Bedtime has never been easy in our home. We have always struggled with finding a routine that will help our children (particularly our eldest) wind down and fall asleep peacefully.
To that end, I’ve read many books, listened to a lot of other parents and tried numerous strategies in an attempt to find “the key” that would make bedtime more peaceful in our home. The Nanny Jo approach. The No-Cry Sleep Solution. The Happiest Baby on the Block. Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child. You name it. I have considered it. Some of the suggestions I have discovered proved fruitful – for a while – but little has ever “worked” for the long run.
Enter the 5 T’s for Bedtime that we developed. These have definitely been helping for a while now. (Not every night, mind you, but many!)
What are the 5 T’s?
They are 5 simple steps that our children have learned to countdown on their fingers before bedtime: toilet, teeth, tales, talk (to God and briefly to each other) and tunes. When we as parents remember to attend to these 5 T’s consistently, and help our children recognize that we are doing so, bedtime works so much better!
- TOILET: The kids go to the bathroom (and, with help and reminders, put their undies in the hamper and their clothes in the hamper or away in their rooms before changing into bedtime diapers and jammies.)
- TEETH: They brush their teeth (often with a demonstration or help from Mom or Dad while humming the tune to a tooth brushing song I know from childhood.)
- TALES: They pick out one story or chapter to cuddle up and read together each (often begging for more, more, more, to which, we, as parents, have learned to respond, ‘Tomorrow.”)
- TALK: They say their prayers, with our help, and chat with us a bit about what’s on their minds or ask us for a “made up story” once the lights our out.
- TUNES: They fall asleep listening to lullabies, instrumental music or calming CD’s (on ideal nights. On other nights, they fuss and cry, get out of bed, call out to us and require reminders about which of the 5 T’s we are on and that tunes require quiet listening, not talking and active bodies…)
In short, they prepare their little minds and bodies for sleep in an expected way.
The Truth of Our 5 T's
Now, in all honesty, I probably should not have numbered the list above, because, to be truthful, we don’t always attend to the 5 T’s in order. But, we have found that as long as we attend to all five and do a finger check with the kids about which we have done and which we still need to do, they “work” (or work better than any other strategy to date has.)
We have also found that five seems to be the “magic” number for our kids. For, we have tried to add other things into the “T” mix, which we want our children to do before sleeping– for example, tidying their room or taking care of their bodies by stretching and exercising. That didn’t seem to work. It was simply too many T’s for their young selves to attend to.
Likewise, we have made the mistake of failing to follow through on one or more of the T’s on certain nights – say taking away stories as a consequence or spending too much time talking to the kids. That doesn’t work out either. If the kids don’t get their stories, they get so angst they cannot calm themselves for sleep and, if we drag out any portion of the 5 T’s, it’s almost as if it triggers something in the kids’ heads that says it’s not bedtime anymore. The flow goes askew and we end up back at square one. Yep. We have found taking focused time to attend to each of the 5 T’s actually takes less time than dealing with the repercussions of skipping some of them!
Thus, through trial and error, we have recognized what works for our children at this stage in their development. We have also learned to include other things we want to do with them in the evening to the time between dinner and bedtime. That way, things such as clean up times, stretching and long chats about our days get attended to, but don’t complicate a simple routine that is working for us.
Now, if we could only find a way to KEEP the kids in bed in the middle of the night, so we don’t wake up to this some mornings:
Yep, that’s all three in our bed!
This post is being shared at We Are THAT Family’s Works for Me Wednesday. Please click on the links there to see what is working in other folks homes and lives. Also, if you have tips for bedtime, or, better yet, back-to-bed-until-morning time, we’d love to hear them in a comment below. And, if you like our T's idea, stay tuned in the coming days. Luke requested we make a 5 T printable and I will be posting it soon.