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The Bedtime Routine That Is A Powerful Act Of Love

Ending each day well for your child is a way to let them know that they are loved and secure. Here is a tried and true way to accomplish this. Read on for a workable routine for the end of the day.

What every riotous day needs is a calm, quiet, peaceful ending. No matter how insane the schedule has been, how many things got off track, what unfair demands were made, or which needs went unmet, each day eventually comes to an end. And at the end of each day children, and the adults who love them, will benefit from a consistent, calm, quiet time before going to sleep. Every Harbor Home can have this no matter what level of chaos the day reached.

There are three times each day during which the minutes you invest in your child will benefit them most. Those times are the first few minutes that they are awake, the first few minutes after school/work and the last few minutes before you say goodnight. These are moments of transition and every child could use a little help navigating them.

The words you say and the atmosphere you create at these three crucial times each day will go a long way toward determining how your child feels about their worth in your eyes. When you create a welcoming atmosphere as they wake up, come home and go to sleep you are helping them to ease into the next segment of the day and reminding them that they are loved.

This week we are going to consider the last few minutes before sleep time. For many parents and children this is the moment that is most likely to be filled with tension and power struggles. Fortunately, there is a tried and true method that can end these battles once and for all. All you have to do is to implement the method consistently and calmly.

The National Sleep Foundation ( recommends that all screens including phones, tablets, computers and televisions be turned off thirty minutes before sleep. There are a lot of scientific reasons for this, but the bottom line is that the light these devices put out wake up and stimulate the brain and it takes about thirty minutes for those effects to wear off. This is the first step in successfully implementing a peaceful bedtime routine.

The next step is to choose a time of day at which you will help your child go to sleep each and every evening. This is vital to the health of their body and brain because the human body thrives on rhythms and routines. The way to choose a bed time is to figure out what time the child needs to get up in the morning and then count backwards the number of hours of sleep that child needs based on their age.

Here are the recommendations pediatricians agree on: toddlers-5 year olds need 10-12 hours of sleep each night, school age children ages 6-12 need 9-12 hours, and teens require 8-10 hours. So the formula is pretty easy.

Suppose your child has to wake up at 6:30am in order to get washed and dressed and eat in order to leave for school at 7:20am. This means that a bedtime no later than 8:30pm and no earlier than 7:30pm is ideal for your child's health. Let's look at a bedtime routine that reflects these times.

8:00pm All Screens off, all over the house. House goes very quiet.

8:03 pm Brush teeth and other bathroom essentials.

8:15 pm Come to bed, get in and get "comfy cozy" as we used to say in our home.

Grown up snuggles up with any and all children and begins to read aloud.

8:27pm: Story is over, prayer time now if you wish. Quietly remind them of the positive things about tomorrow. Keep your voice quiet and the room as dimly lit as possible and still read.

8:30pm: Bright lights are off, night lights on as necessary, quietly say goodnight and leave.

Sounds easy, right? Well, let's walk through ways to troubleshoot the things that most often fall apart during this bedtime routine.

  1. Screens Off Time: "We are in the middle of __________. We can't turn our screen off yet. If we do then________ will happen." Fill in the blanks with your children's video game catastrophe. Another potential problem is older children or other adults.

Trouble shooting: set a timer about 5-10 minutes before screens off time. Give a warning that when the timer sounds, screens go off even if the complete annihilation of humanity will result. A 5-10 minute warning eases the transition. Remind the reluctant one that the screen can be forfeited tomorrow night if if can't be turned off tonight.

Please don't give ridiculous out of proportion threats that you can't follow through on. Are you really going to throw the $200.00 tablet into the trash? Are you really going to sell it? Are you really going to take it away from them for a month because they resist turning it off tonight? If you won't do it, don't say it.

Forfeiting the tablet for one night is proportional to resisting tonight's screen off time. Yelling is counter-productive. Older children or adults should take their lighted screens to a closed off room and either lower the volume dramatically or use headphones for sound. The whole house must be quiet.

2. Bathroom Routine Problem: "Yes! I brushed my teeth!" It's not really a lie if they did it day before yesterday, right? Many children find this hygiene chore to be too much trouble.

Trouble shooting: If this is your adorable child's attitude, check to make sure the tooth brush is wet, and then assess. Give this act of defiance a mild and good humored response, while still enforcing it. Don't send everyone to bed with a yelling match over brushing teeth. It is very important to brush teeth, but reign yourself in a bit. Just get it done quickly and pleasantly.

3. Snuggle up time Problem: Too much wiggling, blanket hogging, lost soft animals

Trouble shooting: Allow a few moments for everyone to get settled. This takes a certain amount of wiggling and adjusting of pillows and blankets. Make room for yourself in this nest, and have the book ready to go. Just be quiet and model being still. If you need to speak say something like "I hope we don't have to miss the story because we can't get still enough." This settling down comes with practice and routine. It won't work perfectly on night one, but by the third week, it will be an ingrained part of the routine. Children grow to love this. So will you.

4. Lights out, good night problem: "I have something I forgot to tell you!" "I need more water!"

"I forgot to go potty!"

Trouble shooting: Children can invent an endless number of excuses for needing extra time before the light goes out. Use your discretion about the first round of requests, but once you have turned off the light and left them to sleep stand firm about going back to bed.

Important tip: Once lights are out, and bedtime routines are complete, if your child gets up and comes to find you, take them back to bed with a verbal reminder that it is bedtime. This is not a long conversation or lecture. Simple say, "It's bedtime, sweetheart. I love you." If the child gets up again, simply shepherd them back to their bed firmly and remain silent. Do not answer any questions, do not get drawn into an argument, do not scold, simple take them back to bed. They are looking for interaction and if they don't get it, bed will become more appealing.

A day that ends well and on a positive note invites a day that is positive tomorrow. Your Harbor Home thrives on routine and a firm loving hand. A simple routine of going to bed on time and with a pleasant atmosphere will help your home become a more welcoming place for all.

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