The mere mention of the word bedtime can be enough to send shivers down the spine of the most competent parent. From demands for just one more story to full blown Am Dram tantrums, children just know how to push your buttons so that what was feeling like the build up to a pleasant evening in front of the telly leaves you curled up in a corner, a quivering wreck and shadow of your former self.
Last week for us it was penguins. Yep, penguins led to the mother of all meltdowns which left Little Lady hyperventilating and me wondering if Esther Rantzen was outside putting a direct call through to Childline for her. Because, you see, when Little Lady requested a ‘pingping story’ before bed, what she actually meant was a puffin tale, not a penguin one. Silly me.
Anyway, an hour an a half later she was finally comatose in her cot, and I was a jibbering mess questioning whether I should actually be trusted alone in charge of a goldfish, let alone my own children.
The next night it was The Boy. He couldn’t find his Spiderman pants. It didn’t matter that he didn’t actually want to wear them, nor the fact that he’s never watched Spiderman in his bloody life, or even the fact they they DON’T EVEN FIT HIM, the fact was he couldn’t find them. Cue howling like a dying hyena and screaming loud enough to break the sound barrier, and several windows.
Bedtimes aren’t always fun in our house.
But thankfully I’m not alone in this Godawful experience which rears its ugly head when you least expect it. Because according to recent research, a whopping 40% of parents admit that the mere mention of the words ‘time for bed’ results in mood swings, tantrums and tears. And that’s just the grown ups… Some parents said their kids get angry at bedtime and some admitted their child gets scared at the prospect of going to bed. One thing was clear, bedtime routines are not always a relaxing ritual.
Hours spent getting children to sleep…
Almost 1,800 parents across the UK (with children up to the age of eight years) were polled on their child’s bedtime routine for the survey for online parenting resource Families Online. The results also showed that parents are spending a considerable amount of time each night on bedtime routines with a quarter of them admitting that they spend in excess of an hour each evening getting their child into bed and a further 52% spend 30 to 45 minutes.
What time is bedtime?
When it comes to deciding what time is ‘bedtime’ we have always stuck to between 7-7.30pm, as most parnets (57%) do too. But, especially when the children are younger, this can mean that the bedtime routine starts up to an hour earlier. For 25% of parents, 8-8.30pm is deemed to be bedtime and is more likely to be reflective of parents with older children in the category. Only 1% of parents said their child has no set bedtime, suggesting that UK parents are sticklers for a regular bedtime routine.
Parents admit to giving sweets and biscuits at bedtime…
In our house, the bedtime routine goes bath, supper in front of the telly, then up to bed for a story, then sleep. But having spoken to fellow parents I can see that this differs wildly to their routines. However, it’s what works for us, most of the time… Parents involved in the poll were also quizzed on their rules around eating at bedtime, with a firm 60% saying they don’t allow their child to have any kind of snack at bedtime. Does supper count as a snack? Interestingly, even though most parents are aware that too much sugar can have an impact on a child’s ability to sleep, 16% of parents admitted they would offer their child biscuits and sweet treats at bedtime too, in a bid to get them to settle. These kids really know how to pull our strings, don’t they?!
So what’s the magic formula when it comes to a peaceful bedtime? I think most parents would admit there just isn’t one. Ours works for us, most of the time, but if a child is too tired, too excited, too – I don’t know – Tuesday, they will kick off, and they can kick off in the most spectacular way possible.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but experience has taught me that the more I react, the wors eit is. No amount of shouting, screaming, or issuing thrats will snap a child out of a bedtime hissy fit. It’s hard, but sometimes you just have to ride the wave and see it through. And silently count down the minutes until they collapse in exhaustion and you get to head downstairs for a huge bloody glass of wine.