“Rocka-rocka few minutes?” That was the question eagerly asked by our son when he was just a little over a year old, and we would happily tell him that yes, now that dinner was done and he had his teeth brushed and his pajamas on, it was time for our Bible story. His expression for it sprang from sitting on my lap in our rocking chair while his daddy would read him the story before bed. Then we’d sing a song, pray together, and off to his crib he’d go, the end of our nightly routine. As simple as that. No whining, no fight. Sweet dreams and good night.
Nighttime has been that smooth and sweet in our family for as long as we’ve had children to tuck in. We choose an appropriate time to get each to bed, making adjustments for age and growth as the need to do so arises. No crying, whining, pleading, stalling, demanding, pouting, debating, or any other shenanigans would be tolerated, but they are not attempted either. With an established system and routine in place, as our family grew, the new members just did what they saw others do around them. We have never had a battle with our children about bedtime, because they never considered the option to be available to them! (Please don’t spoil this by telling them!) We try to provide for them the security they need as their day comes to its end: the reminder that they are loved by the Lord and by their family, and that just as we always want what is best for them we want it then too. And that is sleep!
After all these years of the privilege of raising children, the details of the routine have advanced beyond “rocka-rocka few minutes” to a time of more in-depth Bible study as a family, though we still do wrap it up with a song and prayer. It’s what works for us. Our younger three, twins Zach and Daniel, age eight, and Audra, six, then run, dance, or skip off to bed and get tucked in. Meanwhile, our fourteen-year-old son Scott still has hours to go before he calls it a night. He has no set "bedtime", because with the structure he had through his younger years, he learned to judge well how much sleep he needs. He is no longer a child in our eyes, but a young man, and one who manages his time, his sleep and his activities better than many adults, his mother included. When his siblings are put away for the night, as we like to call it, Scott will either spend some time with his dad (they’ve been on a “MacGyver” kick lately, getting them from Netflix) or he will head into his room to finish out his evening.
And that’s that. Over the years some of our friends who face a nightly struggle with their kids have asked how we do this. First, the “why” needs to be answered. It’s obviously what is best for the kids. But there is a selfish part of it too. Though we love being parents, we love being married to each other too, and enjoy having time in the evening when we’re off-duty, free to talk with each other and spend time together or just near each other without any little ones needing anything. My husband is my favorite grown-up in the world, and I cherish time with him. In addition, as a stay-at-home mom, I’m on duty from the time they’re up until the time they’re down, so in the interest of my sanity we have to keep things this way! Our approach is good for the kids and for us. We do it because we need to, and because it works.
As for the “how” it boils down to this. We’re the parents. It is our responsibility to meet the needs of our children, even if they don’t want us to. For a pleasant close to each day, we need to have reasonable expectations of their behavior based on their age and abilities, and then set established routines that they can count on combined with love that they can count on still more. We are not perfect parents, but we are their parents, and we want to give them everything they need, including a good night's rest before we all begin a brand new day.
|A bedtime moment from days gone by: our Daniel at two and a half, happy to be off to dreamland.|