Bedtime drama…I think it effects us all at some point. I could list all the 758,952 my children find to get out of bed at night, but that might bore you. And you probably know them all already. We’ve all read How to Put a Toddler to Bed in 100 Easy Steps from The Honest Toddler (and if you haven’t, you should! You’ll laugh until you cry.), but let’s be Honest Parents. Nobody REALLY wants to spend that kind of time and effort putting their child to bed. It’s exhausting!
Lately, we’ve been using a new bedtime system and have been thrilled with the results. I wanted to share that system with you all today!
A Bedtime Plan that REALLY WORKS!!
This plan was actually my husband’s idea and I confess…I was skeptical at first. But it’s working and I’m so thrilled!
The basis of this plan is that children may really need things at night. They may ACTUALLY be thirsty. They may ACTUALLY have forgotten to go potty. They may ACTUALLY get an owie and need a bandaid. But it’s highly unlikely that they’ll need these things if you’re following a good bedtime routine. These “emergencies” may happen, but they shouldn’t happen very often and they certainly shouldn’t happen more than once a night.
This bedtime plan teaches children to assess their needs and decide if they REALLY DO need to get a bandaid for the owie they can barely see.
What are Bedtime Passes?
Because these “emergencies” DO happen (or sometimes a child may just want one more hug and kiss), we give them passes. Two, to be exact. These bedtime passes are color-coded by child (H has green and M has orange) and have pictures on them of “legitimate” pass uses.
How do Bedtime Passes Work?
When a child has a need after they’ve been tucked into bed they can make a choice. They can either save that need for morning or they can use a pass. To use a pass, they must bring it to Mommy or Daddy and give it to us. That pass is now gone and must be earned back. (More on earning passes back later.) Whatever their need is, it’s met. Brian and I were so, so, SO tired of having to get grouchy with the girls to get them to stay in bed. This works well for us because when they bring out a pass, we know it’s ONE need and ONE time. We take care of that need with a gentle spirit and then move on.
Since the child has two passes, they could essentially get up twice in one night. After that, the answer to any question that comes up is simply, “Do you have a pass?” Usually that is followed by, “No, BUT…” to which we answer, “I’m sorry, without a pass, I can’t help you with that. Good night!”
The first couple nights were tough. M spent some time in tears because she’d used her passes up and wanted something else. The firm, but gentle answer was “no“.
How does a Child Earn Bedtime Passes Back?
Once a pass is used, it’s gone…for that night. The following nighttime or naptime, a pass may be earned back. Earning a pass back is simple. All the child must do is go to sleep without getting up at all. If the child gets up, not only is the answer, “no”, they also don’t earn a pass back. If the child uses a pass, they don’t earn a pass back for that bedtime. The only way to earn a pass is to have a “perfect” bedtime.
What’s the Incentive for the Child?
We really wanted to make this system work for both us and our children. In the beginning when M didn’t fully understand the pass system, she would ask, “When are we going to be DONE with passes??” But now, she’s excited to earn passes and keep her passes. Why? Because of the incentive.
Our pass system is on a three day cycle. You may want to arrange yours differently depending on the age of your child, your schedule, or your family’s needs, but for us, three days works. On the third day, anyone with at least one pass left (two if your children are older or they really “get” the system) gets a reward. At this point, our rewards are pretty large. Once, H got to go on a special Daddy date. Another time when both girls had a pass left, we all went out for donuts. We wanted our rewards to make an impact and they really have.
Your rewards don’t have to be so big, but doing something to celebrate your child is essential. They’re having to work hard to get their act together and their hard work should be recognized.
Does it really work?
Before starting this system, our girls were getting up 4, 5, or more times each night. Their needs ranged for silly to ridiculous to really, really irritating. Now, they think before using a pass. They rarely use two passes in one bedtime session and we’ve had quite a few evenings and naptimes where they just went to bed and didn’t come out at all. It’s been amazing!!
I’m loving this system so much, I wanted to share it with you! So here you go, print your own passes (we laminated, hole punched, and put ribbon through ours so they could hang on the girls’ doorknob) and start enjoying more peaceful evenings!
Bedtime Passes (Click to download)
One last thing!!
***Great reward idea!!***
In case you’re looking for a great reward for your child, I wanted to recommend Melissa and Doug toys. These high quality toys are great for kids and many of them are educational too! We especially love the Water Wow Coloring Books and the magnetic doll dress up sets.
Click here for Melissa and Doug Special Offers!!