Bedtime. It can be a challenge. About the time you think you have them all settled for the night, a just-potty-trained toddler has to go! The little guy in the crib starts calling for a “bah”, a spider calls across the wall, or a little girl is suddenly desperate for a drink — and then desperate for the bathroom thirty minutes later.
Is there a way to simplify the bedtime ordeal? I think so.
Paul, writing to the Corinthian believers, tells them that “all things should be done decently and in order”. If you look up those two words, in order, in Strong’s Concordance, you will find the original Greek word for this phrase defined as follows:
A fixed succession observing a fixed time; due or right order
If you explore a bit further and look up the root word for this phrase, tasso, you will find this definition:
To place in a certain order, to arrange, to assign a place, to appoint
The word can also mean to appoint mutually or agree upon.
Would an established routine help at bedtime — a fixed succession of events at a fixed time placed in a certain order that have been agreed upon?
If bedtime was at a regular agreed-upon hour (with the obvious need for occasional exceptions), would the children eventually start settling down more quickly?
Would it help if you took the time to list all the tasks and activities that occur during your bedtime preparations and posted them on a bedroom wall for easy reference? Think about clean-up, hygiene, dressing, Bible-reading, and so forth. List them in the order you want to do them, if you think that will help. (You might want to designate some activities as optional, to allow for unusual schedules and late night outings.) Be sure to include things like prayer and perhaps a story or two in your routine.
Do you need to assign specific people as helpers to keep younger children on task? Will you and your spouse take responsibility for specific children? Note any of these kinds of details on your list.
In addition to writing up your list of tasks, you and your spouse might also benefit from planning ahead for the problems that always seem to come up when the kids are supposed to be getting into bed.
- What will you do if someone whines about going to bed or declares that he doesn’t want to go to bed? Isn’t this child disobeying? So what will you do?
- What is your plan if someone gets up after they are supposed to stay in bed? Again, are they disobeying? They might need a loving spanking, along with a hug and a review of the policy. Are they little enough to not fully understand, especially if they are just learning to sleep in a regular bed? Do they need more instruction and reminders?
- What can you do to avoid more drinks, bathroom trips, etc.? Would a small amount of water in a no-spill sippy cup solve the dying-of-thirst problem? Can you make sure the children are getting plenty to drink earlier in the evening?
- What will you do if you do decide to let someone up for an emergency bathroom trip, and they dawdle about getting back to bed?
- What is your plan when children aren’t quiet after lights-out? Are you okay with some quiet, bedtime sibling fellowship, or do you want it completely quiet? How will you enforce this?
Note these plans (in fine print 🙂 ) at the bottom of your bedtime list.
Now review your list with the children. Explain that these are the steps for getting ready for bed, and that their day is done when these tasks have been completed. Tell them what you expect of them when you turn out the lights, and what the consequences will be if they choose to disobey.
Then pray for your own self-discipline. Be consistent. Praise those who do what you have asked of them. Discipline those who choose to disobey.