Bedtime routines evolve as children grow older. When they were babies, it was merely a question of sitting up nearly all night and rocking them to sleep while they made up their minds to (a) demand to be fed (b) go to the toilet (c) throw up on me again or (d) actually sleep. It was tough, and mostly involved milk, spew, poo, and tears (mine). However, it was much easier than the toddler to tween years – or, as I like to think of it, the prenager years.

Prenager Years

What’s a prenager? Well, it’s not babyhood and it’s not the trial-by-teen years. It’s that blurry gap in between when your child thinks they’re totally independent but still completely reliant on you simultaneously racing to keep them out of trouble while you’re having a mini heart attack and anxiously cheering them on from the sidelines. It’s also the period of time when their impressive grasp of vocabulary fools you into thinking you can have a semi-grown up conversation involving logic.

“I don’t want to go to bed. I’m not tired! I want to read/play with my iPod/ask a trillion questions/drink some water/go to the bathroom in case I forgot to use the toilet when I went 5 minutes ago.” Yeah, sure. Of course, you’re not tired, honey. Those aren’t yawns, you aren’t rubbing your eyes cartoon-style, and you don’t need to get up in the morning to find an actual mom and not a sleep-deprived mombie.

Bedtime routines do not rely on parental reading past toddlerhood. Or, indeed, ever.

This didn’t work when they were babies either. Worked on me though.

The official bedtime routine is washing, teeth brushing, pyjamas, and getting tucked up in bed with an independent reading book. Once that’s done, and reading time is over, it’s the unofficial bedtime routine. This mostly consists of switching the lights stay switched off (multiple times) and retrieving whatever contraband non-sleep items they’ve smuggled into bed. Eventually, at least one of us will be exhausted enough to fall asleep – which is great, so long as that person isn’t me.

5 Steps to Bedtime Routines

  1. Pick a plan and stick to it. Bedtime routines are easier when everyone knows what they’re supposed to do, even if they’re refusing to do it.
  2. Any arbitrary bedtime hour will do. Sleep charts are entirely fictitious because kids don’t actually care how much sleep they get. (They certainly don’t care how much sleep parents get.) It is a truism that kids who go to sleep early get up early, and kids that go to sleep late… get up early. Unless you actually have somewhere you need to be in the morning. In which case, you’ll be exactly 5 minutes late whatever time they slept.
  3. Children are natural actors. Do not believe they are actually asleep until you do the arm drop test or pretend to sneak a few broken crayons or an ancient Happy Meal toy from their room. Seriously. Eyes closed and snuffly noises? Be rightfully suspicious. They’re just waiting till you leave the room again before switching the lights back on and relaunching party central.
  4. No matter how cranky or tired you are, don’t forget to reiterate, “I love you; night night.” Every. Single. Time. It’s important to help them settle (or resettle for the tenth time). They really do love you unconditionally even though it feels like they’re trying to test if you’d break under torture.
  5. When they are asleep, kiss them goodnight again and admire your sleeping angels. They won’t wake up and you deserve this little moment of pretend sanity. It’s all going to happen again, the following night.
Bedtime routines that mainly consist of praying your kids stay asleep...

Frank Buffay Jr, in Friends series 10* episode 2: The One Where Ross Is Fine.

Do you have any fabulous sanity saving tips for bedtime routines? Or, are you relying on caffeine and sheer willpower like most other parents? 🙂