Bedtime: Consistency and Discernment

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I have mixed feelings about bedtime.

I generally handle putting the kids to bed, and it is a very special time that I enjoy.  It is a great opportunity to talk with them about their day and to show them a little more love before tucking them in.  I remind them that “I love them 100.”  (I’d love them more, but that’s the max!)  I want them to end each day knowing that they are loved and cherished.

Other than prying the book out of Hannah’s hand and getting Rebekah to stop bouncing around the room, it is usually pretty easy to get the girls to bed.  It is great daddy-daughter time.

The boys are another matter entirely. They are 4 and 2, and some nights they are great.  Like last night, coincidentally.

But other nights it is a battle.

The two concepts that I try to keep in mind for bedtime are Consistency and Discernment. 


Kids thrive on consistency.  They are naturally spontaneous and oblivious to time, so they do better when their little worlds have some level of order placed on it.  There is also a natural biological rhythm to the day that seems to work better with consistency.  And, if they know what my expectations are, then they know that they won’t be able to get away with breaking the rules.

We are not totally obsessed with a consistent bedtime, but we generally stay pretty close to our target.  Then when I put them to bed I sing 3 or 4 songs to them:

  • Jesus Loves Me
  • Amazing Grace
  • America the Beautiful (Luke’s request)
  • Itsy-Bitsy Spider (For Jake)

Then after singing those songs we say this prayer before I put them in their beds:

Dear God:
Help us have a good night’s sleep.
Help us have good dreams.
Help us fall asleep quickly.
Help us not to cry.
Help us not to talk.
Please keep us safe,
Put your angels around us.
Thank you for Jesus.
In Jesus’ name.

Then Luke gets his sippie cup of water and Jake gets his sippie cup of milk, I close the door so it is only open “two hands,” and they go to sleep.

Some nights, this routine is all it takes.  However, some nights this just doesn’t work.  Sometimes Luke is afraid; sometimes Jake is angry.  Sometimes both.


This is where discernment comes in.  At Jake’s age it is so hard to tell whether he is afraid, hungry, defiant, in pain, sick, or something else.  Rigidly sticking to ‘the plan’ seems counterproductive at times.  He can’t communicate, so we have to guess what the actual problem is.  At times I have to humbly admit that I have no idea on my own.  Prayer and the Holy Spirit’s leading is the only way that I can decide if I should stay consistent or make an exception.

We are generally pretty tough and make them cry it out.  Again, consistency is important and negotiation just leads to frustration.  As we mentioned in Kids and Fear, we use music to our advantage.  We play lullabies, worship music, or the Bible on CD.  But, sometimes we sit in the hallway…just close enough for them to see that we are there.  Sometimes we discipline for continued screaming.  Other times we just let him cry it out.  There are nights where he is still going strong an hour later, so we take him down to the basement to a pack and play.  This allows him to calm down without waking up the other 3 kids.

Each of our kids went through a phase (18 months to 4 or 5 years old) where bedtimes could be tough.  We keep reminding ourselves that it is normal and that we need to be consistent.  But we also try to listen to that inner still small voice so that we truly care for them in the best way possible.

We are interested – what advice do you have?  What has worked?  What hasn’t?


Printable:  |PDF_Picture  Bedtime Prayer and Fear Scriptures  |

Post: Kids and Fear

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