How is bedtime with kids at your house? Stressful? Chaotic? I get it. With four kids, I’ve had those nights. Or would you say, “It’s fine!”? But is it REALLY fine? Do you secretly dread it? Let’s make it better than fine! When I first became a mom, a good friend that I totally looked up to gave me a bedtime tip that has stuck with us through four children and 13 years (and counting!). It works and makes bedtime run pretty smoothly around here!
It seems like it would be pretty natural for kids to fight bedtime. You can’t even blame them! Most kids will tell you they hate sleeping. Give them ten years and they’ll change their mind. But how do we survive until they get to that point? The answer is stories. Yep, bedtime stories. You probably already read to your kids at night, so why not use the stories to drive compliant behavior?
See, in our house, bedtime stories aren’t a right. They’re a privilege. They are earned. How are they earned? Through compliance at bedtime. Brilliant, right?!? This is how it works. Each child has the opportunity to choose three stories for bedtime. When they’re really little, they might get to choose these before the getting-ready-for-bed routine begins. Grab a basket and call it their “Book Basket” (or something more clever than that!). That makes it a bit more concrete for them. As they get older it’s just a number we keep track of until it’s actually time to pick out stories and read. Once you start the process of getting ready for bed, any non-compliance like whining, saying “no”, refusing to open their mouth to brush teeth, running away from their bedroom (Just hypothetical examples there. I’m sure none of us have these things happen.) result in a book being taken away. If they have their book basket, they have to go pull one out and put it back on the shelf. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. They can not earn these back. If all three books are lost before they crawl into bed, there are no stories that evening. When that happens (and it WILL, especially in the beginning), I tuck them in, give them a hug and kiss, tell them I love them and that we’ll try again tomorrow. That’s it.
It seems simple, maybe too simple to work. But I promise, if you stick to your guns, even if you feel like you’re being harsh, the behaviors will change. Not only that, but they will look at books and reading as a reward and a positive thing. It will help create a sense of love for literature, give you a positive bonding activity, while majorly boosting their vocabulary. This is only going to help them down the road! And those nights when you read three stories? You might groan inside about how long it takes, especially if multiple kids are still on this system. We had three at once, so that was nine stories tackled between the two of us…ugh! But think about how much time and energy you saved by having compliant kids getting ready for bed. Trust me, a few extra minutes of reading each night is totally worth it!