3 simple tips for a calmer bedtime routine

Mindfulness is a bit of a buzz word but what does it really mean?  To be put simply, it is the practise of paying attention in the present moment – focussing on what is immediately in front of us.  Not worrying about what we have or haven’t done that day, and certainly not worrying about what we need to do in the future and our huge ‘to do’ list.    We could all benefit by finding ways to use it in our everyday lives, not least in our parenting roles.  2020 has been a tough year for everyone, it’s pretty hard to remain calm when there are so many unknowns.  The bedtime routine can become a gigantic struggle when we enter into it exhausted, stressed and with a cluttered mind.

On the parentingplace.nz website Shirley Pastiroff offers some great tips on how you can achieve a more peaceful bedtime routine with your children.  We all know how having a good sleep is key to having the best start to the next day, and of course for a child’s growth and development.

There are 3 key things that Shirley recommends we establish at bedtime:

  1. A great connection with your child
  2. Empathise with how disappointing it is that it’s bedtime (remember when you were a child and how you felt the same way!?)
  3. Stick to essential boundaries and offer help.

Connection:

We know from research that the most significant ingredient in a child’s development is the quality of the connection with their parent or primary caregiver.  It can feel like a huge responsibility at one level, but it simplifies parenting too.

Connection doesn’t always mean more time, just more eye contact, focus, listening and being curious about there world.   Whether you see them 12 hours a day, or just before and after work, there is usually the opportunity for slowing down and doing life at their pace for a little bit more of the day than we usually do.

Connecting through eye contact, high fives, fist pumps and cuddles are just some examples.

Empathy:

When we prioritise connection with them when they are awake, we still need to get them to bed!  Empathy is given for their emotions and boundaries are for their behaviour.

Examples

“I know you don’t want to put your pajamas on and get ready for bed, it’s annoying isn’t it it?”

“I understand you’d like to just stay up and play, it feels unfair that it is bedtime doesn’t it?”

When we empathise, we are telling our children we understand their emotions and we validate how they are feeling. 

Boundaries:

At bedtime there are a few things that need to happen, and these are the boundaries that we as parents set. 

PJ’s, bottle, nappies, bath and books (bath and books are a bonus – if there is time)

The boundary doesn’t sound cross or dominant, just factual and to the point.  The boundary itself (bedtime) isn’t up for discussion, only the process to get there.  And there are easy ways to involve our children in this process:

Some bedtime boundaries might sound like this:

“Can I help you brush your teeth or would you like to do it on your own?”

“Let’s chose your PJ’s together, which are your favourite ones?”

“Would you like a horseback ride or to be carried to bed toinght?”

Another way of positively enforcing boundaries during the bedtime routine is replacing IF with WHEN.

“If you get into bed, I will read you a book”

vs

“When you get into bed, I will read you a book”

Feel the difference? “If” feels optional and part of a negotiation process, whereas “when” is more direct and helps encourage positive behaviour.  “When you do this” rather than “If you do this”

Good luck with establishing connection, empathy and boundaries with your children at bedtime.  We know that if we’re in a calm state of mind, our children are more likely to be calm too – so it’s worth a shot right?!