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“Two Steps Forward, Look…Two Steps Backwards” by Renee Mattson M.Ed.

Many times couples will call us to help them with a certain part of their child’s day.

“Help! We have morning time routines that are stressful and unproductive.”
“Help! We have bedtime routines where no one is listening & everyone is stressed out.”

In both of these situations (and in others that we deal with), we often tell our clients to look two steps back to the routine that happens just before the current routine.  So for morning time, we look back towards bedtime… and for bedtime we look back towards daytime.

We tell them to ask themselves:
What happens at bedtime that could affect the morning time routine’s success?
What happens throughout the daytime routine to positively or negatively affect the bedtime routine?

In the middle of stressful times in your day (especially morning and bedtime) parents and children get carried away by “time crunch stresses” and these time crunches cause everyone to be a little more cranky, emotional, and dramatic.  If you can preplan these time frames by doing some preemptive work in the time frame before hand, you might make morning and bedtime go more smoothly.

Making Mornings go more smoothly by looking two steps back towards the bedtime routine.
1. Set out clothes the night before (some families even let their kiddos sleep in their school clothes so there is no drama about clothes when they awake in the morning.  Whatever works right?! 😉
2. Bring clothes downstairs the night before so you don’t have to make so many trips back and forth in the morning
3. Have children go to bed as early as possible the night before so they are well rested and get out of bed a little easier, and make sure parents go to bed earlier too so everyone is a little nicer in the morning.
4. Set up a plan for wake up for yourself that allows you to get out of bed before your kiddos, so you are on offense rather than defense.

Make Bedtime routines more doable by looking two steps back towards the daytime routines.
1. It’s hard to have the patience to follow through during the bedtime routine when everyone is exhausted. So, first, really work on following through when you have more energy during the day .    Showing your child that you are consistent and that you follow through as best you can in your day to day interactions will help the interactions at night time go more smoothly.  This is because they will know from their experiences with you during the daytime that mom and dad consistently mean what they say… If you are “willy nilly” with your daytime policies, it is very difficult to follow through solidly with your bedtime policies because everyone is a little more cranky and tired and worn out by bed time.    So, making your follow through solid during the daytime will help you follow through better at night time.
2.  Draw out the plan for bedtime with your kiddos at a separate time of day (other than bedtime) so that you can have a clear conversation and demo about how you want it to go without everyone being too exhausted to hear or see it.  Teach outside the moment and never in the middle of the temper tantrums right before bed.
3. Make up a visual checklist of the things that have to be done before you enter into bedtime, and then during bedtime, encourage your child to check things off as you go. Share the power and control by adding choice and flexibility in the order of how things get checked off, and add in connection time.
4.  Be willing to have your child TAKE a LOSS (door closed, lights out, lost favorite toy) if they get out of bed.  Remember you didn’t take these things from them… they lost them by choosing to defy the routine.  If they choose to stay in bed, then they choose to have the door open, the light in the closet on and their favorite toy in bed.

These things may help you to release out of this power struggle and give them  the power to change their day or night.









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