It’s New Year’s Day morning. Before you had children, that would mean that you were still in bed right now, recovering from a night of drinking champagne, dancing till midnight, and kissing random strangers. Now that you have children, it means that you’ve been wide awake drinking coffee since six, and if you were up past midnight last night, it wasn’t because you wanted to see the ball drop. It’s because somebody kept calling you to bring them another glass of water, arrange their blanket just so, or turn back on their stupid night light that’s programmed to turn itself off after a mere 45 minutes.
In other words, it’s because somebody doesn’t understand bedtime.
Bedtime is supposed to be quick and relatively painless. It’s supposed to involve a few short, simple routines that happen in a predictable manner and finish with your child quiet, in bed, and falling asleep without your presence.
If your bedtime routine is getting out of control, it’s time to simplify. If you’re lucky and clever, you might be able to do this while limiting tantrums, tears, and lost hours of sleep. But you’ll need to be tricky. Here’s how.
1. End with a reward.
I’ll admit it: the last part of our bedtime routine is watching TV. On the iPad. In bed. Which is horrible for a million reasons, like the fact that the light from the screen can interfere with circadian rhythms and the fact that watching TV in bed is just bad. But also? It works. Any time the bedtime routine starts to drag, I just remind my daughter, “Hurry up so you’ll have time to watch TV!” — and everything goes so much more smoothly.
You can choose your own reward. Like reading three books instead of one (this would make you an awesome parent. A much better parent than me). Just don’t use candy. Because you will have already brushed teeth.
2. Start a competition.
If you have two or more children of similar ages, make bedtime a race. Whoever finishes getting ready first gets a prize. It doesn’t matter what the prize is. It could be a checkmark on a chart on the wall. The key is to pit your children against each other in a semi-deadly race to get to bed first. This is a moment when sibling rivalry is your best friend.
3. Do it together.
I don’t mean the kids — well, the kids can do it together, too — but mostly I mean you. Brush your teeth along with the kids, and put on your pajamas while they do. You’ll be setting a good example, and you’ll be less likely to forget to brush your teeth. You might even get to brush your teeth and put on your pajamas without anyone screaming or pulling at your leg. See? It’s a win-win.
And if all else fails? Accept the inevitable. Let them stay up late. Turn on the TV, pour the champagne, and toast to the fact that you’re an awesome parent. Your kids will happily agree.