One Way to Turn Bedtime Routines Around

From Challenging to Affirming

What happens during the bedtime routine often sets the tone for an entire evening and even impacts the following morning. I coach many families that face struggles as their kids are getting to bed. Emotions can be high and even the anticipation of the bedtime routine can create stress in a family.

When your bedtime routine isn’t working

Does this scenario sound familiar? Just as eight o’clock (or whatever time you have set) approaches you sense the tension rising. You are ready to march everyone efficiently through the bedtime drill and settle down for a nice cup of tea or decaf in peace and quiet, but… the kids are ready to resist, knowing the inevitable end result – isolation in a dark, lonely, boring bedroom. 

Corralling the lively little munchkins is like herding excited puppies. Putting jammies on is a regular power struggle only surpassed by the misery of teeth brushing. Every step  becomes laden with the baggage of frustration and resentment built up from previous bedtime battles. Sometimes it seems there’s no end to the negativity.

How one family creatively navigated the bedtime routine

One family I coached solved their bedtime challenges by improving the atmosphere around bedtime and ending the day on a positive note. Mike and Cheryl were fighting an uphill battle against negativity in their family, as well as chronic bedtime struggles. In a coaching session we developed the idea of ending the night by affirming each child as they were tucked in, and recording it in a journal. They wanted to point out ways in which their children had succeeded at making good choices each day.

The kids’ initial response to this idea was predictably… negative! Introducing a new routine to stressed children is often met with resistance. Their kids said things like: “That sounds weird.” “I don’t want to do that.” As Mike and Cheryl persevered, their kids began to enjoy it. 

Improve attitudes with this one key addition to your bedtime routine

Mike and Cheryl’s daughter, Nina (age 6), began wanting to write in the affirmation journal herself. Sometimes she would reserve a certain accomplishment for her entry. “Don’t use the one about finishing my math by myself, I want to write that!” Their son Reese (age 8), chose not to write in the book, but also began to point out things he felt good about for his parents to write down. Mike felt really grateful that journaling became an automatic part of the bedtime routine. He found it to be a great way to connect with the family after a long work day.  Cheryl said it kept her constantly on the lookout during the day to see the good in her kids.  

Maximize the benefit by adding a little self-reflection

As the kids grew comfortable with this routine, Mike and Cheryl began to ask additional questions about their children’s successes. After identifying their accomplishments, they might follow up by asking Nina and Reese, “What did you do to accomplish this?” This next step allowed their children some time for reflection.  Additionally, this is a great starter for talking about the ever-present reality of God’s wonderful grace. That grace helps us to learn and grow in important things.  Any time we stop and reflect on what has gone well and invite our children to do the same, it helps build insight, strength and courage to face other similar challenges.  

The impact of this one shift in the bedtime routine

Mike and Cheryl were encouraged as they reflected on the positive role the affirmation journal played in their bedtime routine. Here are some of their observations:

  • Bedtime became less of a struggle for their family. The kids looked forward to the journaling and reflection. This has also been true in other families we have coached who have implemented this idea. One discouraged little guy wanted his mom to start over and read the journal from the beginning every night.
  • Nina began to sleep better. Previously she would wake up during the night if there had been stress and conflict at bedtime. Cheryl stated, “She has slept through the night consistently since we started doing this.”
  • The kids felt encouraged by parents who were looking for the best in them.
  • Nina and Reese gained the essential ability to notice their own good character and celebrate it.
  • The kids began to understand the presence of God’s grace throughout their day.

Being a parent can be overwhelming and stressful as you seek to wisely guide your little ones. Your little ones who don’t always want to be guided! But being a child, when everyone in charge is bigger and has more power than you, is overwhelming and stressful too! Ending the day by encouraging and being encouraged is a great way to offset all that stress, reconnect your hearts, and help everyone to sleep better. 

Some practical suggestions:

  1. Try this idea as described above as part of your bedtime routine. 
  2. Figure out how to build loving affirmation and connection into your bedtime routine in a way that works for you and your kids. In addition, you might also try an affirmation journal for yourself as a parent. Ask your kids what you did well that day and write it in your journal.  🙂 
  3. Use written encouragement and blessing as a part of your regular daily routine with your kids.  

In I Thessalonians 5:11 we are commanded to “encourage one another and build one another up.” Since this is such a clear directive, know that you can lean into the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You can feel confidence that you are being spiritually guided as you encourage your family. 


To learn more ideas about how to make bedtime “the dessert of your day” purchase our newest resource: Transform Bedtime Struggles into Nighttime Snuggles. This thorough and well-researched ebook will walk you through practical and holistic ideas for bringing your child’s body, mind, heart, and spirit into sleep.

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