Every family has their bedtime routine. Jammies, brush teeth, bedtime story, or whatever works in your house.
Your children’s bedtime isn’t just the transition from daytime to nighttime. It’s a sacred window that’s perfect for deepening your connection.
Plus, when you and your kiddos know what to expect each night you will both be able to fall asleep more easily and avoid the roller coaster of sleep-related drama.
Ben and I have a GREAT respect for parents and their kiddos’ bedtime routines. At our recent sleepover with our nieces and nephew, 7, 5 and 3-year old twins, we saw first-hand just how tricky it can be. Before bed, do you wear them out and have them jump and dance all over the room? Or do you dim the lights and softened the music so they start to relax? Different things work for different children, it seems. My goal was to just make sure that everyone was alive and unharmed until their parents’ arrival. Nothing impressive. (Maybe the pictures will work during this intro? There’s a video clip, too, if we could find it together.)
Conversations More Effective Than Reading Stories
According to a UCLA research study of 275 families with children 4-years of age and younger, basic conversation is up to six times more effective in fostering good language development than just simply reading to children. Even when little ones cannot form words yet their primitive responses to a conversation helps develop their language skills…..even if it’s goo and gah.
The average toddler is exposed to 13,000 words spoken directly at them during an average day and 400 “conversations” with adults. So the recommendation is for parents to use more of these opportunities to either introduce new words or help encourage corrections in their child’s speech.
It is not enough to speak to children. They need to have us engage them in conversation. Kids love to hear you speak but they thrive on trying speech out for themselves and to say what’s on their minds even if you don’t quite understand them yet.
“Ask Same Three Questions Every Night”
I came across a great blog on social media last year entitled, “We Ask Our Kids the Same 3 Questions Every Night.”
1) How were you brave today?
2) How were you kind today?
3) How did you fail today?
The emphasis here is that if you want your children to seek success with any consistency help them not be afraid to fail! Too often mistakes, missteps, and misjudgments lead to secrets and same. Life is full of defeat but that doesn’t mean we’re defeated. It just means we’re not afraid to try something new. So cheer for your failures every night! When you share comfortably the failures of the day, including your own, it sets the individuals in that family up for success but more importantly to be fearless. (Feel the fear and do it anyway!)
Ask Specific Questions
Open-ended questions are a good start but sometimes they can be so vague, such as, “How was school today?” That encompasses many hours and many activities; a child doesn’t even know where to start. Instead, you could ask, “tell me about the game you played at recess today.” Or, “I was curious; what did you have for lunch today?”
In my church, I work with teenage girls, 12-18. And they love to have sleepovers and late-night conversations; they call them “Deep-Convos.” Without interfering too much on these conversations I can see that they are deeply connecting. There is something about being in a darkened room that allows them to share some of their more personal concerns, worries and fears. Not only do they get these tender subjects off their chests but they quickly learn they’re not alone and you can just sense their relief!
Use Books as Conversation Starters
I am a huge fan of reading still! For a laugh out loud read, pick up “What a Day it was at School!” by Jack Prelutsky. His collection of poems about tipping over a heavy backpack, food being thrown in the cafeteria, hopelessly competing with a classmate in gym, or emitting an accidental noise during class is outrageously silly and can get a child to laugh and connect the stories to his or her school experience. For older kids and more advanced readers use the fantasy of Harry Potter or whatever else your kiddo is interested in. Ask them what special powers they wish they possessed and why? Or, ask them which character in a book they can best relate to and why. Who knows where this fascinating springboard will take you.