This is part of a series on getting kids to bed at night and keeping them in their rooms. To read the first part of the article, please click here. Amy is a home-schooling mama who also leads a ministry called The Family Restoration Project with her husband Jonny and their family. Here is how they get their kids to bed each night and keep them there!
What is the age range of your children?
I have 8 children ages 4-19.
How long does it take to put your kids to bed at night?
10-30 minutes depending on the night.
What does your bedtime routine consist of/look like on a regular night?
Boy, bedtime routines change dramatically over the years. Ten years ago looks much different that it looks today. My youngest three kiddos are ages 4, 8, and 10 make it pretty simple to get them into bed. I actually spend longer tucking my 4 year old in than I ever have simply because she is my last and who’s in a hurry anyway:) So our routine in this phase of life is my 8 & 10 year old sons do all their bedtime preparations independently and climb into bed around 8:30 and then read until 9:00 for the eight year old and 9:30 for the ten year old. I still ’tuck’ them in with kisses and prayers which I wouldn’t miss for the world!
My four year old and I have a long tuck in and a short tuck in depending on when we get started. Tucking her into bed includes all the normal bedtime prep of teeth and jimmies, but also a snack, book, prayers of blessings, and even a game if we have time. I’m trying to not overly spoil her, but I tell ya what – they grow soooo very fast I just want to soak it all in! She falls asleep listening to Bible verse songs on her CD player. Once she is in bed, however, she is not allowed out of her bedroom because this momma wants to tuck and not have to keep on tucking. That’s been a rule in our home since my oldest first was in a big-boy bed and I love it! It’s about the momma’s sanity:)
What does it look like if you get home late?
Short and sweet. We may even skip brushing teeth (insert gasp here).
Do you have children that share a room? Does that work for your family?
We have 4 boys and 4 girls and each group has their own room. This has been great for our family and it has created amazing family dynamics as our 19, 16, 10, & 8 year old boys and our 17, 13, 11, & 4 year old girls, play fabulously together!
I never wanted my kiddos to have their own rooms. I wanted them to have tons of grace for all ages and stages and find quiet time in long walks in the woods instead of isolated in their rooms.
What excuses do your children use to stay up later or to get out of bed?
Oh, all the usual:) “I never had my snack!” or “I had a bad dream.” (After only being in bed for 10 minutes -ha!) Kids are kids:)
How do you respond if your child gets up after you have put them to bed?
I will usually give one verbal reminder and then a “reminder in the behinder”. Whenever I give my kiddos a spank it is never because I’m angry, I am just firming up a boundary that has been previously established. I absolutely know that my kiddos thrive on boundaries, and bedtime routines are a great place to establish them for peace and joy in my home.
What do you do if one of your children wakes up in the middle of the night and would like to sleep in your room or bed?
If my kiddos are sick I will bring them to our bedroom and have them sleep on our floor simply because I find it easier than trekking across our house when they need me. However, if they woke up from a bad dream or are simply awake, I will cuddle them, pray over them, and sit by their bed for a couple of minutes, but we don’t ever have kiddos sleep in our bed.
Have you had concerns that seemed out of your child’s control (like nightmares, wetting the bed at an older age, working themselves up to the point of throwing up)? How did you handle these?
One of my bigger kiddos struggled with wetting the bed until the age of 10. We did many things to help him, but the biggest was for us to remain unphased by it. Kiddos sense our stress and anxiety and nobody wants to wet the bed, so we purposefully tried to be chill about it even when it was interrupting our night’s sleep – repeatedly.
One practical thing I did was buy 3×3 waterproof pads that absorbed the potty, protected the rest of the sheets, and kept what needed to be done in the middle of the night to a minimum. I would simply take off that pad and replace it with another.
If my kids are not currently used to going to bed when they are asked and get up frequently, or if they are used to me rocking them or laying with them to go to sleep, what would be your best advice?
Baby steps. Take it one step at a time. Figure out what the most important boundary you want to establish is and do that until it is easy and habitual for you and your child. And remember, that in order to form a new bedtime habit, you as the parent need to also not make exceptions. When you make exceptions it tells the kiddo that if they grumble or complain you may just change your mind.
Once you establish the boundary be pleasantly firm about it. Once you have make that adjustment, decide on what should be next. This is a brilliant way to establish new habits in any area of your home. Just remember, small and steady wins over fast and wishy washy any day!
What if my child is scared to sleep in their own room at night?
I still wouldn’t let them sleep in my room. It only validates their fear. If we allow them to sleep in our room one of two things happen: they think mom and dad agree that there is something to be afraid of or, they begin to manipulate you by using the buzz word ‘fear’ to get you to cave it. Now I’m not saying that you don’t comfort them, but I would teach them to comfort themselves with truth. As a Christian I would have them memorize Bible verses that they could say to themselves as they fall asleep, or simply sing Jesus Loves Me while picturing Jesus snuggling them in their minds.
What has been the most difficult age for your children in regards to bedtime?
I think maybe 2, because they are learning their boundaries for the first time instead of just fine-tuning boundaries that are already established.
What do you do when your kids are sick?
I will have them sleep on the floor of our room simply because I want them to have easy access to me.
What age do you think is best to transition kids from a crib to toddler bed?
I always transitioned because another little baby-login’ was going to need the crib. I don’t think there is a right or a wrong answer to this question, just sometime before they climb out and hurt themselves on the dismount.