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Having A Plan For Kids At Bedtime

I don’t know about you, but bedtime has often been a sloppy affair at our house.  Maybe because I’m not naturally detail oriented, maybe because I’m getting to the end of my endurance, maybe because the girls are easily distracted at that hour.  At any rate, I am determined this year to get bedtime on automatic pilot.  I’m not saying this is genius, but I’ll share what I’ve started this week.

What you need to remember before reading on is that no plan is perfect for every family.  Each set of parents and kids needs to figure out what works est for them.  I simply resigned to the fact that I cannot be in three places across the house commanding each step of the bedtime routine in triplicate.   And I’ve tried.  Believe me, if that approach worked for me, I’d be writing about it right now.  Perhaps if I had an only child, but not with three busy girls.  So take the parts you like and discard what you think wouldn’t work for your
family.  Or, become inspired to create your own idea.

As I said before, my biggest problem is that I cannot direct each child at the same time to get their tasks done.  Everyone needs to be able to do their routine all in the same time frame and with some sense of energy and pace.  So instead of having me next to each kid, I have given them a clipboard with a list and a timer.  We’re big on timers in our house – anything from chores to when the movie will start to how long it will be when dessert is ready.  That seemed to be a natural and obvious tool for us to work with.

Also, every child is now in school all day long  That means they are getting used to receiving directions and working papers each day in a timely manner.  The teachers give instructions now and then, but the kids are also expected to work independently.  I’m basically piggybacking something they are familiar with to get our bedtime routine done.  The oldest two can read, and my Kindergartner has words with pictures of each task.

As you could guess, the first night had a few bumps and detours.  I asked each of them to think of things I missed on the first list.  We came up with a handful of things that will be added tomorrow.  The basic theory behind the bedtime routine is to make the next morning easy and simple.  So anything that can be done the night before is encouraged.  And ultimately, this list will be laminated so they can use it over and over.  We need this first week to work out the kinks before we make a permanent version.

The girls can do their tasks in any order unless something really needs to come before another activity, like picking out pajamas before taking a bath.  This helps prevent all three of them from trying to brush their teeth at the same time.  Plus, all I have to do is say something like, “Are you moving through your list OK?”  I’ve found that this sounds less bossy coming out of my mouth, and I’m not micromanaging.  They are in charge of their list – I just make sure they are still moving through it.

So far, I’m pleased with how it went.  A few miscalculations, but we all expected it so nobody got too upset.  I told my oldest that we want the timer to help you keep moving but not make you feel bad you didn’t do it fast enough.  It’s meant to be a win-win situation.  More independence and accomplishment for the child, less bossiness and better timeliness for the parent.

I hope you will share some of your successful bedtime routine tools.  As I said, this plan may not work for some or any of your kids.  Please share so we can all benefit.  I’ll be sure to let you know how our plan is working out at various times this year.

Having A Plan For Kids At Bedtime

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2009). Having A Plan For Kids At Bedtime. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 Aug 2009
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