28 answers

Bedtime Routine?

I've let my kids stay up as late as they want because I'd rather have them sleep later in the morning. My oldest will be starting Kindergarten soon, and we will all have to get up at the crack of dawn, so he'll need to go to bed earlier, on his own. (He usually falls asleep on the couch and we carry him to bed.) We've already tried a bedtime routine and tried to get them to go to bed earlier, but they just won't. Any suggestions? Did anything work for someone in a similar situation? Should I start sleep-training them now or just wait until school starts and they'll automatically get tired from having to get up early?
Thanks for your replies!

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you so much everyone! About 2 or 3 weeks before school started, we set up a new bedtime routine: jump/dance, bath (if needed), pajamas, brush teeth, read story, talk about day, and lights out. I lay in bed with my son for just a couple of minutes. I had to start lights out late (10pm) and then move it up 15 min. each night. I am so proud to say that they both are in bed by 8 every night! They don't come out of their rooms and they fall asleep on their own :) I am tired earlier too - and we are all happier in the morning! My son hasn't been late to school at all.

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Starting school will be hard enough without him being so exhausted he can't function too.

Start moving bedtime 15 minutes earlier every couple of days. Pretty soon you've have them going to bed at a reasonable time without a bunch of trauma to go with it. You can also start waking them up early NOW to help with the transition.

I'm all for minimizing the trauma.


START NOW!! It typically takes 2 weeks for kids to get on a new routine. The longer you wait the harder the first few weeks of school will be.

Definitely try to establish a bedtime routine now rather than waiting until school starts. It may take a while to get the routine going. Good luck!

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Good morning A., A st routine will take practice, letting kids stay up as long as they wanted, was not a good teaching for your kids. But you can change it. One thing i do want to share with you before I share what our routine was with our kids when they were small (now grown) and that is there should never be no such thing as they won't, they are not in charge you are, and if you allow the Won't in your home with your kids, you are giving them power they are not meant to have. We had 3 children 2 boys and our daughter,our bedtime routine was, gathering in one room as a family, a story read, then we prayed with our kids then tucked the boys in, told them good night and that we loved them, turned off their light and turned on their fish aquarium light, then my husband and I together took our daughter to her room, tucked her in told her good night and we love her, turned her light off and her fish aquireium light on.They went to bed happy and knowing they were loved. J. L.

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I wouldn't think it is fair to your son or his future teacher to just "see what happens" if he goes to school tired. He has a job to do there, make friends, follow rules and a schedule, and just figure out this whole school thing - he will be emotionally drained enough doing that, don't let him be physically tired as well. His teacher also has a whole classroom of children to meet, learn their individual temperaments and those of the parents, get them on a routine and start teaching pronto! This is hard enough to do without children who are cranky, uncooperative, or crying. I would just move bedtime earlier gradually - 15 minutes earlier every three or four days. If you try to put them to bed three hours early, of course they won't go to bed, they're not even remotely tired! As others have said, a bedtime bath, jammies, a book with a stick of cheese or banana for snack, brush teeth, and off to bed with hugs and kisses. We start our bedtime routine at 7pm - lights out at 8pm. You might find you really enjoy having a couple of hours to yourself at night... although you won't probably at first. They will probably keep getting out of bed for a while, just stick to it and be loving but consistent - this could take several weeks if you have persistent children! Even though this has been our routine since the beginning my four year old STILL asks for someone to stay with him, scratch his back, one more book, sing to me please.... Even though he knows the end result is "sorry, no, it's bedtime." It's hard to say goodnight when there's a whole exciting world out there to discover :) If you get your two year old on the same schedule you will have much happier mornings if she has to go with you to drop off brother at school - and then you'll have some one on one time with her in the morning while he's gone. Good luck and happy sleeping!

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Please do your son a favor and start training him now on good school sleep habits. As a teacher of 16 years, I can tell you that poor sleep habits lead to more problems in the classroom (both academic and social) than most families and teachers would care to admit.

For my family, bedtime at kindergarten was 7:30pm with a wake up time of 6-6:30am. Yes, young children still need LOTS of sleep to support growing minds and bodies. Our bedtime routine was to bathe, set out clothes for the next day, read, and cuddle until lights out.

In your case, I would recommend starting a bed time routine and start shifting "lights out" back 10-15 minutes every few days. Also, I would really tire your son out during the day with physical and mental activities so going to bed early isn't as awful as it sounds. This will not be easy but if you stick with it, school won't be such a hassle.

Think of it this way. Kindergarten starts at 8 or 9 am and goes to 11:30am-ish. If your son doesn't mentally "wake up" until 10 or 11am, he's missed everything he needs to learn for 1st grade. At that point you face two choices: teach him yourself in the afternoons or evenings or hold him back a year to try again. Kids who get "promoted" to 1st grade without knowing their letters, sounds and numbers are set up to fail when they get to my classes in high school because they don't know how to read or do basic math (I teach history and economics). Is not having a structured bedtime routine worth risking your kid not graduating? I know that sounds extreme, but, yes, I have heard that..."I could never make Johnny go to bed on time" or "Susie, is just strong willed. She'll stay up and play computer games/watch tv/text on her cell phone until 2am. I can't make her stop."

Yes, you can. It starts today with you in charge! You go, girl! You can do this! Follow the Witwicky motto: No sacrifice, no victory! (If you haven't seen Transformers, that won't make sense, but it still applies. <g>)

Lots and lots of good luck to you...

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As someone who also let her daughter be the little nightowl she seems to just naturally be, I'll just toss out that when the time comes that you have to go to bed earlier so that you can get up earlier, you will. It's not worth stressing over.

That said, I don't mean wait until the night before school starts to have your son go to bed 2 hours earlier than his usual conking out on the couch (I love it). We do family bed (I know, I know), so that does allow a bit of control in the when it's time to go to bed department. If you don't want to do the family bed thing, and I can only advocate it for people who truly want it, may I suggest a routine similar to the plan for weaning a child out of it's parents' bed?

You would start by lying down with your child in their bed, moving your bed-time routine, such a bed-time stories, singing songs, telling stories about that day, hopes for dreams, discussing family plans or upcoming events ~ keeping to calm subjects of course. If you don't have a bed-time routine, you might want to create one, especially because you'll need to motivate your son to come off the couch and go into his bed. No judgement - just knowing that incentives help.

OK, I got a bit off-track. So you have the bed-time routine, you're lying down with child. Then you say time for sleep, turn off lights, and stay with them a bit. Maybe, if your child isn't used to going to sleep on their own, you will need to stay until they're actually asleep. This will be quite a huge change for your children, and the less stress the better. Be patient with them (and yourself). The 2 year-old will go along with whatever is going on, allowing for toddler energy and willfulness. But very likely she'll be motivated to do whatever her big brother is doing.

Anyway, you do that for a few days, then sit on the bed rather than lie down, than move to a chair rather than the bed, but close to the bed. Then move the chair further away. As this process goes along, you'll be leaving the room earlier and earlier, so the kids will be going to sleep on their own. I really couldn't say how many days this will take. The idea is to transition them gently so they'll feel safe & not dread bed-time & fight it running away hiding from you. And your night will have some sweetness to it rather than that anxious feeling of OMG my kids HAVE to get to sleep!!! And I do suggest starting the bed-time routine, wherever in the house you choose, a couple weeks before end of summer. You could move to the bed after that, if that feels more natural. The point is to have a routine.

When your kids are little, it's so easy to just float and let life happen. Everyone is happy following their own rhythm in their own time. School changes all that and you will get used to it. I railed against the regimentation, but I got used to it. You have to, or there's all sorts of hassles & stresses that just aren't worth it. Get some stories that you'll enjoy reading (age appropriate), maybe some chapter books that your kids will look forward to hearing the next installment night after night. The ORIGINAL Winnie the Pooh books are terrific, as is the ORIGINAL Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, even Pinnocchio (though there are some pretty tense times in it). They are all excellent books, well-written, funny, sweet.

I wish you all the best with this & I hope you find a way to enjoy the new changes you'll be needing to make. I know it will mean a different night for you the mom, whether you follow my suggestions or whether you go about it another way.

Take care,

1 mom found this helpful

As a school teacher, I can't tell you how often we see children who are sleep deprived. Kids need a lot more sleep than adults do. They do better in school when they have enough sleep. Please try to help your children by allowing them to go to bed earlier. They may not want to, but the extra sleep is needed for their health. As a teacher, I thank you! Good luck!

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Aloha A.,

I think you are just going to have to put your foot down now. Don't wait until school starts. It's important for them to have a routine and good sleeping habits. Bedtime routine could start 30 minutes before bedtime.....with bath/shower, brushing teeth, then laying in bed while mommy/daddy softly reads a bedtime story. When the story is over, if they aren't asleep, let them know it's time to just rest in bed.......hugs and kissess.....and good night sweetheart! With my kids, we always do a "what's your favorite" or "if you could be......." kind of question.


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HI, A.!
Interesting that you would put "routine" in your subject line -- I see no routine! Perhaps you can put them on a "bedtime" schedule, and yourself, as well!
It is my opinion that there is no such thing as a "morning" or a "night" person. That is a figment of our imagination. It is a LABEL that we apply to ourselves to make it "ok" to sleep in, or to stay up late. Try to get up a little earlier each day, before school starts, so that you can actually get your kids up for school, and be awake and present for them before they head out for their day! You can make it fun for them! How much would they love their mommy to be awake and cheerful each day when they rise? How much would you love to be there for them when they need you? I guess, what I am saying is, if you make it ABOUT THEM, then it isn't about YOU, and not being a morning person. Shift the focus onto them, instead of yourself! I believe selfless acts of kindness always pay off!
Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi A.,
May I suggest that you work on sleep training both of them now? I was an elementary school teacher for 17 years and school is exhausting for a kindergartener, especially if he's already tired. It will make for a long (and possibly emotional) day for him. Additionally, the ones that don't end up getting enough sleep will fall asleep in class, which causes them to miss out on valuable information and could also cause shock or embarrassment to your child.
My suggestion is to: set your routine, have them go to bed and if they aren't tired, than tell them that they may look at books in bed, but no playing with toys. Also, start to wind them down about an hour before bed. Turn off the TV, feed them a high protein snack such as a glass of milk or some string cheese. Then give them their bath with some relaxing bath wash and have them brush their teeth. Play some soothing quiet music as you read them a bed time story and then send them to bed to either look at books or try to sleep. Their bodies will eventually adjust to the routine, although it may take a week.
Good luck to you!

1 mom found this helpful

Dear A.,
I would definitely start training now or you are going to have some super cranky kids on your hands once school starts. Your little boy is going to be so exhausted from going to school, that it is important that he gets to bed early. Trust me... I am a teacher. Find a routine and stick with it. It won't go smoothly at first, but once your kids realize that this is how it is, they will follow.

Here is our routine...
quiet time in the room and clean up (no playing with sister!!!!)
stories (I do one story for each kid)
snuggle time
lights out

There is the "I want water," "I need to go to the bathroom," "I am not tired" trick but don't fall for it. Just say its time for bed, goodnight. I would do your daughter's routine first while you son has quiet time in his room, then do your son's last (that will make him feel like a BIG boy).

Good luck!

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i would start to train them now. if you wait until your son starts school he will be exhausted cranky and uncooperative. i have had a strict bedtime routine with my daughter since birth. what i do with her is an hour after dinner we get our jammies on. then she plays untill bed time at 8. we brush our teeth and comb our hair then give our kisses and hugs. then i read her a story and rock her a few minutes and she gets in bed and thats that. i think you will have a battle on your hands because they are used to staying up till they pass out (which i dont agree with but everyone parents different). here is what i would do with your kids.

new bed time routine (goal in bed lights out at 9p)

8pm- jammies on teeth brushed hair combed and a bath if you bathe them at night.
then quiet play until 9pm
9pm- bed time. read 1 story to them and tuck them in bed. then lights out.

i would practice this routine 7 days a week until their bodies naturally become tired at 8-9p. im not a morning person either but my daughter is up by 6-7a everyday no matter when she goes to bed...
good luck :)

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Hi, A.! I agree with everyone that you need to establish a bedtime routine. May I also suggest that you also start getting him up 15 minutes earlier each day, at least two weeks before he starts school, so that way it is not so sudden that he is forced to wake up at the crack of dawn. That's what I did with my daughter, since it just wasn't about her getting up early, but she also had to adjust to eating breakfast a lot earlier. I am not a morning person also, so the 15 minutes earlier each day worked for me, as well. Good luck!

Definitely try to establish a bedtime routine now rather than waiting until school starts. It may take a while to get the routine going. Good luck!

well i bet after he starts having to wake earlier he's going to go to sleep earlier...my son is 3.5 i do the same thing now..i let him crash out sometimes on the couch or in my bed then i carry him to his bed..and i'm dreading when he has to go to school super early..ugh! good luck!

I feel your pain. We too let our kids stay up late which lets them sleep in. My almost 5 year old is starting kindergarden too and am hoping for an afternoon class. We will see. As for what I am going to do if we get an early class. We are going to let her adjust. She is pretty good about her attitude and seems as if/when she doesn't get that much sleep she is pretty decent. So I am lucky for that reason. I know with time they will adjust. I say let them sleep when you/they want to and everything will adjust naturally. I wouldn't worry to much about it. I am sure we are not the only ones with late sleepers. Enjoy them while you can especially being the summer because things might get more strict during the school year. Good luck to you and enjoy sleeping in now if you can.

I am not a morning person either, I love when my children sleep until 9:30 in the morning! However, start getting your son and yourself ready for the new schedule now. My husband used to work nights, so on his days off he would get up later and my daughter wanted to stay up with him at night, and sleep in the morning. It wasn't a problem since she didn't have school, but then he switched schedules to day and it was killing me to stay up late when I got pregnant with my second. I started moving her bedtime up 15 mins every couple of days, and waking her up a bit earlier. She's only 3 1/2 and not in school, but we've got a baby now and I can't have her staying up all night when baby wakes up early (I am up now, it's 12am but it's the only time I have to myself LOL!). It worked wonders and she's still a very good sleeper, with NO naps during the day. He'll get used to it (and you!) just start now!

Oooooh, tough gig. I would establish the bedtime routine, at the bedtime they are going now. Once they are used to it, about 3 days or so, start making it earlier and earlier until you have them going to sleep at about 7:30 or 8:00. Then you can all wake up at about 6:00am feeling fine! If you need, do really active things during the day to tire them out - swimming is GREAT for this. The important thing to do is to be consistent, and dont' give in to letting him fall asleep on the sofa. You may as well get both kids on the same bedtime routine, so it will be easier for you (you don't have to go through it twice! I would not wait until school starts because the transition he will make merely going to school will be hard enough without dealing with sleep deprivation on top of it!

Have some motivational system with rewards at the ready, so he will be very proud of himself for sticking with the bedtime routine and staying in his room. You can even talk to him and let him decide what the rewards will be. Good luck - it will be a hard transition for everyone, but you will see, it will be for the better!

we also had this battle however we have always had a bed time it just is naturally late. when my son started kindergarten we put him late start and we were still struggling with the 9:15am start time so i would suggest starting now.
it was easiest to just up the bedtime 15 min to 30 min earlier every week for a week until we got to the right time. He is still a late sleeper and we are not as strict on the weekends because we like to stay out but it has helped.
I found making the bedtime routine fun helps my boys even ask for bed time so think about some of the quiet things you like to do together. then it becomes more of a bonding time and a good experience. but remember be consistent about him staying in his bed after you say your goodnights and turn off the light.
we are constantly getting the "i'm hungry", "i'm scared", "i cant sleep" excuses so be prepared with answers like you can have breakfast in the morning, you have your favorite stuffed animal.. blanket.. whatever is his comforter if he doesn't have one think about getting one- my boys both got a build a bear specifically to be a bedtime buddy and he stays in bed or goes on sleep overs with them- and to the last question we just say try harder- harsh i know but it has worked so far.
good luck and great idea to be thinking ahead.

START NOW!! It typically takes 2 weeks for kids to get on a new routine. The longer you wait the harder the first few weeks of school will be.

Morning person or not, school will be starting. I had to decrease any naps (if my kids were still taking them). We would make a rountine of it and we started about 2 weeks before school started. We would have baths at 7:00 with time to play. 7:30 was storytime and 8:00 was bedtime. I had a daughter who suffered through kindergarten because she still napped. She came home from kindergarten and would take a 3 hour nap. Then when first grade hit, boy we were in for it. It took her 3 months to get used to the longer school day. Start training them now, you want your child to be in the best possible mood for school so they have a positive experience. They will get in the routine just because they will be tired after having a full day. Schedule the hours for your son and then go from there. You can always adjust when school starts.
Good luck!

I would still work on it. Try waking him up 1/2 hour earlier every morning- moving the time up little by little. I know it's hard. If you all don't adjust- you will within a few days of school starting. If you have to wait though expect at least 3 days of tears, anger and fatigue among the whole family.

I didn't want bedtime problems, so I sleep-trained my son just after his 1st birthday (he's 15 months old).
We have a very strict routine:
bath @ 7:00pm
bottle/yogurt @ 7:30pm
brush teeth @ 7:50 pm
into bed @ 8:00pm

My son didn't like the routine at first, cried it out. After one week he became like us...happy to go to bed! My son loves going to his room and getting into bed with his binky, etc.

I never use his room/bed as punishment, i.e. he'll never be sent to his room for misbehaving. And, I let him play however he likes in his room, emptying bookshelves, whatever so that he knows that is his personal space and he should be happy in there. We clean up his room before bath time every night.

It may be harder now that your kids are older, but get them excited about a routine...maybe even "consult" them about what type of routine is good for kids their age regarding bedtime/school nights, etc., so they become excited about "their idea", etc.

Good Luck!


Starting school will be hard enough without him being so exhausted he can't function too.

Start moving bedtime 15 minutes earlier every couple of days. Pretty soon you've have them going to bed at a reasonable time without a bunch of trauma to go with it. You can also start waking them up early NOW to help with the transition.

I'm all for minimizing the trauma.



Sleep-time routine must start now... so he gets into the rhythm of things. Also, with our soon to be 5 yr old, he didn't need the sleep-time routine but instead since he was born he's awake with dad & mom when we're getting ready for work... I must admit he's gotten lazy this summer but usually he's up between 5-5:30 am which is helpful... granted the mornings aren't always smooth but it is what it is...

Sleep routine must also include mom & dad... Our son won't go to bed in his bed until mom & dad are in the bedroom too... if we're watching something or having fun in the livingroom he also doesn't want to miss out... so we have an early bedtime too... On ocassion he falls asleep in the couch and we just carry him to bed.

Good luck and yes, bedtime routine can include mom & dad too and then when the little ones fall asleep you can sneak out and continue your family duties after hours... by family duties I mean like clean up the kitchen, prep lunch sacks, etc...


Your oldest is starting kindergarten soon, I think you should start training now. Wake him up early in the morning, I know your not a morning person, but your going to have to set a routine for him. If you wake him up early in the morning and have some activities to do in the day, he would end up going to bed early because he's exhausted. The reason you should start now is because if you wait until school starts, he's going to be cranky when you try to wake him up for school. So in order for you to prevent that, you should start your training as soon as possible.

A. (Mother of 3 children 12,9 and 4)

As a first step you should get your kids accustomed to falling asleep in their own beds at night, instead of on the sofa or some place else in the house. I think I would then gradually move bedtime and wake-up time earlier and earlier in preparation for start of kindergarten. You need to re-train your own sleeping habits, too! Depending on our life circumstances and schools being attended, I have had to get kids up anywhere from 6 am to 8 am in the morning. Making a sudden shift and missing those two extra hours of sleep is hard on everyone! My daughter's high school starts at 7:30. I've never been a morning person, either, but you just have to make the adjustment.

Aloha A.,

It is important for them to work on a bedtime routine now instead of waiting for school to start. That will help them build good habits and it will help you too in the long run. And whatever you do, just keep doing it in a loving fashion so they always know how much you love them.

Got more parenting questions? Let me know. I'm http://www.LorrainePursell.com


Wow, been there, done that...I'm not a morning person, either. And my kids have always wanted to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn, anyway. We had a really lose night schedule until the oldest started pre-school. They'd be building lego houses til 11 some nights...

If he's used to napping, you'll need to keep him up & If I were you, I'd just figure out how early he needs to be up to get ready & not be too grouchy & then start moving up your night routine by 10-15 minutes each night so that by the time school starts he's used to going to sleep when he needs to...you'll all be adjusting gradually that way. If you can, concentrate on him, reading to him, etc to help him get used to it.

Because my girls used to love to sit & play in the tub for an hour or more each night, we started bathtime early & they almost always wanted a light snack before they actually went to sleep. When my oldest was in pre-K & Kinder, I would lay down between my two older girls, read a story, then lights out & hold their hands (they shared a bed) until they fell asleep, listening to classical or soothing music, while my husband was reading/playing legos with the youngest downstairs. When the youngest got closer to pre-school, I would read to them all, & hold hands with whoever needed it..or my husband would.

Yes, sometimes I would wish they would just fall asleep on their own, w/o the story, hand holding, childhood stories...but I figure it's just a short while in my life, but a lifetime of comfort & nice memories to them..so I'm glad I did it.

as a mom of five who has done things both ways, I think you would be better off giving them more of a schedule and working gradually towards an earlier and earlier bedtime routine. It may take some effort and some time out of your evening that you are not used to if you have been letting them fall asleep on their own downstairs with you. If you talk about the new routine like its an adventure during the day and just stick to it, the consistency will work. You may have to take them both up and read books and lie with them (maybe one parent with each child for a while) but just establish 4-5 routine things you are doing each night like going up together, changing, brushing teeth, reading, maybe a back rub and then lying with them starting at 9:00 first for a week or so,then 8:30 and move it to 8:00 if you see they need the extra sleep.

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