HDYDI: Bedtime

Molly, this one’s for you.  Our kids go to bed around 7.  Yes, they get up early (around 6:30), no it doesn’t help to put them to bed later, they just get up earlier.  In the early days, Will went to bed around 8:30 and when he started waking up earlier and earlier, we decided to push his bedtime back.  Voila.  Peace in the household.  Since then, it’s been a 7pm bedtime.  What Scott and I found is that our children are happier when they get more rest and we are happier because we get some couple time in the evenings.  When you fill some of those hours up with making lunches, doing laundry, paying bills and working, then the time you do have together is precious.  We decided to maximize it for the sake of our marriage.

Here’s our best tips for getting kids to bed without the drama.  {Disclaimer:  We still have some mighty drama at our house, but not nearly as much as the early days.  Hey, they’re kids, drama is what they do best.}


1.  Keep it consistent.  Occasionally, we bend the rules like when we’re visiting friends out of town or it’s the 4th of July, but we don’t do it often.  When we do bend the rules, our kids know it’s something special.  Every night, it’s 5:30 dinner, 6:15 bath, 7:00 book, prayers and lights out.  Now that Will’s involved in middle school sports, we’re adjusting that dinner time.  Yeah, we have to split up sometimes so that some get in bed while the others finish up sports practices.  You adjust, but the routine doesn’t go away.  Here’s a LINK to the sleep chart we’ve used as a guideline.

2.  The kids get their one last drink of water, hug, kiss, bathroom break and anything else they can dream up and then it’s lights out.  We’ve found that if you start negotiating with your kids, they become the ones in charge.  Not you.  Stand your ground.

3.  The less you say, the better.  When your kids realize you’re going to engage them in conversation or lay in bed with them until they fall asleep, wouldn’t you stall, too?  We have a saying in our house – it’s like putting up the dishes, wash ’em, dry ’em and put ’em up.  Please don’t get me wrong, our reading and prayer time is special.  Very special.  It’s the time of the day where we really learn more about what’s going on and sort out some issues.  But, when it’s bedtime, it’s bedtime.  There have been a bazillion studies on the importance of healthy sleep habits – better grades, slimmer waistline and on and on.  We simply want to foster good sleep habits.  It will pay dividends for a lifetime.

4.  Find other times during the day to have meaningful “quality time.”  Maybe you do “best/worst” at the family dinnertime, where the kids share the best and worst of their day.  Perhaps it’s a family prayer at breakfast or on the way to school.  A parent date day on the weekend.  Ice cream as a family after dinner.  I think too many times we put all this pressure on ourselves that the bedtime is the only time we can connect with our children and so we make excuses for our behavior.  Abandon the guilt.  Find a time to connect with your child without sacrificing their basic need for sleep.

5.  Find a routine you love.  For us, it started when the kids were babies.  I read a fabulous book by Dr. Jodi Mindell, “Sleeping Through The Night.”  Y’all, hands down, best sleep book I ever read.  She got past all the ‘let ’em cry themselves to sleep’ and focused more on the fundamentals.  Everyone has a sleep-wake pattern throughout the night.  We all wake up and, yet, we must find a way to put ourselves back to sleep.  It is THE key to healthy sleep habits.  Not only does she address sleep habits for the early months, but the toddler and school-age years, as well.  We started our routine and did the same thing, every night.  That way, when someone else put our children to bed, they knew our routine and our children still went to sleep (for the most part!)

6.  Know when you might need help.  We’ve had night terrors, sleepwalking, peeing in the bed and screaming for hours on end.  If there’s been a bad sleeping scenario, I think Scott and I have lived through it.  It is brutal.  Every child is different, but find something that works for you.  And, when you can’t figure it out, seek some professional help.  Our children’s hospital here has a sleep clinic that is amazing.  I had a dear friend whose son couldn’t sleep until he’d thought of all the words that began with “J.”  He would be up hours trying to solve the riddle.  He couldn’t shut his mind off at all.  I can’t even tell you how many times we found Will in his closet, with the light on, sound asleep with a book on his chest.  And, with Luke I thought I might check myself into the crazy house.  Months and months of screaming for 2-3 hours a night.  No reason.  Talk about taking away your sanity.

7.  Wear your kids out.  Children should be getting some great physical exercise everyday.  You know what I mean.  On the days your kids go to the pool, they crash at night, don’t they?  Not only does it help with sleep, but it’s great for their overall health.  We have a rule at our house – no screen time during the week.  No TV, Wii, computer, iPhone, iwhatever until the weekend.  They have to earn it.  What that translates into is some great creative play with one another and our neighbors.

8.  When it’s a holiday or someday special, lower your expectations.  Night before Christmas?  Birthday?  New baby in the house?  Lower those expectations.  You’ll thank me later.

9.  As the children get older, we’ve adjusted their lights out time.  Just in the last year, we’ve allowed Will to stay up until 8pm.  But, it was so much easier to make bedtime later, than earlier.  I think that’s the case with so many things in life…  Ease up after you’ve laid down the law.

We are by no means sleep experts, we’ve just found a system that works for us.  It’s a combination of practical experience, great books and awesome advice from friends in the trenches.  Here’s to a good night’s sleep at your house!


  1. Nicole on November 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Oh my – I admire your 7 p.m. bedtime… But I am not sure I could handle the 6:30 a.m. wake up time. 🙂 I suppose if our kiddos were in a traditional bricks and mortar school it would be different, but since they aren’t, we are good on an 8:30 p.m. – 7:30 a.m.ish schedule… It works for us! Always love your HDIDI posts – makes me want to capture what we do around here so someday when our kids ask, I’ll be able to tell them how we did it!

  2. Kathryn on November 25, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    I only wish mine would wake up that late. Maybe when they’re teenagers? Hope y’all had a great Thankgiving!

  3. Molly on November 30, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    I’m trying, gal, I’m tryin. Kevin and I just talked about the routine again last night. If the kids are thrown off in any way…we’re all grumpy! We’ve started having our afternoon sitter prepare the kids dinner (while ours is cooking in the crockpot. I’m not supermom status yet – haven’t gotten the kids to eat my crock pot pork chops, but we’ll get there) so that there is no fighting when we get home. We can just sit, relax, eat and enjoy the evening. I try to get home around 5:15 and 5:30 and like to walk in the door to a set table and serve the food (heck, that’s what I pay her for, right?:))

    I’ll never get this working mom stuff right, but they aren’t starving, hurting, unhappy or dirty (yet).

    Love you and miss you tons, BK!

  4. Kathryn on November 30, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Hey, just keep plugging forward, Molly. You two will figure it out. Baby steps. One day you’ll look up and see you’ve crossed the room! Virtual hugs from Tejas!

  5. Marcia on June 20, 2012 at 8:36 am

    I love your idea of no screen time during the week…my kids get 30 minutes or less per day. They are wondering how they could implement your idea of NO screen time! My tween says “how could I research recipes?”. My 10 year old says “how could I listen to music?”. My 5 year old says how I could I do drawing pad on the ipad? I’m assuming you mean no movies or tv time and no computer games….we stick to that as well here.
    I’m putting this in my reading list to read again tonight before bed!

    • Kathryn on June 21, 2012 at 9:18 am

      Any school-related computer time is exempt. Our oldest has access to an iTouch but it’s not his. We play music via my iPhone on our speaker system during the week. We really do mean no screen time. I send them outside to play or we engage in reading or drawing (the old fashioned way!). For us it just works better. Every family has to find a system that works for them and that the kids can follow.

  6. Rachel Vogt-Walden on February 10, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Hey Kathryn, Just wanted to let you know that I absolutely love your blog. And your owl icon, of course 🙂

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.