Back to School: The Bedtime Routine Edition

On Sunday, I announced at the dinner table that the New Bedtime Order was being implemented, starting that night.

M should be in bed by 8 p.m.

The girls should be in bed by 8:30 p.m. at the absolute latest. The hall light will not be left on; the bathroom light will be. If I come upstairs to find them playing with any toys or stuffed animals, I am taking them away for a week. After 9 p.m. they are not to come downstairs (“Unless,” Dan added, “you are bleeding, on fire, or have a broken bone”).

I also decided that we would be taking 15 to 30 minutes before bedtime to unwind and make bedtime calm and relaxing. The thundering around, and up and down the stairs was going to end.

In an attempt to help my girls relax and get ready to actually *sleep* — not just go to bed — I decided last night that we would try some yoga.

Kate was all over this decision.

Flora was adamantly against this decision.

Dan thought it was a good idea, and tried to persuade Flora to try it.

Flora found this incredibly upsetting.

While Flora cried on the couch, Kate and I did yoga for about 10 minutes.

Kate is good at yoga.

Ten minutes later, I sent Kate and Dan upstairs, and sat down to talk to my very distraught daughter.

She doesn’t like yoga. She doesn’t want to do yoga. She’s upset that Dan thinks yoga is a good idea, because that means he likes Kate better (8-year-old logic). Why couldn’t she pick the thing for us to do that would be relaxing?

“Well,” I said, “what do you think we can do that would be relaxing?”

“What about a board game?”

I considered this. “I’m not sure a board game right before bedtime is a good idea,” I said. “What if we get excited about winning or upset about losing? That doesn’t sound relaxing. I think a board game after dinner on Friday or Saturday is a good idea, though!”

Flora thought some more. “Reading?”

“I find reading relaxing,” I said. “I would like us to all read together. Maybe we can pick a good chapter book to start reading. I’ll read out loud to you and Kate.”


“I would like to keep doing yoga,” I said. “So how about one night, we’ll read together, and the other night we’ll do yoga. If you don’t want to do yoga, then maybe you can just sit and watch, or take deep breaths, or read a book on your own.”


So, we’ll see how this goes.


Dan doesn’t think reading is relaxing. He doesn’t understand my attachment to it, and he doesn’t understand Flora’s attachment to it. And I don’t know how to explain it to him.

What we find relaxing is subjective, I suppose. Reading totally unplugs me from the day. I need that at the end of the night. I think I’m going to find doing yoga with Kate relaxing, too. I do need my hip to start cooperating though, but that’s a different story.

I will have to keep an eye on how much Flora reads once she’s in bed. She likes to read until she falls asleep. I haven’t discouraged that.

We were very lax about bedtime this summer. I tried to institute the “no downstairs after 9 p.m.” to no avail. But this routine is something I have to stick with. My girls are learning bad habits; they are certainly teaching M bad habits. It’s all got to be nipped in the bud.

I am hoping that as night falls earlier, and we get into a relaxation routine, and bedtime becomes a time for quiet and peace, it will be easier for my children to go to sleep.

I’m hoping by October, the relaxing is ingrained enough that we won’t need constant reminding.

Again, we’ll see.

Are you making any major changes to routines as we head into the school year?

10 thoughts on “Back to School: The Bedtime Routine Edition

  1. Dan. Doesn’t. Understand. Loving. Reading.

    Back the truck up; that went by too fast. This is a thought that is completely, utterly, totally incomprehensible to me. I married a man who is more of a bibliophile than I am. We are both a little put out that Liam seems to favor math over reading (he CAN read; he dislikes reading for pleasure).

    Wow. I just don’t even know where to go with that.

    • Dan doesn’t read for *relaxation*. He loves books and loves to read; he doesn’t do it that often though (and he goes back time and again to LOTR).

      Dan would rather chill in front of the television to relax. Or, uh, you know. That interactive activity with me to relax.

      Reading to me means: day is done. It’s a signal to my brain and my body that I can sit still and uninterrupted, and then I can go to sleep. I’m not sure what it signals to Flora. She does read herself to sleep though.

  2. Studies have shown that reading is relaxing, so there ya go. Science and all.

    We started enforcing the school year bedtime about two weeks ago. I also started waking the kids up earlier; they’ll both be getting up around 7 this year, and it’s going to be a shock to both of them, even though The Oldest has been doing it for two years. He’s also discovered that teenaged knack of sleeping until 11. In the morning.

    Hang in there. I agree about turning off the TV — I try to do it, too. The yoga’s a great idea! But we do play board games from time to time. It’s fun quality time, and we don’t get hung up on winning or losing. It’s all in the fun of the experience. Or so I try to model…

  3. Our bedtime activities require a shower, a snack , and then upstairs to brush teeth and have a story. That story time is crucial for the 8-year-old. Neither he or I are yoga fans. But if that is what works in your house, more power to you. I do like the idea of splitting the nights up so everyone has what they like.

  4. What a wonderful negotiation with Flora. We need to implement some sort of calm down ritual before bed…it’s SO HECTIC because my young babies really need to be going to bed at 7, but Corey only gets home at 6 so we try to squeeze eating, DADDY’S HERE!!!!!!!, tidying up, and calming down all in one hour.

    • I’m still trying to get the youngest down no later than 8.

      As far as Flora: I’m trying with all my kids to take the time and talk about how they are feeling, and help them resolve things like anger, sadness, or frustration. Sometimes we have this “my kids should just be happy” attitude. But if we take some time to talk about their “bad” feelings, empathize with them, and then problem solve, it does wonders for them.

  5. Good for you. My boys have had the same rules for the most part, though now bedtime is 10 and we’re going to shut off the internet at 11. Tay will spend all night watching movies and be late for class. We have a new foreign exchange student and she seems both tractable and studious, which I hope wears off on him. Kenzie is gone to college and will have to make his own bedtime routine. I think the relaxation before bed is essential, and most of the current sleep research bears that out. Keep working on those negotiating skills with the girls, too-I have found that after doing things the same way for a while the kids ended up going along with the program. Except for the oldest, but she was…unique.

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