Have you ever had another parent say something to you like: “Don’t you just love bedtime with your kids? It’s the greatest!” You nodded your head and yielded a tiny smile, but you thought: “Bedtime with my kids is a nightmare!”

You aren’t alone in this. For many parents, bedtime too often arrives with friction, crying, whining, and tantrums. It can feel more like a hostage negotiation than anything else.

But it doesn’t have to be this way! With a little forethought and strategy, you can make your child’s bedtime easy and (almost) painless. Here’s how:

  1. Understand the Whys

In order to tackle the bedtime problem, you have to understand the whys behind your child’s reluctance or inability to sleep. Common reasons include:

  • Your son or daughter has difficulty abandoning the excitement of whatever else is happening. This is especially common among young children who have older siblings that have later bedtimes.
  • There isn’t enough of a transition between playtime and bedtime, which catches the child by surprise.
  • Your little one is “overtired” from the day’s activities, which actually has an inverse effect and can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • The child isn’t sufficiently tired now, perhaps due to a late nap.
  • Your youngster is fearful about a certain aspect of sleep, such as the dark, monsters, or being left alone.

When you understand why your child fights bedtime, you can start to tailor a plan to your son or daughter’s specific needs.

  1. Don’t Wait Until Bedtime

You can’t wait until 30 minutes before bedtime to think about persuading your child to settle. If sleep is a big issue, you need to prepare for it throughout the day.

Understand that every decision you make, from sugar intake and naptime scheduling to physical activity and social interactions, can have an effect on your child’s energy level and thought process (as it pertains to sleep).

  1. Establish a Routine

Kids (and really, humans in general) love consistency and predictability. A bedtime routine will help here.

“For my kids, bedtime was changing into pajamas, one story, one song, and then a sleepy time music track that would go on when I left the room and play for about 45 minutes,” Marygrace Taylor writes for Amerisleep. “Changing into pajamas and reading a story was done with lower lighting to create a calm mood. For the song, we’d just use the night light.”

The details of the routine aren’t as important as the fact that you have one. Find a process that appeals to your child and stick to it. Once the routine starts, your little one has time to prepare mentally and physically for bed.

  1. Don’t Give In

“Kids will always ask for that one last thing — hugs, a drink of water, a trip to the bathroom, just one more book,” WebMD acknowledges. “Do your best to head off these requests by making them part of the bedtime routine. And let your child know that once she is in bed, she has to stay in bed.”

The key is to be firm, even when you’d prefer to give in. Eventually, the child will come to realize that bedtime means bedtime – no ifs, ands, or buts. 

Everything’s Going to be Fine

If this is your first time raising young children, you probably won’t have much to base your expectations on. Your friends and loved ones may give you advice and tell you what’s worked for them in the past, but every experience is unique.

Until you go through it yourself, none of the information really matters. However, regardless of whether you’re raising your first child or your tenth, one thing is certain: childrearing happens in stages.

Just because you’re struggling to get your kids to bed right now, doesn’t mean it’ll be this way in three months, six months, or a year. What might seem like an immovable boulder will likely turn out to be no more than a speed bump in the bigger picture.

We hope the tips covered in this article will make your child’s bedtime a little easier. Regardless of how this stage of parenting unfolds, though, please be assured that everything’s going to be fine.

The fact that you’re tuned in and present is enough to indicate you’re headed in the right direction.