By Katherine Eskovitz
(fast forward to 3:42 min. to see parenting segment)

Jerry, thank you as always for telling it like it is: 

“The bedtime routine for my kids is like this Royal Coronation Jubilee Centennial of rinsing and plaque and dental appliances and the stuffed animal semi-circle of emotional support. And I’ve gotta read eight different moron books. You know what my bedtime story was when I was a kid? Darkness!”

Not to overthink this Jerry, as we parents are prone to do, but it occurred to me that even you might embrace a happy medium between the despotic and democratic parenting approach to bedtime.

Here’s the problem: While it may seem easiest to dictate lights out, it does not always result in children falling asleep or staying asleep. And while it might seem more “progressive” to stay with our children until they are ready to fall asleep, this too does not maximize sleep, but in fact prolongs awake time. It is now well researched that too little sleep causes serious problems for children. Creeping bedtimes directly impact their health and development, which includes brain wiring. We really don’t want to mess around with that.

© 2013, www.littleBLUEPRINT.com, illustration by Jessica Churchill

What actually works is empowering children to develop their own bedtime plan. You set the parameters, children set the plan. Here’s the scientific explanation of why this works: Practicing planning (and it does take practice, i.e., more than one try) gives children a sense of ownership and control and boosts brainpower. The brain’s executive function – essentially, the ability to control behavior, to plan effectively, and to behave proactively (instead of responsively) – is rooted in the top part of the brain, but requires concerted action among the brain’s key systems. By developing a plan, these key systems of the brain become integrated as children learn effectively to L.E.A.D.: to integrate Logic and Emotions to Analyze and make Decisions, thereby strengthening executive function through practice.

I know, I know, that’s a lot of brain science and thought that goes into such a simple routine. But trust me, Jerry, you will like the results. Here’s what the process might look like for your children:

 

© 2013, www.littleBLUEPRINT.com, illustration by Jessica Churchill

1) Logic: learn facts about the importance of sleep (e.g., Did you know you need 11 hours of sleep a night for your body and brain to get stronger?)

2) Emotions: examine how you feel when you’re tired, and how your parents feel when you won’t go to bed (e.g., Not. Good.)

3) Analysis: analyze suggestions for a bedtime plan (e.g., write or draw in a journal, listen to a bedtime chat with the lights dim, read for 10 minutes)

4) Decision-making: develop your own bedtime plan (e.g. you decide which suggestions to use for the 30 minutes before bedtime, and then we’ll practice the routine every night at the same time).

Developing and practicing a bedtime plan with your children takes some effort yet the results are miraculous. But if this is too much work, Jerry, then there is an even easier plan. When It’s Time for Bed, I Have a Plan . . . buy the book!