Managing Sibling Bedtimes
For families with more than one child, juggling the needs of a baby, a toddler's ingrained nighttime routine, and the will of a school-aged child who simply doesn't want to go to bed can turn night time into chaos -- and keep you from your own bed.
You might be tempted to let your school-aged kids handle their bedtime routine on their own so you can concentrate on your baby or toddler, but According to Robin Goldstein, Ph.D., author of The Parenting Bible: The Answers to Parents' Most Common Questions, independent bedtime routines for 6- to 9-year-olds develop slowly.
"It's common for young children to need help at bedtime. Most require prodding at night and some won't get ready at all unless their parents guide them through almost every step of the process. All these reminders are necessary because they have difficulty separating themselves from their activities."
The same goes for children ages 10 to 13. While parents expect them to act responsibly at night, many kids have trouble with daily routines and nighttime becomes a time of threats and frustration.
Tips to Speed Up Bed Time
No matter how many children you have, these guidelines can help put at end to bedtime battles.
- Don't give up on a bedtime routine. Consider scaling it back or shortening it for each child, but make sure it includes quiet quality time spent reading or just talking quietly with your kids.
- If you have much younger children at home, consider staggering bedtimes so you can spend one-on-one time (even if it's only 15 minutes) with each of your older children.
- Younger children always want to stay up as long as their older siblings, so "pretend" to put everyone to bed at the same time, then let your older children stay up half an hour longer as long as they read in bed or do a quiet activity in their room.
- Consider rewards for older children if they get ready for bed on time and with minimal help from you. That way, you can focus on getting your younger children to bed. Some smart rewards for the 6- to 9-year set include listening to music for a few minutes or reading an extra book.
- For older kids (ages 10 to 13) consider making bedtime less stressful by negotiating a later bedtime. Try pushing her bedtime back by half an hour and see how she manages. "When your child no longer has a rigid bedtime to resist, the evening routine may stop being an issue and staying up late may stop being so attractive," explains Dr. Goldstein.