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Letting your child decide when to go to bed?

Posted by on Jan. 9, 2013 at 1:11 AM
  • 19 Replies



Question: Would you try this?




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Ahhhh bedtime. Peaceful. Quiet. The perfect time for parents to relax, recharge and reconnect with each other. After the kids have smiled their last sleepy smile you close the door and drift downstairs ready to let the adult time begin.

Doesn’t that sound fabulous… and well UNREALISTIC?!?!? I would have agreed until about 6 months ago. I was in search of a way to fix our bedtime woes.

The Bedtime Battle

M and M had become out of control at bedtime. Begging for one more drink, yelling for me (or at each other), crying for me to stay in the room. It was awful… and of course I made terrible parenting choices. I was so, so exhausted by that point in the evening that I was doing things I don’t even consider during the day.

Bribery, bending (um breaking) set rules, yelling (ick), and worst of all letting guilt sway my parenting choices. I just kept picturing their dreams being filled with my angry/ exhausted/ frustrated face… since that was the last thing they had seen. So I would go soft and let them get away with anything. It got to the point where Hubs had to put them to bed for me… I had lost ALL credibility at bedtime.

A Better Bedtime

I came across an idea that sounded so crazy I had to read it three times before deciding to put it into action.

Let the kids decide when to go to sleep.

My brain was spinning. ”WHAT?!? We would be nuts to consider it! No way, no way… NO WAY! Hmmmm…. what we’re doing isn’t working. Trying it out couldn’t hurt. Why not… we’re mostly nuts anyway.” ;) So we set a plan… decided on the boundaries and braced ourselves for a very long night.

We had the kids prepped for sleep by 7:00 pm. (Teeth brushed, jammies on, stories read.) Then we let them in on the “rules” for the evening. We told them (very honestly) that we had enjoyed spending the day with them but now we needed some “adult time”.

They were welcome to stay awake, but they were to play quietly in their room. We would know they were ready for bed when they came out of their room. (The hidden meaning there is that they can only come out once!) We told them to enjoy their rest and then walked down the stairs.

Would you believe they played quietly for 1 hour and then ASKED to go to bed?!?! You read that right they actually said “I’m tired. I want to go to sleep.” It worked! It worked! It worked! Best part is… it’s still working. After 6 months it is still working. I love awesome parenting tricks that are so easy to execute!

Extra Tips: 1. In the beginning we were really strict (although kind, patient and calm) about the “once out straight-to-sleep rule”. There were NO exceptions. After a month or so we were able to be a bit more flexible. Sometimes Big M will have a Lego structure to show us and we can look then send him back up with no problem. It will be easy to go back to being strict if coming out becomes a problem though. 2. Rowdy play, fighting or just plain being loud are grounds for sleep time. 3. M and M have rarely been ready for bed past 8. If you have a real “set” time that you want your little ones off to dreamland the transition should be easy. Just guide them into bed with a kiss and hug. I bet they won’t even notice it wasn’t their choice after quietly playing for so long.

Ready for bedtime? Let me know if this works for you too!

Lesson Planned by Jillian on March 14, 2012.on December 6, 2012.

by on Jan. 9, 2013 at 1:11 AM
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Replies (1-10):
by on Jan. 9, 2013 at 1:15 AM
Sounds like it would work! I would be willing to give it a try. That is working together instead of letting the kid control it or, alternatively, instituting a feeling that the kids have NO say because mom and dad control every detail. My child is very easy to get to go to bed ... He is 17 months old and asks for his blankie and a book if we are running behind schedule.
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by Valerie on Jan. 9, 2013 at 1:19 AM
My kids are young, but my oldest turned 2 back in August and has been deciding his own bedtime for about a year. He started with saying "nuh nights" .. and now he obviously can talk a lot more and he'll come up to me and say "Mama I'm sleepy, go nuh nights?"

I'm all for him to make his own bedtime. If I'm up, he can stay up. He usually goes to bed around 930, but if he wanted to stay up til 1130 id let him as long as I'm up.
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by on Jan. 9, 2013 at 1:30 AM

No, shed stay up all night and then be draggin' ass in the morning for school, and then have meltdowns at school.

Wouldnt work for my kid, but may work for others 

by on Jan. 9, 2013 at 1:48 AM
Their bedtime is 8pm every night... never had a problem with it.
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by on Jan. 9, 2013 at 8:49 AM

my kids go to bed at 8 every night....since they wake up at 630 every morning regardless of what time they go to bed...we have tried letting them pick their own bedtime and they are cranky in the mornings so 8 o'clock bedtime works for us.

by Amber on Jan. 9, 2013 at 9:06 AM
Nope. My kids are in bed by 8, and asleep by 815. We have never had an issue.
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by on Jan. 9, 2013 at 9:07 AM
Maybe when the kids are old enough to pull that on. Right now my daughter would play until the sun comes up... Not to mention she has separation anxiety so I wouldn't be able to leave her in her room without her screaming bloody murder.
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by on Jan. 9, 2013 at 9:31 AM

I didn't know it, but i've already been doing this with my oldest. i put the girls to bed, easily, and then leave my son to go to bed on his own time. My thinking was : My son has never been late to wake up for school, he wakes and dresses himself and gets breakfast and is usually watching tv when I get up to get the girls up. I allow him to decide when he's tired enough for sleep.

by on Jan. 9, 2013 at 9:45 AM

Same with my 6 year old, if she is up past 9 on a school night, she is no fun the next morning!

Quoting Unoriginal.:

No, shed stay up all night and then be draggin' ass in the morning for school, and then have meltdowns at school.


Wouldnt work for my kid, but may work for others 

by on Jan. 9, 2013 at 9:45 AM

 It depends on the child. DS has basically set his own bedtime since he was three. He likes his sleep so it's typically at a very decent hour. When he's sick or just had a busy day he goes to bed between 7:30 and 8:00. I will tell him to go lay down in his bed and look at books if he's still not feeling sleepy after 8:30.  It works for us.

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