At the end of a day you have ticked off your seemingly endless to do list and there is one last task: Put the children to bed…
Why is it that some families have bedtimes that are so difficult. Why do bedtimes turn into battletimes?
Bedtime should be a series of simple tasks:
Brush Teeth, wash, (bath maybe too)
Put on Pyjamas
This can be done in any order – although always best to end with lights out!
Seems so simple doesn’t it? So where do we as parents get into a fight with our children about this.
My thought is that bedtime is the final place in a busy day when many parents finally turn their attention 100% to their children. I know when I have been less than engaged with my children all day and then expect them to go to bed in orderly fashion I’m often very disappointed to discover they want to play, mess about, do the opposite of what I tell them and generally do their very best to get on my nerves.
As compelling as it is to blame my children for messing about or giving me a hard time, if I see if from their perspective, gosh – Mummy is finally with us – what can we do to maximise this time, they want connection, so they will unconsiously create all sorts of decoys, ploys and ways in which to make sure the attention stays on them. The worst bit of this scenario is of course that “lights out” means the end of the connection. No wonder they resist it.
For the parent however, I am at the end of a busy day, I long for a hot bath, good book, TV, glass of wine (I don’t drink but many friends of mine say this is a perfect end to the day), or another thing to go to : a meeting, a class, a social event…. I turn my attention 100% to my children with an agenda. My agenda is to get them to bed so that I can move onto something else that does not involve children !
So I rush them. I have the steps to follow of getting them to bed in my mind. I march my orders. And it backfires.. it all goes horribly wrong. It is a battletime. I shout. My children cry or hit out. I bribe, I threaten, I feel a victim, I despair. It is the end of their day and everybody hurts.
I have found what has worked for me was to drop the belief “They need to go to bed”. This sounds silly perhaps? Actually investigate into it and you may feel the stress of urgency and insistence in holding that thought. That belief is where I get stuck. If I think that they “need to” and they don’t I will shout, get angry and feel despair. If I give up the agenda, if I allow myself and my children plenty of space. If it takes me an hour I allow an hour. If I don’t think about going to bed AND make moves with them in a lighthearted way to go to the bathroom, clean their teeth, etc etc eventually low and behold, miracle on miracle I am cuddling these beautiful beings and enjoying this my favourite most intimate time of the day with them. They go to bed in peace. I put them to bed in peace.
And I do this every night I can. Routine. That’s another part of the backbone that can give me peace.
This is what makes a me a joyful parent at my children’s bedtime.