Fix Your Kids' Bedtime Routine

How to Get Your Kids to Settle Down & Go to Sleep

Mom and daughter laughing at bedtime
Your kids' bedtime routine is the perfect time to connect. Photo © KidStock/Getty Images

Ever have the best day with your kids, only to have it all fall apart at bedtime? Especially when you're doing it all solo, you need a clear, consistent bedtime routine that encourages your kids to settle down quickly and allows you to carve out some much-needed 'me time.' Here's what you need to fix your kids' bedtime routine so you can stop dreading this part of your day.

Why Your Kids' Bedtime Routine Matters

Your kids' bedtime isn't just the transition from daytime to nighttime. It's a sacred window that's perfect for connecting. Plus, knowing what to expect each evening will help your kids fall asleep more easily and avoid sleep-related problems like poor behavior, difficulty concentrating, and frequent nighttime waking. The bonus for you is that once your kids' new bedtime routine is in place, you'll notice a significant increase in the amount of me time you can anticipate each evening. So it's doubly worth revamping your kids' bedtime routine! In order to make sure that your kids are getting enough sleep on a regular basis, start with these dos and don'ts:

Tips for Introducing a New Bedtime Routine

When you first introduce your kids' new bedtime routine, they're going to resist it. So here's what you need to do to fix your kids' bedtime routine and put an end to your family's nighttime battles:

  • Create time for winding down. Transitions don't come easy for a lot of kids. So you can't just announce that it's bedtime and expect your children to be ready for sleep. Instead, create space in your kids' bedtime routine for winding down. For example, spend time coloring, reading, or cuddling on the couch. 
  • Be consistent. Your kids' bedtime routine should be fairly consistent from night-to-night. This way, your child knows what to expect and can anticipate sleep as part of the routine. If you coparent with your ex, work together to ensure that your kids' bedtime routine pretty much stays the same at both houses.
  • Make bath time part of the routine. The soothing warmth will signal to your child that it's time to relax and settle down for bed. 
  • Read together. Especially when your kids are young, sharing bedtime stories is a great way to connect and build a close relationship. Even if you're pressed for time, try to build at least one or two short stories into your child's bedtime routine.
  • Create ambiance for sleeping. Leave a nightlight on, along with some soft music set to a timer. This will help your child more readily settle down for sleep.
  • Be prepared for resistance. Getting used to a new bedtime routine will cause some disruption. Be prepared to ride it out and steel yourself to remain calm. It's better to leave the room while your child is still away, so that he can get used to soothing himself. 
  • Consider moving your kids' bedtime routine up. This will help you avoid the issue of rushing your kids' bedtime routine, which can work against your efforts to get them to fall asleep faster. And if your kids consistently wake up during the night, moving to an earlier bedtime may just be the perfect solution. 
  • Be reassuring. Stay calm and if your child is anxious, let her know what you'll be coming back to check on her during the night.
  • Impose reasonable consequences. If your child refuses to go to sleep, then you'll need to impose some consequences. For example, a favorite toy might go in time out, or your child might lose TV time for continuing to act out at bedtime.

What Not to Do When Introducing a New Bedtime Routine

Keep in mind, too, that there are some things that can make introducing a new bedtime routine more difficult. Here are a few things to avoid: 

  • Don't use TV, tablets, or handheld devices as part of your kids' bedtime routine. The light they emit can be stimulating and cause your kids to stay awake longer.
  • Don't let your kids drink caffeinated sodas with dinner.
  • Don't allow frequent interruptions when you're getting your kids ready for bed. This may mean putting your cell phone aside and letting calls go to voicemail temporarily.
  • Don't stay in the room until your child is asleep. I know it's tempting! You may even be used to catching a few zzz's yourself during the bedtime routine, but it's far better for your kids to get used to soothing themselves as they fall asleep. 

Be Consistent When Introducing Your Kids' New Bedtime Routine

Finally, remember that it will take some time for your kids to get used to the new routine. So if things don't go smoothly the first time around, don't give up. Keep at it and have faith that your kids can and will learn to settle into your new bedtime routine. And remember, the bonus for you will be a little more time each evening to relax and unwind — and that's worth the effort it will take to stick to your kids' new bedtime routine!