How does bedtime work at your house?

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-12-2003
How does bedtime work at your house?
Thu, 07-12-2007 - 10:45am

We have no bedtime discipline. We basically need at least two adults to do bedtime because each kid needs to have a parent lie down with him or her to get to sleep, and more than half the time we end up with everyone in our room. It's getting kind of ridiculous with four kids now, and it's not safe for the baby for so many people to crawl into bed with me.

So I'm wondering you you would mind sharing your bedtime routines? Do you manage to give each child a little bit of "mommy and child" time in the evening? Do your kids go off to bed when you tell them to? Do you stay with anyone till they fall asleep?

I'd really appreciate any glimpse into how other people manage it. I have not been able to make a routine stick because I can't stand to let even older children cry. My 7 year old seems so truly brokenhearted when she doesn't get to cuddle to sleep with one of us. But how do I keep this up with 4 kids? It's making me nuts! But on the other hand, I work (though right now I'm on maternity leave) so I feel guilty denying them time with me at night.... Sigh.


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Registered: 06-13-2006
Thu, 07-12-2007 - 11:48am

Well we have done the following routine since the kids were born so for the most part it goes pretty smooth. We start an hour before bedtime and I read a story or we will do devotions with the Bible. This gets the kids to calm down considerably. After story, everyone is responsible for getting a small drink and pottying. They then get dressed for bed and get into bed. My dh prays with the boys first, then goes to the girl's room and prays with them. Lights out and all is *usually* well :)

The main problem we have is the older 3 boys ages 8, 7, and 6, like to talk to each ther when the lights go out and occasionally pull and tug each others blankets in their bunks to annoy one another. We don't expect them to go to sleep immediately, but we do expect them to be quiet so others can go to sleep.

Consistency is key. If you decide to redo the way you do bedtime, give it time to sink in with the kids and be sure to keep things in the same order. Kids work better with predictability. With your 7 yo, I would gradually wean her to be able to go to bed on her own. Maybe you could have a nice cuddle time planned and maybe read a story to them while they are all in your bed and then they can go and get into their own beds. At first you may want to create a reward system for them sleeping on thier own. Take a while to make the change. Anything abrupt will just create chaos, ykwim?


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Registered: 09-29-2006
Thu, 07-12-2007 - 3:48pm

I have been there! It can get better, I promise...

I struggled with getting my 4yr old dd out of my bed last year. She was the first baby that I nursed, she nursed till she was almost 2yrs old (she was about 18months when I weaned her) and she was just always in my bed at night. Then the same thing happened with my now 2yr old- so I had two kids in my bed last year! (many nights dh went and slept on the couch cause the girls were crowding him)...

I finally decided to get my bed back. Here is what I did- first I put a toddler bed in my room, it was cramped in there, but it was only temporary. She at first didn't want to be in that bed, but I told her I was hot and needed my own space. She cried a bit, but she got used to it. Then one day I was cleaning my room and she was with me, I said "my room is too full!" and she smiled. Then I told her that I was going to put her bed in her sisters room for a while till I found a better spot for it. She went along with this, most likely thinking it was only until that night :) That night she was way angry about being in her sisters room and her sister was way angry about her being in there, but I let the older one read a book to the younger one and they both ended up falling asleep in my oldest dds bed. The next night oldest dd asked if her sister could be in her bed again, long story short, they now both sleep in the same bed (it is a queen) with little problem.

For my 2yr old, I figured she is too young to listen to reason/explanations so I just put up a playpen in my room and put her in it. She yelled a bit "mom- OUT" and "Iwan outs!" (I want out!) I just would tell her a few times that it was time to go to sleep, but I did NOT answer her every time she yelled, and when I did answer her, I did not go to her or anything, I just said from across the room "it is time to go to sleep. good night" after a while of my not answering her, she passed out. We did this a few nights, then realized there was a toddler bed in the girls' room not being used, so we let her fall asleep in the playpen and then moved her to the toddler bed. She would come to my room in the middle of the night and I would give her a hug and a kiss and put her in the playpen for the rest of the night. After about a week she quit coming in my room at night, though a few times she has gotten into the girls' bed with them.

It was mostly just talking calm and soft and saying it is time to go to sleep, good night, a few times. The first night is not that hard- it is the second and third when they freak and realize this is for real! hang in there

As for your 7yr old dd... this might be harder with her as she is older. I would talk to her like a big kid. Tell her your bed is too crowded and you want your own sleeping space. Give her an option: do you want me to read you a book in your bed or do you want to play Old Maid (or whatever short card game you like) before you go to sleep? Also you could get her a new book to read some herself after you leave her room. (Junie B Jones is a good bet, as is the American Girl books). Then do it- go in and read her a book or play her a card game, then give her the new book and kiss her goodnight and tell her you what you are doing- "I am going to put your sister to sleep now, I will be back in to turn off your light in 20 minutes" or "I am going to wash the dishes now, I will be back in 20 minutes to turn off the lights" (I say to let her know what you are doing so that she will not feel all alone in her room, with you "somewhere" in the house)... chances are she will be sleeping soundly when you go turn off her lights, if she isn't, have her mark her page and kiss her goodnight, then shut off the light and be done for the night.

good luck!

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iVillage Member
Registered: 08-12-2003
Sat, 07-14-2007 - 10:04pm

Thank you so much for the advice! I really appreciate it. I'm going to try this out, although it is hard for me to imagine getting my kids to stay in their beds by themselves if they are not physically tied to the bed, LOL.

My two and a half year old can climb out of the pack 'n play, so I have nowhere to confine him till he gets the idea.

But I will definitely try!

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-12-2003
Sat, 07-14-2007 - 10:07pm
Wow, you have such a calm, organized routine! I am impressed. Thanks for the insights!
iVillage Member
Registered: 09-29-2006
Sun, 07-15-2007 - 10:22am

this is so odd, your conversation coming around now...

I never watch the super nanny show, it is on when I am usually busy. But for some reason the other night I was home without the kids (dh took them to a bday party) and I chose to sit on my butt while they were gone :)
The super nanny had a family who had lots of issues, but one was bedtime. The mom would lay in bed with one kid to get him to sleep while the dad laid in bed with the other. Then they would take hours trying to sneak out of the beds without the boys noticing.

so nanny had them do this:
dad kissed the boys goodnight and left the room, going into his room and Staying in there. Mom kissed them goodnight and sat on the floor, cross legged, with her head kind of hung down a bit, like she was super tired. when a boy got out of bed, she got up and put him back in, no talking, no yelling, no looking at the boys' eyes, nothing, just pick him up and put him in bed, then go back to sitting on the floor.

now, she had a 3 and 2 year old, so this was tiring for her, you could tell by the way she was acting, but she kept it up. the first night took like 2 hours till the boys were in bed sleeping, then the next night a little less time, etc. in the end the parents put them to bed and mom sat on the floor till they were asleep (their beds were in the living room and the boys had access to the kitchen if mom would've just left them in there to fall asleep).

this might be something you have to do? it looked tiring, getting up and putting the kid away, sitting back down, getting up, sitting down- all the time the kid is crying and mom has to not talk... I don't know, you would have to be resolved to get the bedtime issues under control before you did it or you'd crack!

anyway, might help you?

------- did any of you see that show? I was just cringing when mom was putting the kids in bed, she like carried them on their arms and legs like they were toys, I kept waiting for one to have a dislocated arm or something, I HATE when people pick up kids by their wrists... and the nanny didn't say a word! hmmmm

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Registered: 01-28-2004
Sun, 07-15-2007 - 9:52pm
I saw that episode, actually I watched it pretty regularly this past year. I love that show, don't always agree w/ everything I see, but have taken some tips from it that have worked!
Jennifer, I feel for you for struggling w/ bedtime. We had a hard time about a year ago when our #4 was weaning from b/f and it seemed to throw the whole family into a tizzy at bedtime. I agree that the key is consistency and patience. Which is a lot of times easier said than done.
Here's what we normally do, and it is kind of different now in the summer, but during school time this is what works for us:
We have a 12, 8, 4 and 2...the oldest two have to head to get ready for bed at the same time as the littles, but we have them read quietly in bed while dh and I spend time reading to the littles. One on one time, quietly snuggling and reading in bed. Then we switch and snuggle, say prayers, and say goodnight. The big kids then will go to bed, usually the 8 yo will hit the pillow after the little 2yo is tucked in. He gets a back scratch and some quiet talking w/ dh and I...then good night, lights out. 12 yo usually has a lights out time, and she reads until then. We go into her room last (she doesn't share a room which is what makes this work). Anyway, we feel like this works for us because they all get the individual time w/ us, but we go from youngest to oldest and try to keep things as low key as possible. Honestly some nights are CRAZY, don't get me wrong, but more often than not it works and is peaceful.
You may want to try to have your 7yo have that quiet reading to herself time (disguised as the priveledge of staying up later than the others, her being the oldest and all) then when the little ones are settled and read to, snuggled, etc, you can go in and have 10 minutes of time together before lights out.
It seems like a huge hurdle, but it may only be a week of hard work, and by then the kids will see that you aren't giving and dh decide how you want it to work according to your kids needs and brace yourself for the kids crying, but you will be so thankful to have that resolved.
I wish you tons of luck!
Keep us posted on the progress!
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iVillage Member
Registered: 09-10-2006
Mon, 07-16-2007 - 1:22pm

Thankfully we have our kids on a very stable, dependable bedtime routine. I don't do well with chaos at night, or any kind of chaos actually, lol. It takes awhile to establish a routine for the newest child (Eli is just now getting on a routine at 7 months) so I'll tell you about what we do with our older 2. Eli will join in with this as he gets closer to a year old.

Our bedtime routine starts around 6:45 if they need baths that day. Bathtime takes about 30 minutes (they'll play in there for awhile) then they get dressed and have snack. Sometimes they'll watch a quiet TV show with daddy while they have snack. At 7:30 on the dot, they are in their beds to read. They get to pick out some books to read for awhile. Once in awhile we will read with them, but usually by this time I am needing a break and trying to nurse the baby, get him settled, etc. They get to quietly read in their bed


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-05-2004
Fri, 07-20-2007 - 10:43pm
At our house the kids get their pj's on after supper and then go downstairs to play with Daddy until 7 pm. Then they come upstairs, potty, brush teeth, read a story and off to bed. The 1 year old in a pack and play in our room and the almost 4 year old foster son and 5 year old daughter each get in their own beds in their rooms and have a nightlight and cd player each. If they come out of their rooms all of their electronics are shut off and they know that unless it's something VERY important. Our 3 year old special needs daughter stays up with Daddy and falls asleep on the couch and then he puts her in bed. Because of her Angelman Syndrome she doesn't require more than 8-10 hours of sleep in a day so she falls asleep around 9-10 or so and then gets up between 4 and 7. She hasn't napped since she was 10 months old! The other kids get up between 6 and 7 am.
When we go to bed we move the baby into his crib.
I think consistancy is key. It's also good to talk about it all day long when you are going to start a routine. Ainsley used to sleep with us a lot when she was 2 and I told her that when she was 3 she was getting a big girl bed and she'd have to sleep in it. Then when we got it I talked about it all day that she was a big girl now and didn't need Mommy and Daddy to sleep. That night she went right to bed in her room and that was it. We should've done it sooner. The only spoiler is when they do ask to sleep with you that one time and you cave because it's just right back to the cycle all over again.
You could also tell the older kids, "how are you ever going to have a sleepover if you can't sleep without me?" However you might have to live up to the bargain :o)
Good luck and remember crying because they are mad and crying because they are hurt are WAY different things, LOL. They'll cry because they know what works. Be strong :o)
Mom to Ainsley 5, Peyton 3 (, foster/adopt boys 3 and 1 and maybe baby soon.


Ainsley 8, William 7, Peyton 6 *8p23.1 duplication syndrome*,  and Jackson 4. www.onever

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Registered: 02-21-2006
Tue, 07-24-2007 - 10:36am

well, I know this is a little late and you probably have many great responses (haven't read them yet) but here is what we do. Abigail is 9 so she is pretty self suffiecient but still needs prodding because even though she knows the drill it is so easy to get off task and just play with the brothers. Noah and J sleep together so once they are horizontal I or dh lay down and read together. Now, if dad puts them down (and no naps during the day which is seldom) they are fine going off to sleep. If I am the one, they always ask me to lay with them. Noah is a big momma's boy snuggler and would sleep with me all anight every night if I allowed. He does very well now but he still needs to sleep with someone os it works out that those boys sleep together. I don't know if he will ever get to the point of comfortably sleepiing by himself (which really means on the upper bunk twin with J (and soon J and Ben) on the full lower bunk). J demanded so little of my that when he started asking me aboutt a yr ago to lay with him and scrathch his back as he falls asleep I just had to induldge. He is so independent and not a snuggler I was thrilled to have that litttle special time but he sleeps like a log after that. Ben is actually the easiest -- right now anyway. He has his routine then goes down in his crib and falls to sleep on his own belly down on his own little pillow. Our bed time got more consice after tips from a thread here on night time routines and baths. So now we can get four little bodies clean in about 15-20 minutes, then dry off/teeth and ready for books in 30 minutes total. I put the two youngest in the bath and the older two can start the shower and change out as long as I remember to get the towels off the hooks (too high) then they handle it well. And, that gives Ab alone time shower and Noah as well. N is nearly 7 and still has fun with J in the tub but is really pretty good about taking a shower or his own bath. Of course, this only works because we have two bathrooms upstairs. When we only used one it stretched to one hour easily. Then I nudge the older two toward more independence and could still sit with the little ones in the other bathroom. There has to be some play time too. Ben especially but during the school year we have to make sure we go up early (or in the afternoon) to get upstairs playtime in. Part of my guys piddle factor comes from wanting to play with everything in there rooms and game room if they hadn't already had time up there.

Now there was a time when grouping reading worked but then Ab changed to reading on her own (one of us joins in to help or have her read out loud periodically) because although she was having fun she was missing out and reading under grade level by reading to the boys their books. So now she reads her own books and we are back to laying in the full bed with N and J to read at night.

the other thing that realllys helps our bedtime routine not feel rushed is to actually be finished eating by 6pm. For some reason that really makes the next two hours more relaxiong and less pushed. Of course, we are in summer hours so things get skewed but school year it really helps.

hope you got some good tips from all the responses. good luck and let us know what works for you and you clan

Sher - mom to the fantastic four....

Abigail (9), Noah (6), Jonah (4), Ben (1)


Go with the flow of good chaos

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Registered: 08-12-2003
Wed, 07-25-2007 - 8:57am

Thanks again to everyone who posted. I am really pathetic at this. Even though I know that consistency is the most important thing in parenting, I keep blowing it. Last night, I made Rosie (7) go to her room to go to sleep herself, and she cried piteously that she was lonely. DH went in to kiss her and left, I went in a few minutes later and she said, brokenheartedly, "When Daddy came in I thought he was going to stay with me but he just kissed me and left, and I was so disappointed." Of course, that finished me off and I told her to get in our bed and snuggle with Daddy. I'm so ridiculous!!

I think we may have to hire a "coach" to devise a plan and get us through this. Sigh.