Children’s Bedtime

“I want a drink of water”

“I need to go to the bathroom”

“I can’t go to sleep”

Are these some of the things you hear from your kids night after night when they are finally in bed, but not asleep?

Here’s one idea to help kids settle down at night and be ready to sleep.

Twenty minutes before bedtime Announce, “In 20 minutes, that’s 8:00, I’m going to read out loud in my bed. Anyone who is ALL ready for bed is invited”.

ALL ready for bed might need to be defined a head of time. That way, after the reading when the kids are relaxed the spell is not broken by extra activity between your bed and theirs. Our routine was pajamas on, teeth brushed, prayer said, already used the bathroom and got a last drink. Then you can add ANYTHING else your family does as part of a nightly routine.

Ten minutes later say, “Reading in my bed in 10 minutes, hope you’re there”

And when it’s time to start say something like, “Reading fun will now begin” Or something that makes them realize that this activity is a real treat.

Also, I accepted latecomers. If they were not quite ready when the reading began they could finish getting ready and then join us. Missing part of the story seemed to be it’s own punishment for tardiness. There were times when a child was not ready and they could not seem to understand why I would not wait for them to get there before I began. It was a good chance for me to teach them to accept responsibility by saying, “I said I was starting to read at 8:00 so I need to start now. Go ahead and finish getting ready quickly and then come. It would not be fair to everyone who was ready to have to wait. Maybe tomorrow you need to start getting ready a little earlier”.

I have sweet memories of evenings with a bed full of kids, pillows and a good book.

When the reading is done and the kids are relaxed they can be sent (or carried is even more fun for them) gently and quietly to their own beds.

I think there is no shortage of book lists available to give you ideas for good reads. If you need some help to begin try Scholastic ,  International Reading Association, Teachers First (scroll down to “100 Best Books”). Or just go to the library and let you kids choose some of their own books! Don’t get too stressed over trying to find books that fit the age of every child listening. I think almost any age child will not complain with a good picture book even if it is technically below them in ability. And I found that often a young child will listen to a chapter book.

A few of our favorite books that come to mind:

Picture books:

The Empty Pot

How Much is a Million

Strega Nonna

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

The 5 Chinese Brothers

Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel

Chapter books:

Little House on the Prairie series (my favorites are House in the Big Woods and

Farmer Boy)

Cricket in Time Square

Mouse and the Motor Cycle

Trumpet of the Swan

Charlotte’s Web

Indian In the Cupboard

Reading at bedtime can help calm kids, and raise a reader at the same time.

Positive Discipline

Positive discipline

I once heard of a teacher who had a student with serious behavior issues.  She was asked to keep track of the good things he did throughout the day.  Her response was, “It’s zero.  He doesn’t do ANYTHING good.”  I have thought back to this many times.  I have especially thought about it when I had especially challenging students.  You know what?  I have discovered that you can always find a way to praise a child.  It may be something as small as, “Wow!  You are holding your pencil so well while writing!”  or “your body is facing the right direction in line!” (even if they are talking and touching the person in front of them).

Kids love attention!  It helps them feel noticed, important and valued.  The best attention a student can receive is positive attention.  It’s the healthiest and most beneficial.  When a child doesn’t feel like they are getting enough positive attention they will take any attention.  They start to act out—they try to get you to focus on them, even if it’s unhappily.

I heard in a class that people feel happy and satisfied in a relationship when the positive to negative encounter ratio is 5:1.  That really rang true to me!  This should be the case when we are interacting with children.

I try really hard to focus on the positive, desired behavior in my classroom.

If half of the class is noisy and out of their seats I say,” Wow!  I love the way Jim is sitting so quietly!  I can tell that he’s ready to learn.  Jessica, you too!  You look fabulous.”  After I have mentioned 2 or 3 positive examples the class is usually on track and ready to go.  The other (less productive) method sounds something like,  “Bill I said sit down!  Betsy you need to stop talking!”  That method never seems to work as well and doesn’t leave me, or the kids feeling as good.  I have even tried positive discipline when only one out of 20 kids is behaving appropriately.  Guess what—it worked!

This works in SO many situations. It helps kids feel validated and noticed in a positive way.  It leaves both of you feeling better and helps your children try to behave positively.

Remember to be FUN

Annie w dad and comics

Parenting can often seem filled with so many “don’ts” and “hurry ups” and the need to be firm and consistent. As a result, it’s easy to get so focused on business that we forget to BE FUN.

It only take a few minutes to leave what your doing and go wrestle on the floor.  Your child will remember what you did rather than how long it lasted.

Some of my fondest memories with my children were small simple things –

Tickles in mom and dads bed on Sunday mornings.

Wrestling on the floor.  Occasionally dad would “play dead” and could only be brought back to life by a kiss.

Eating lunch or dinner sitting on an old sheet spread on the grass outside (You have to take time to eat anyway, right?). Younger kids would love to eat their food on tiny tea party type dishes.

 “Doing time” with dad. That meant one evening a week a child got 30 minutes with dad’s undivided attention. The child got to choose what ever they wanted to do for the activity.  WARNING: sometimes what the child wanted to do seemed silly to us as adults, but during this time, they chose. Rules might need to be set before this tradition begins, such as; needs to be within a certain distance from home, or can’t cost more that a certain amount of money.

 Read a picture book or 5 minutes from a chapter book.

I asked my kids their memories and here are some of the things they remember:

    • Flashlight tag
    • Coloring on big sheets of paper
    • “Helping in the kitchen”
    • Dancing in the living room while mom played the piano (and getting insanely dizzy from spinning during the “Spinning Song”). Or you can use the radio.
    • Bike/wagon rides
    • Looking through the cedar chest
    • Helping in the garden
    • Reading Sunday comics together in the recliner chair.
    • Being read to each night by the light of the closet, before bedtime.

Kids grow up fast. It feels like you blink and they are teen-agers who don’t want to spend as much time with you, so enjoy it while it lasts.