How to make Bedtime a Dream and not a Nightmare!

How to make Bedtime a Dream and not a Nightmare!

By Paula-Elizabeth Jordan


I know a lot of parents experience difficulties here so I felt it necessary to write an article on the subject of “Bedtime”. The vast majority of “bedtime issues” are actually related to what you do; that is how you handlerespond to things. The times it isn’t related to this is really only with very small babies (unless there’s a medical reason) who have colic/ reflux; as I mentioned in my article about the importance of not using dummies, this is a time you have to give more of yourself to see the results in your child’s well-being later on. So this article is aimed more for children “toddler aged” and upwards. 🙂


The key to getting your child to go to bed sensibly is “expectation”. Expectation actually plays a key role in other areas too, in the context of bedtime, if you expect problems; what do you think you’re going to get?! When I’ve had to put children to bed/ sleep, I expect them to listen to me and go to bed/sleep sensibly. If they’ve not been used to doing that with their family then I tell them very simply that children who are tired need to go to sleep and if they want to have fun the next day/ when they wake up (depending on whether its night-time, or a day sleep) they need to go to sleep. This makes sense because children will most often be in a far more “touchy” frame of mind if they haven’t had enough sleep. I’ve told this to children as young as eight months! – It doesn’t matter that they can’t talk yet – I tell them in a calm, serious tone of voice with a serious (yet kind!) expression on my face so they know that I mean what I say; it takes about a week (two at most) and they go to bed like a dream for me. 🙂


Singing is another good “tool” to use to get younger children (toddler aged) to sleep. I have used singing to help children sleep unless parents have requested otherwise. What I like about using singing as a “sleep tool” is that it’s giving of yourself, which for young children gives a positive message and is supportive of their well-beingTipHayley Westernra’s song “Prayer” is a great song to use – it’s the first song on her album “Odyssey”. It doesn’t take long and the children will most often have a deep and soothing sleep. So expect your child to listen to you and go to bed sensibly – If you really do expect it and not just hope” (!) – they will, I promise! 🙂


Okay I can here you saying already; “What? – Expectation – but how?!” So here’s a good strategy to make that a lot easier and I have to say that it’s been “titled” and set out well be TV Parenting Personality Jo Frost. I read it and thought this was exactly how my Mum did it when I was young! – So although a strategy that’s already been used; Jo Frost “named it” and set it out well in a little booklet that I happened to notice in my local library after I’d started planning this article! The strategy is called; “Bath, Book, Bed”. I feel that on a personal level it’s important for me to say that I don’t agree with Jo Frost on everything; however with this particular strategy – I am in complete synchronicity with her. I loved the “Bath, Book Bed” bedtime routine my Mum created because I remember feeling relaxed and at ease – nothing to worry about at least until morning (I did rather worry about the unnecessary as a child – things I didn’t really need to worry about because I was a child!!). 🙂


Jo puts forward that children thrive on a structure to their day” and bedtime is no different. The reason a routine is so important (and it doesn’t need to be to the minute!) is that whist children are learning a lot about life and how it worksroutine provides a structure to help them know what’s “coming up next”. When you know what’s going to happen it eliminates any need for anxiety and allows the child to focus on learning more. The first important part of the structure for “Bath, Book, Bed” in my mind is that once you’ve gone upstairs to put them too bed – there is “No” going back downstairs again – so make sure you have everything you need for bedtime upstairs! 🙂


One thing I definitely think you will need for bedtime is a drink of water in a child-sized flask. These tend to drip less than bottles and this way your child can’t use being thirsty as an excuse not to go to bed. Plus special toy that your child likes to take to bed/ book they like to read – choose the story before the bedtime routine starts so you’re not looking for it! Can I also just say; please do not give your child anymore food after their dinner. Dinner for every child I ever worked with from every culture/ background has always been shorty before the bedtime routine would start. So they don’t need anything else. Plus Health Experts I know who have clients in Hollywood/ Eastern Royalty say that for adults, we shouldn’t eat for at least three hours before we go to bed. It’s so your body has the opportunity to fully digest your food and taking all the nutrients before “shutting down” for bedtime. I would half this for children as they digest things quicker because they are growing; so that an hour and a half – perfect when dinnertime is shortly before the bedtime routine. – If children know that there is nothing else to eat after dinner is over they’ll start to (if not before) eat better at dinner – trust me they will if you stick to it! It’s also worth considering that a child from a loving background in the Modern World is absolutely not going to starve because you haven’t given them anything else after dinner has ended. 🙂


First Step – Bath: As Jo puts forward; bathing in warm water is very soothing and relaxing” and a great way to begin to get children winding down for the evening. She also feels, as do I, that it’s important to let children “have fun” in the bath and splash (lightly) and play with bath toys. A tip here; if children splash too much and create lot of water on the floor I always tell them before the bath that they need to keep all the water in the bath and if any water is on the floor – they are the ones who need to clear it up! – They actually like this responsibility and for the most part – avoid too much splashing! Have some pouring bath toys so your child can be learning something practical even in the bath!! Also, bath-time presents a great opportunity for children to “go over” what they’ve learnt during the day – you’ll hear this in their “self-chatter”/ talking to each other. It’s important that they have this “final chance” to relax and play in the bath because winding down is importantIf child is still “wound-up and excited” from the day; what do you think your chances of getting them to bed are going to be??! So ensure there’s time for a good soak in the bath. With older children you can get a few things like folding up clean washing done – please make sure that anything you do decide to get done whilst they’re bathing is upstairs so you are never more than a few feet away and can keep an eye on what’s happening. If you have something like clothes-folding ready to do just outside the bathroom door – even better! 🙂


Second Step – Book: I would just like to put forward here that No electronic gadget is a suitable substitute for a book. The lighting and imagery on an iPad, or tablet “excites” children’s brain and that keeps them awake. Plus, if you do give them any gadgets, including the television it subconsciously tell the child that you don’t feel in control enough around bedtime and they’ll responded (without manipulative/ planned thought) by taking advantage. So I definitely say; no televisioniPad, or tablet directly before bed – once bath-time has started – “gadget-time” should end! Again it boils down to expectation; if you expect to be listen to and have children respect what you say then they will. If they can subconsciously sense any trepidation, they’ll “push” more for what they want. Depending on how unsure you are about whether they’ll co-operate will depends on how much they’ll push. So take the “in-charge badge” and wear it with confidence! 🙂


After they are ready in their night-clothes make sure that either each child has picked a story to read, or there is a system of taking it in turns each night to choose a longer story to read – whatever works for your individual “Family-Team”. Have fun reading it! – By this I don’t mean encourage any “hyper” activity, no. Read it with expression and if it’s funny, that’s ok; this is a great bonding opportunity, plus they’ll go to sleep with a smile on their face! – I loved reading funny books a bedtime when I was a child; they really made me feel happy and took away any worries I was feeling for the night. 🙂


I feel before I get on to the final step of the strategy that I should mention something that I think you’ll find interesting – I also have a rather amusing story about it too!! There is a book that was actually in the National Newspapers in England put forward as the “miracle book” that will help your child get to sleep in no time – no matter how difficult it might have been in the past!! – Sound interesting? – Thought so! –Well just listen a moment to what I have to say! 🙂


It’s written by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin who is a Swedish author who has studied psychology and is an NLP Master Practitioner. Using his training he wrote a book first published in 2014 called; The Rabbit who wants to Fall Asleep”, to help parents struggling getting their children to go to bed at night-time. It’s had a lot of great reviews, including from parents who put forward what a “nightmare” bedtime was until they bought this book. Well not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to do some “Montessori experimentation” and see for myself I bought it to try out on my niece and nephew when they came over. They were aged 5 and 3.4 when I received the opportunity. I “team-up” with my Mum and Dad which in itself is great family bonding that provides additional security for children. Plus, it’s a third of the workload for each adult and treble the fun! – As you can imagine my main “task” is to be directly with the children and assist with things like “bedtime” that my Mum and Dad find more difficult. So on this particular occasion I ceased the opportunity to read “The Rabbit who wants to Fall Asleep” to my niece and nephew as a bedtime story! Let me tell you what happened!! 🙂


It was slightly later that “normal bedtime” because it’s a treat for them to “be up late” with Nana, Grandad and Auntie Paula! It’s important to tell you briefly about “how” you have to read the book. Yes, you don’t just read it any way, there is a whole page of instructions at the front! Certain words you have to emphasise and “elongate” and there are times you need to yawn!! So I started reading the book exactly as the instructions state and several pages into the book they’re still not near going to sleep and keep asking me questions about the story (especially my niece!). Every time they ask a question I just tell them that that’s the way the story goes and “let’s listen to find out what happens.” Now being fairly tired myself from a very active day with my still fairly young niece and nephew I find that I begin to yawn more in “undesignated” yawning parts of the story! Plus more words get “elongated” and said in a sleep tone as “the magic of the book” begins to work on me!!!! I happened to notice my nephew (the younger one) drift off to sleep. My niece was still wide awake. Keen to persevere with the “experiment” I continue. As you can imagine with my yawning further increasing and a distinct sleepy tone coming in because I was so tired myself, my niece was getting thoroughly bored yet still not seemingly tired. At one point she held her pillow over her ears and was wriggling saying; “Auntie Paula please stop reading, just please stop!” It reminded me of the scene in the film “Ghost” where Patrick Swayze’s character keeps Whoopi Goldberg’s character awake by singing; “I’m Henry VIII I am I am……second verse, same as the first…”! – It was exactly like that apart from that my aim was to get her to go to sleep!! – Very funny! In the end I just told her that we had had a lot of fun during the day and I was feeling tired and if she wanted to have fun in the morning that she needed to go to sleep. I also pointed out that I would be too tired to do much with her in the morning if she didn’t go to sleep and let me go to sleep. She said, “Ok Auntie Paula” and settle herself down to sleep. 🙂


This result could have been down to the age of each child, or their general personality and how much sleep they both need as individualsMost likely it was a mixture of all these reasons. My nephew has definitely always needed more sleep than my niece. I would also like to point out that a “sleep over” with close family relatives is a treat and different to everyday life at home. Otherwise they would have both been asleep much earlier with me! 🙂


So depending on the agepersonality of your children it’s definitely worth experimenting yourself with Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin’s book. Reading your “usual” storybooks still works well providing good bonding time and an opportunity for everyone, including you, to feel more relaxed. 🙂


Third Step – Bed: The key to getting this part right is that your children know that after reading, it’s bed – again it’s expectation. The only thing they can do before tucking down is use the toilet one last time then lights off. A nightlight that has dim, coloured light is great for eliminating any “fear of the dark” because they can still see, but it’s not too strong to be detrimental to their eyesight during sleep. People sleep best in total darkness as Jo points out it’s in synchronicity with their natural bodily rhythms, so definitely use a proper nightlight if required. I would like to mention here that being Montessori trained I would have definitely encouraged children to put any last toys away before bath-time so the ambience at bedtime is calm and orderly. The orderliness of their environment will support the orderly development of their minds. And the calmness of the recent activities” and dim light will promote a calming ambience perfect for sleep. 🙂


Jo also points out that any question’s children may ask are well recognised as being delaying tack ticks; so in my mind it’s best to say; “we’ll talk about it in the morning, it’s bedtime now.” Just keep reiterating that; it’s best if you can get to a point where you kiss them “good night” and they know that you are going to leave the room and that they need to stay in bed. As I’ve pointed out, it’s your expectation that will determine how easy it is to do this. A successful bedtime as Jo also points out is down to forward thinking, so be well prepared and “in tune” with any “idiosyncratic requirements” (a special   toy/ story) that your child needs to feel happy and settle. 🙂


I would also like to mention here that from my personal experience I have noticed a distinct pattern that children sleep more deeply and will sleep throughout the night when the adult expects them too. Very interestinglychildren who know that the adult will either play with them/ give them milk etc. if they wake updo tend to sleep more lightlywake up and take advantageIf your child wakes up you need to give an expectation that, perhaps after using the toilet, they are to go back to bed. If they have something to “wake up for”, trust me, they will, so you have to make it “kindly clear” that at night-time, we sleep. It really does work. Children have always slept very peacefully and wake up happy and ready for focused activity in the morning when I’ve had to put them. To illustrate this point; I once knew of a situation – I want to keep identity anonymous in respect of the family – where an 18 month old child was taken down stair and given television and pizza when she fussed; the parents wonder why she wouldn’t go to bed. – I hope that it’s as clear to you as it is to me?! Another advantage of being a bit “positively firmer” is that you know if children don’t co-operate and fuss more that they could be unwell; this is less apparent if they’re behave like that in general. 🙂


Before concluding I would just like to mention that for parents who really struggle with their child/ren making lot of fuss every night there is a strategy to help get them to bed more sensibly that doesn’t involve leaving them to “fuss it out”. First you have to ensure that you have everything you need for bedtime. Second, I would follow the Bath, Book, Bed strategy; it’s when it comes to “Bed” that it slight differs. If you’re find that you are unable to leave the room and go downstairs without them getting up and beginning to make a fuss here’s what you need to do:


Obviously it’s imperative that you are highly organised with things like their night-time water so it eliminates anything they can try and “fuss for”. You ensure they know that you are expecting them to go to bed, so they can’t make any excuses about not going to bed. Once you have kissed them “Good-night” and turned lights out etc. sit with them avoiding any eye-contactIf they ask any questions just repeat that you’ll discuss it with them in the morning and now it’s time to go to sleep. I once had to say to my niece when she was asking about shapes well past her bedtime; “We’ll discuss rectangles in the morning; now it’s time to go to sleep”! Simple and effective; she responded, Ok Auntie Paula.” I also find the closing your eyes is very effective because first, they’d be unable to try and make eye-contact with you. Second, it’s calming and they’re quite likely to copy you and thus fall asleep. 🙂


Once you have them regularly sleeping this way you let them know that you will be reducing the time you sit with them and move out of the room before they fall asleepGradually you sit further and further away from them reducing the time that you are there until you sit for about five minutes outside their bedroom door and that’s all that’s needed. – It is a strategy that works if you follow it strictly and persevere. As I’ve mentioned before there is no substitute for “giving of yourself” to help your child through these types of situations – it shows you’re a “Team” and parents who do it get results. 🙂


In conclusion I would say that the “do’s” of a great bedtime routine are; being organised and prepared, keeping a calm ambience, having and “expectation of co-operation”, avoiding getting into a discussion and giving eye-contact when it’s time to go to sleep and sticking to your word. The “don’t” are; being inconsistent, using electronic gadgets as a substitute for youallowing the child/ren to take the “in charge badge” away from you (!), and giving up making effortEffort pays off with pretty much everything and is great role-modelling to children. If you don’t put the “right effort” in, you’ll end up having to put more effort in to deal with all the “drama” children can create – so put effort in from the beginning and stick to it! 🙂


For more information please email me at; or message me on TwitterInstagram @FamilyTeamCoach or on FacebookLinkedIn at, Paula-Elizabeth Jordan, thank-you. 🙂

expert biography

Paula-Elizabeth Jordan is a Montessori trained Child-Development Expert who’s passionate about helping “Family Teams” work together for the benefit of each other, as this is how successful, well-balanced, happy children are raised. She has been Montessori trained for over ten years now and also has a degree in Theology with an Art minor. She is presently writing her own book entitled; “How to Bring up A Successful Human-Being”.

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