Dear Dr. Renee,
I am having a hard time getting my kids in bed on time. Well, actually, I have a hard time getting my kids to go to sleep once they are in bed. My son needs a drink of water, or my daughter wants another hug. It’s always ‘one more thing’ and I just want them to go sleep! Please help.
It sounds like it is time for some firm boundaries and a mantra.
If you don’t already have a bedtime routine, this is the time to start one. Think of all the things that you want to happen before bed and plan out which order you think they should be done. If your children are older, you can do this with them. For now, you can do it alone as the parent to get it started.
Try to keep the same routine each night, ideally starting at the same time each night, to help your child’s body develop a sense of routine and rhythm.
As you are doing this, you will want to narrate what is happening to your children for a few nights. As your son is brushing his teeth, kindly tell him that this is the time to get a drink of water if his body is feeling thirsty. When you are doing the final tuck-in (after stories/songs), tell your daughter this is the last hug for tonight and that you are looking forward to a morning hug when she wakes up. You could also ask if she wants one hug or two before you leave if that feels better to you.
And then comes the hard part, at least for most parents. You will need to follow through and stick with your boundaries. And that is why I recommend a mantra. This is a sentence that you might get to say so often you will feel like a broken record. “I love you sweetie, good night.”
You do not want to have a conversation. You just lovingly repeat your sentence and walk away. I will warn you that in the beginning, you could get a lot of pushback. Not very many people like change, especially at night when they are tired… And children tend to push harder and harder to see if you really mean what you are saying.
The good news is that once they realize you mean business, because you are following through with your boundaries, they back off and eventually stop pushing.
Wishing you a peaceful evening in the near future! Please let me know how it goes,
Here are a few other posts that you might find helpful: