sticky note to “check off” each item on their bedtime to do list.
8. Make it fun
Usually, my kids love baths, but occasionally I have one precious child who likes to push back.
When this happens, I offer to treat her to a “spa bath”.
I throw in a handful of Epsom salts, dim the lights, and put one of those battery-operated candles on the bathroom counter (away from the water, of course) for a relaxing ambiance.
It only takes a minute to throw this together and takes way less effort than arguing or pushing the issue.
She loves feeling pampered and will willingly hop right in the tub for this special experience.
9. Set the timer
Sometimes getting a child in the bath is a challenge.
Other times, getting a child OUT of the bath is a challenge.
When I know we don’t have time for leisurely baths, I’ll use the timer on my phone and set a clear expectation.
“Okay, the timer is set for 15 minutes. When you hear the timer ring, you’ll know it’s time to get out and dry off.”
You can also get a visual timer like this one, which is great for kids!
10. Give them something to look forward to
You can gently remind them, “As soon as you’re in bed we can sing our special song!
Or, “I’m looking forward to reading our mystery book tonight! I can’t wait to see what happens next!”
11. Remember why it’s important to end the day on a positive note
Trust me, I know you’re exhausted at the end of the day. You’ve been pulled in every direction.
You’re frazzled. But hang in there, mama!
Gently remind yourself how you want your child to feel at the end of the day.
When they reflect on the last few hours, how do they remember the family dynamic? Stressful? Agitated?
One of my goals each night is to make sure that when I tuck my kiddos into bed they can feel secure, safe, loved, and wanted.
Keeping this goal in mind helps me to dig deep to power through the end-of-day stress.
Bonus tip: Reward yourself
Ahhh, you made it! Whew!
That load of laundry can wait, how about a hot bath or some relaxing music for a little self-care?
Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so be sure to re-charge so you’ll be ready to love on those little kiddos all over again tomorrow.
(Or in a few hours!)
There you have it! Do you have any tips for ending the bedtime battle? I’d love to hear them!
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