A Bedtime Solution For My Kids That Actually Works!

To say I've been having sleep issues with my kids since day 1 is an understatement. When my oldest was over a year old he was waking up every 45 minutes and would only fall back asleep while nursing, the entire night long. I was at my wit's end which convinced me to sleep train him, even though it went against everything I believed as a mom at the time. From that point, the sleep issues changed over time, but not once did I have an easy time with bed time.

The latest, though, hasn't been easy. Especially with my topsy-turvy schedule due to divorce related things and work, the kids have not been going to sleep consistently and easily, and they fight me about it. Bedtime with the kids constantly was involving fights with the kids, with them refusing to go to bed, and then once in bed them insisting on me lying down with them, them not falling asleep often for hours, fighting with each other, hurting me, etc.
Every night bed time has been a battle. And has been for years. And since the kids fought so hard against going to sleep, I often wasn't finished taking care of the kids until well past 10 pm and often closer to 11 at night as well.
Yes, it was hell. It meant that I didn't get enough down time. I didn't get enough alone time. And it meant that I needed to stay up later than I should to do any unwinding, which made me too tired. And my stress load was increased tremendously because of it. There was a cascading effect.

I've been taking my kids to therapy since the divorce process intensified, and in addition to seeing the kids regularly, the therapist is also meeting with me to help me improve things with them from my end, and one thing she said she'd help me with was bed time.

I didn't really believe the therapist would be able to help me. I'd tried so many things throughout the years. Sticker charts. Bribery. Getting angry. Threats. Ignoring. Bed time routines. Nothing seemed to help and I felt pretty helpless.

So the first thing she did was try to convince me that I could do it. To believe in myself and to believe that I could fix the whole bedtime situation. To not give up even though I felt like giving up before even starting.

And then she gave me a solution. A bed time solution for my kids.

And I was sure that it wasn't going to work. Because everything else I tried before didn't work. But she told me she promises that it will work. But if I do it, I have to believe in it because willpower is important. And my willpower needs to be stronger than my kids.

Before I get into it and how I did it, I just want to say that it worked. It really did. No one is more shocked than I am. But bed time isn't a battle anymore. They fall asleep quickly. I have my nights back. I am so much more calm and relaxed now. I even went out this week twice at night, once for work and once for my birthday, and with two different babysitters the kids went to sleep easily too! I'm beyond amazed, and that't why I wanted to share it with you.

For those who say "What's so special about this? How is it different from anything else I've tried until now?" I am just saying that I said exactly that. And it still worked for me. This is specifically for my five and seven year old daughters. The older kids I'm still working on improving things, but they weren't nearly as difficult as my daughters.

So the first part was establishing a bed time routine that starts a while before bed. For me the biggest part that was hard about this is making sure supper is ready early enough for the kids to eat early enough so they can go to bed on time. The goal for my girls is to get them to bed at 7:30, but for now it sometimes happens closer to 8 or 8:15, but that's also ok, because when it happens, they don't fight me and its a cinch. The routine my kids now have before bed is brushing teeth, going to the bathroom, putting on pajamas, and then singing some bed time songs while cuddled together. I wanted to read a certain book before bed to the kids, but it just ended up with the kids fighting so I cut that out for now, but I might introduce it again in the future.
The same bed time routine happens each night, so they already start getting into sleep mode.

And then I hug them and kiss them and put them into bed, tucking them in.

The first few nights, the kids begged me to lie down in bed with them. I told them firmly that they're big girls, they don't need me to lie down in their bed, I'll give them a hug and a kiss but I'm not staying in their bed. They also wanted me to stay in their room, but I also didn't want to do that, and the therapist also said its best that I don't stay in the room. So I say good night and then leave.

The first night, Rose and Anneliese wouldn't stay in bed. They kept coming out of bed. Each time, according to the instructions of the therapist, I just scooped the kids back up and put them back into bed, no discussing, just saying "It's time for bed". Yes, sometimes I did that 10 times in one minute. But each time my kids learned that it's pointless to get out of bed because they'll just be put right back in. Again, it was stressed to me that I needed to be the one to win this battle of wills, because if I let them stay out even one time, then they'd know I wasn't serious. And they told me I was a mean mommy and that I obviously don't love them because if I loved them I'd lie down with them.

Each time they'd scream or fight, I'd come back into the room and tell them that it's bed time and I love them and they need to go to sleep in their own bed, and I'm going to sleep in my bed because I'm tired.

It continued for an hour and a half. Hundreds of times I scooped my kids back into bed. And they got the point. I did ask the therapist if there are exceptions. What if they say they're hungry? She told me that I remind them at supper time that that's the last time they're eating and if they refuse to eat then they'll go to bed hungry. If they want a drink, though, she said they can get out of bed for a drink, but that's it. Drink and bathroom are allowed, but then right back into bed. And be a broken record.

But once they finally fell asleep without me in the room that first night, it got easier.

The second night I figured out something that made it even easier. My kids really like listening to soft music while they're going to sleep. I told them that if they stayed in bed I'd play the music, but if they got out of bed, I'd turn it off.
They tried different tactics to get out of bed the second night, but I scooped them right back in. And did turn off the music. And they were upset at me. But once I saw they stayed in for longer, I turned it back on. And the second night, it took an hour and fifteen minutes for them to fall asleep.

By the third night, the girls realized I was serious. Anneliese didn't try to get out of bed at all! Rose tried five times in the first five minutes to get out of bed, but I scooped her back in, and within twenty minutes sound asleep!

By the fourth night it was already down pat. I put on the music and told the girls that if anyone gets out of bed even once, the music goes off. They didn't get out of bed and went straight to sleep.

And from then on, that's how it's been.

They've gone to bed like a charm with me. They've gone to bed like a charm with babysitters.

Bed time is now a pleasant thing. And my kids are getting enough sleep, so they are waking up refreshed. And I'm now getting enough sleep, because I don't have to stay up super late to have alone time.

I feel like this has improved our family's quality of life as a whole, because everyone's stress levels have gone down now.

Now that they actually go to sleep at a decent time and so do I, my next goal is to get the family to exercise together in the morning. I know how important it is to exercise and I feel that while I do a lot of physical activity in my life, I don't do enough that's purely exercising. I wanted to start going running with my kids in the morning; a friend of mine is doing that with their kids and it looks like an amazing start to the day.

I really want to get more fit, not because I'm interested in losing weight, but simply because I want to be more healthy. I recently read a quote that I loved: "Exercise is not a punishment for what you ate, but a celebration of what your body can do" and that spoke so much to me.

I also want the endorphins released from exercising. And I know regular exercise is a good way to keep mentally healthy. I need to get myself some workout clothes that fit me though, because the stuff I've been using until now no longer fits me and it's really not pleasant to try to exercise in too small clothing.

However, today I was diagnosed with plantar fascitis and achiles tendinitis and it means that my feet are really hurting me, so I'm not sure that running is the best thing to do now.

So instead of running, I think I want to start my morning with the kids off doing yoga. Some stretches, and its meditative in a way, and also does a lot of good things for the body as well as the soul.

And I can only do this or even consider it in my life because bed time finally after so many years no longer is a battle.

I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful I am about this.

And I couldn't have done if if the kids therapist hadn't believed in me so strongly that I could do it.

If you are also having bed time issues with your kids, I suggest you try the same with them. I can't promise it'll work, but only share my success, despite my hesitation, despite it not seeming like any special technique, other than consistency and routine.

How is bedtime with your kids? Was it ever a battle or did it always go smoothly? If it used to be a battle and then you did something to make it go more smoothly, what was it? If you have trouble with your kids for bed time, are you willing to give this method a shot?

See my disclaimer.

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. One if the first things I did when I landed in NYC was institute a bedtime routine. In a week the kids have responded ded to the structure and things are in a flow. Good job staying strong.

  2. I'm so happy you have found a solution that works. I had 8 kids plus a foster child and I never ever lay down with them or give in to any bedtime antics. I put them straight back to bed when they got out. I used to hear them coming out of their beds sometimes, but they never dared go out of the room except to go to the toilet. My evenings were too precious to me after such a heavy day with the nine of them.

  3. I am so glad to hear it is working out, especially since I was the one who gave you the initial recommendation for this therapist. In addition to be an amazing psychologist, she is the mom of 5 kids under 6, and she parents with grace and ease. I am glad to hear you are learning to believe in yourself!!

  4. I also used this method when my 15yo was little. Worked like a charm. Good job getting the help you need.

  5. SOO happy to read you found this solution! I am a stickler for bedtime routines and this all sounds sooooo familiar. I have an 8 year old who has always been a really good sleeper, and a 4 year old who was a TERRIBLE sleeper (sounds like your first) for about 2 years... and since turning 2 he has slept AMAZINGLY. We shall see what baby #3 does... due in 8 days... wish me luck. lol

    But seriously... it sounds like your nights are what they should be. You SO DESERVE IT!!

  6. Wonderful
    Yes, the first step is dinner on time.

  7. This is the same method that Joe Frost uses on the TV show Super Nanny. You can see episodes of it on YouTube if your readers want to *see* it actually put into practice.

    1. I was going to come here to say the same thing. Yay for Supernanny!

      I'm glad this is working for you.

  8. What a wonderful change to your life! Good for you for never giving in, not once. Your therapist sounds great too.

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