Bedtime Rituals for Children, Ease Bedtime Chaos for Parents

“I can’t take it anymore!” a young mother’s desperate e-mail pleaded, “it takes anywhere from two to four hours to get my kids to bed at night and I am so tired. Sometimes I sit in their room and cry as I wait for them to fall asleep. What should I do?”

Sleep problems are a tremendous issue to parents. Nobody informs couples when they are expecting their first baby that “sleeping like a baby” means taking two hours to fall asleep and then waking up every hour and a half for the first year or two and not actually sleeping through the night until age five.

Many parents, even after having read all of the parenting books, are plagued with countless nights of difficult bedtimes, pop-ups (kids leaving their beds after lights out), and musical beds.

Is there a way to get kids to bed without the evening drama? How do parents end the day on a positive note with big yawns and kids happy to put their heads down?

The Bedtime Ritual

A set bedtime ritual is an effective method to get kids into bed and have them stay there and fall asleep on their own. The bedtime routine also makes the evenings mellow and cozy and sends the kids into dreamland on a happy note. Be warned, set means “set in stone” until the children’s body clocks are set and they really associate the stages of the routine with sleep.

The Perfect Bedtime

Figure out the perfect bedtime. For some kids it is really clear when they need to go to bed because they yawn and get glassy eyed and say they want to go to bed. Other children start to get cranky and tearful and still others get hyped up and wild. Parents should pay close attention to their kids for a couple of nights and hone in on the best time to put their kids into bed.

Count Back One Hour and Get in the Tub

One hour before bedtime shut off the television and dim the family room lights. Brush teeth and then put the child in the tub. Bath time is a wonderful way to settle children and get them to relax. Lower the lights in the bathroom and start to speak in lower tones. Use bath products that are designed for children so there are no stinging eyes and upsets that get the children agitated. Products that are scented with oatmeal and honey, lavender, almond and vanilla smell delicious and are said to relax and calm. The object of bath time, in addition to scrubbing off the playground dirt, is to start to wind down the child.

Soft Towels and Snuggly Pajamas

Dry off the child gently without being vigorous. Bring the child into his room and put on a bedtime CD. A little back massage with a gentle lotion will further mellow the child. Put on pajamas, one more visit to the potty and then straight into bed. One note about pajamas: find pajamas that the child loves and that are comfortable. Putting on pajamas should not be a fight or the wind down to this point has been a waste.

Tuck In

Being tucked in is very important to children. They love to feel safe, protected and at peace. One mother makes her children into a “pie” every night. She “crimps” the edges of the “pie” by tucking the sheets all around the child and then finishes with a big kissing dollop of whipped cream. The point of her practice is to make tucking in the children significant and important, and delicious.

Read a Book

Read for fifteen minutes every night. Reading to children is very important for their education and will help encourage a love of reading and learning. Choose nice stories that don’t evoke scary thoughts. Chapter books are a wonderful way for children to use their imaginations. One chapter is usually sufficient to get those yawns happening and the eyelids drooping. If kids want a picture book that is great; just don’t let one book become five. Otherwise, suddenly an hour has gone by, the kids have missed that perfect bedtime, and mom or dad are leaving the kid’s room at 9:30 pm.

Lights Out and Give Thanks

Turn off the lights and leave them off.  Say prayers, or for those not religious it is meaningful to give thanks for the joy in their lives and all that they have. It is lovely to come up with the same words every night so that the children can recite with mom or dad. For example, a phrase from the paragraph that one family always says is, “Boys, please know that mommy and daddy love and adore you and that it is an honor and a privilege and a pleasure to be your parents…”

The Finale and One Ace up the Sleeve

At this point parents can say goodnight and leave the room. However, one mommy claims to have a secret weapon; The Three Bears. Every night since her oldest child was one, she has told the story of The Three Bears. She never changes the story, not even the inflection of her voice. They all associate sleep so much with this story that it has a “Pavlov’s Dog” affect on the entire family. She can barely get through The Three Bears herself without dosing off. This “ace up the sleeve” is a really great suggestion. If parents need to round out the bedtime ritual with one final story, tell the same exact story every night; this programs children that it is time to doze off.


Children love a set routine. Knowing exactly what happens next gives them a sense of safety and security and teaches them to self regulate. A child’s internal clock is set if a bedtime ritual is created and adhered to. Sleep will come more easily than if every evening the routine changes. If parents are consistent and do not vacillate with the routine they establish for their kids, they will have children happy to go to bed and stay there.



10 Organizational Tips for Overwhelmed Parents

Parents often feel overwhelmed, frustrated and guilty as they guide their children through the stages of childhood. For most parents, cooking, cleaning, carpooling, grocery shopping, bath time, bedtime, and potty training are on the shortlist of what they are responsible for daily. It can feel like the tasks keep mounting up and there are no parenting tools to help keep up.

Chores can preclude important parenting responsibilities like teaching children about good behavior and manners, playing games as a family, or just sitting back and enjoying some peace and quiet together. Clutter and disorganization can heighten the strain that many parents already experience raising children.

Good organization is a parenting aid that leads to a more manageable life and more time to interact with the children. Maintaining a well organized life helps in parenting with less frustration and stress. Taking time out to keep the home clutter free and running smoothly does wonders in reducing parental stress.

Following are ten tips to increase peace, quiet, and free time in your home:

1. Pick-up, toss and donate. Place an attractive large basket with handles in a central location. Designate a separate bin, basket or container for each family member marked with his or her name. Keep the bins accessible, for instance on the stairs leading up to bedrooms or lined up in the hall near bedrooms.

Every evening before bedtime walk through the house with the handled basket and pick up everything left on the floor, on counters or draped over furniture.

Transfer the salvaged items from the handled basket into the owner’s bin. Make a rule that bins must be emptied before bed or the bin owner will lose a privilege. You can go even further and say that items left in their bins overnight will be donated to those in need. Be insistent and consistent about children putting away their things and disciplining appropriately for leaving items in their bins. Being responsible for one’s belongings and helping to maintain a clean environment is a very important behavioral lesson that teaches children respect for home and family.

2. Make sure that everything has a place. It is impossible for children to put their belongings away if there is no designated location. Make sure that there are plenty of shelves for books, drawers for clothes, bins for toys, hooks for bags, bathrobes, coats and hats. Putting things away should not be random; sometimes it goes here, sometimes it goes there. Everything needs a permanent home; board games always go in the closet, socks in the upper right hand drawer.

3. Set up hooks for coats and a bowl for keys. Inside the door where the family comes and goes, hang a labeled individual hook for each family member where he/she can hang a coat and backpack. A wonderful addition to the hook is a cubby placed underneath the hook for hats, mittens, lunchbox etc.

Place keys, sunglasses and cell phones in an attractive bowl close to the regularly used door and be sure to get in the habit of throwing all items into that bowl. Not searching around the house looking for the keys will save a lot of time and energy and reduce parental stress.

4. Save one and toss the rest. Children bring a lot of paperwork home from school. It is impossible to save and store it all. Choose a small representation of what the child is doing in school and toss the rest. A thin well labeled spiral ring notebook with plastic sleeves works nicely for storing a small sampling of the child’s hard work. An alternative to the notebook, is to scan the pages into the computer and keep a CD of the child’s school year.

Really wonderful pieces can be brought immediately to a great frame shop to be framed and later displayed in a prominent spot in the home. One expertly matted and framed piece of artwork honors a child’s hard work far better than keeping a stack of papers hidden away and yellowing in a musty box or drawer.

5. Do one load a day. Wash, dry, fold, and put away one load of laundry a day. As soon as a day is missed, the laundry starts to pile up and the work becomes overwhelming. Teach children how to sort their own laundry and put into appropriate laundry baskets. Get children into the habit early of picking up their clothes. Teach the children how to put away their own clothes in the appropriate place.

6. Hang up a shoe tree. Hang a shoe tree on the back of the door that the family uses most frequently. Parents should insist that everyone hang their shoes as soon as they take them off. This eliminates the line of shoes scattered across the house and makes shoes easy to find as the family is scrambling to get out of the door. If the kids don’t hang their shoes, they lose the shoes or a privilege. Remind children consistently and the kids will begin to hang their shoes automatically.

7. Keep the bathrooms tidy. Wipe down the bathrooms daily or the mess can become daunting; at a minimum put clothes in the hamper and hang wet towels. If the sinks, toilets, tubs and mirrors are quickly wiped clean daily there is less need for a massive and exhaustive cleaning. Make sure that the children have their own towel racks to hang wet towels on and hampers in the bathroom. If there aren’t enough towel racks the towels will end up being thrown on the floor and can’t be reused. Wet towels on the floor lead to extra laundry.

8. Sort the mail. Sort the mail daily and immediately throw away all junk mail. Open the bills, remove the actual bill and return envelope, and throw away everything unnecessary remaining in the bill envelope. Place all bills in a folder marked “Bills to be Paid” and keep the folder next to the computer and/or checkbook. Keep a roll of stamps, plain white envelopes, a pen and a wastebasket within reach. Pay the bills on the same day every month.

9. Dispose of broken, empty and out of date items. Out of order telephones, obsolete computers and electronics, toys missing pieces, unused or out-of-date cosmetics, broken appliances etc. all need to be thrown away. Sometimes these items are stored in the hope of finding, fixing, mending, combining or selling. Often what happens is the useless item ends up gathering dust and taking up precious space. Throw away the unsalvageable and donate the salvageable. Take one Saturday every two or three months and go through the closets, drawers, attic, basement and garage and collect the unused items and get rid of them.

10. Use a large calendar to reduce stress. Posting a large dry erase calendar in a central location allows parents and children alike to know what is coming up that day, week and month. The calendar should have everything posted so there are no surprises. Set a good example and be on time to appointments, school, events etc. Teach children that being even five minutes late is disrespectful to those who are waiting. Tardiness adds to anxiety and stress so being on time will help to calm down the household.

None of the above habits are difficult to implement, and each one on its own will help make the job of parenting more manageable. You don’t need to put everything in place at one time. Consider making one change every week. That way, within three months you will enjoy more control, free time to devote to children, and peace and quiet.

Why Judging is Good Not Bad:Critical Thinking and the Role of the Parent

Recently some mothers of young children engaged in a discussion about passing judgment. It was unanimous; they would all teach their children that being judgmental of other people is wrong. They would be sure not to model judgmental behavior and they would correct their children if they caught them being judgmental. Sounds good in theory…

but, shouldn’t children be taught and encouraged to be judgmental? This article is not advocating teaching children to be judgmental of people based on skin color, physical ability, religion, intellectual, or economic differences, of course. It is about teaching children about values and behavior and assessing situations.

 judg·ment    / Pronunciation[juhj-muh nt] –noun

1. an act or instance of judging.

2. the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, esp. in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion: a man of sound judgment.

According to the dictionary definition of the word judgment (above), the word embraces one of the most important concepts that parents need teach their children: critical thinking.

Critical thinking consists of mentally evaluating information, analyzing that information and forming a judgment which leads to smart action. A good example of using critical thinking is when a driver applies the brakes when speeding towards the edge of a cliff. The driver notes the cliff edge ahead, gauges his speed and using good sense, slows the vehicle down avoiding disaster.

Critical thinking and making judgments allow children to self-regulate their social, emotional, and physical responses to outside stimuli and stay in control. If a child is put into a situation in which he must choose between good and bad, he can make an assessment of the situation, and using the skills he has been taught by his parents, make a good choice. Children can be taught to think a few steps ahead, envision the consequences of their actions, and make appropriate choices based on the values and morals taught by their parents. Parents can take a proactive role in teaching critical thinking by discussing topics that children will most likely encounter as they develop; such as peer pressure, failure in sports, stress due to grades, managing spending and handling relationships. Role playing can be a great tool in preparing kids in advance for likely situations. Parents can use their wisdom to coach their children about how to respond in certain instances.

Parents should not assume that their children understand how to think critically and judge situations. Children’s brains do not fully develop until well into their teenage years (or beyond). Because of this they are often unable to make certain connections. In addition, due to their immaturity they do not have the capacity to understand the impact of their decisions. A sixteen year old boy who is adept at video games may jump into a high performance car and within moments slam it into a tree, not understanding that he doesn’t really know how to control the car even though he has been “driving” the same car on the screen for years (unfortunately, a true story).

Over the course of the past twenty years, with the introduction of the internet, society has become information driven. With all of the benefits that technology has given, it has also exposed people to loads of false content. This is very difficult for children to understand because they see the world more concretely than adults and have little reason not to believe all of what they see and hear. For example they are easily duped by pedophiles posing as thirteen year old children on social networking sites. They believe rumors and spread them like wildfire about any individual or situation. Now more than ever, learning and using critical thinking and passing judgment is crucial, especially for children who are not old enough to understand the dire consequences of poor decision making.

Not passing judgment turns good and bad into moral equivalents. The distinction between the two states is removed and suddenly there is no line to cross; everything is acceptable.

It has become politically incorrect to distinguish between good behavior and bad behavior. Parents feel hesitant about saying no and disciplining. However, not drawing a line between appropriate and inappropriate does a great disservice to children. Teaching children to choose friends wisely is a difficult but essential lesson parents must be willing to teach their kids. Using discretion when choosing friends and picking friends with good character and high moral fiber, can keep kids on the right path and headed towards achieving their goal and dreams.  

If parents want to instill good values, ethics and morals in their children, they need to have the courage to go against the social tide and teach their children how to judge and make choices based on the morals and values that they have been raised with. Perhaps most difficult, this includes making judgments about the right kinds of people to associate one’s self with, in order to surround oneself with strong influences and people with common, strong values. Teaching children to think critically and judge their circumstances gives kids a leg up in a world that is barraging them with information and temptations, some good and some not so good.