My daughter is a talker before bed. I assume it’s because she’s a night owl like her mama. Just as she would get into bed she would jibber-jabber doing everything in her power to prolong sleeping. After a while we realized we needed to structure bedtime a little more so we came up with a bedtime ritual to guide our nightly conversation.
The Clean-Up Routine
Any bedtime ritual start with the clean-up routine. I assume most of you require the kiddos to brush their hair, wash their face and brush their teeth. Whatever that routine is and if it works, great! Keep up the good work.
We found that over time the clean-up routine changed. As she got older and sports became more prevalent in our house, taking a shower before bed became part of the routine. However, again we were forced to move the routine along a little.
In conjunction with being a night owl, she takes FOREVER in the shower. To combat this, we came up with a time limit given the amount of time she had available before her bedtime. Tailoring it to her personality and love of music, instead of saying you have 5 minutes, 10 minutes, etc., we gave her a song limit. For example, if she only had 10 minutes to take a shower we would tell her to take a “three song shower”. Then she would have control to pick whichever three songs she wanted to listen to… within reason. (Free Bird and Stairway to Heaven were not allowed. LOL) Since, the average song is approximately three minutes this would give her approximately nine minutes to shower. That’s plenty of time. If she had some extra time we would up that to four or five songs.
After tucking her in, one or both of us asked her a series of five questions. These questions weren’t necessarily geared to probe into her life. Just to guide our nightly bedtime conversation but OH BOY! we never realized is how much we would learn about her life, her struggles and her likes and dislikes from these simple questions.
What was your favorite thing you did today? Least favorite thing?
Surprisingly when you start asking this question, your little ones will struggle with this answer but as time goes on they will live their day seeking out opportunities to do great things they will want to tell you all about. Conversely, asking their least favorite thing gives them “permission” to be honest about their dislikes. My daughter, being is a pleaser, does anything in her power to not hurt anyone’s feeling. This includes telling someone she doesn’t like something. She’d rather put up with it then cause what she wrongly assumes would be a confrontation. By asking this question, she always feels comfortable enough to open up discuss her true feelings.
What was your favorite thing you ate today? Least favorite?
This might seem like a mundane question but this is where I found out my daughter liked tacos. I had no idea. She had eaten them at a friend’s house and said she liked them. Who knew? However, if I hadn’t asked the question I never would have known and been able to add it to my meal planning regimen.
What did you learn today?
I am a big believer that no matter how old you are; you should learn something new every day. While this question is asked in an affirmative manner, we found that she would also volunteer when she was struggling with learning something… can you say MATH FACTS?! Ugh! Those were a dozy. However, the day she mastered them she couldn’t wait for us to ask that question. It was with great excitement that she answered, “MY MATH FACTS!!”
What are you thankful for today?
The more we live in a state of thankfulness the happier our lives will be. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to be thankful for all we have. This is especially true for our children. They are being bombarded with so many negative images and comments sometimes they forget to be thankful for all the great things in their life.
We have all been there when we thought a teenage breakup was the absolute end of the world and it consumed our thoughts. Yet, what we should have been focusing on are the overwhelming positives in our lives such as family, a roof over our head, food in our bellies, great friends, etc.
That is why this question is so important. We were subconsciously training her little mind to seek out something each day to be thankful for. There are times when it’s tough to find something but she could always go back to the standard answer that she was thankful for… her animals. HA HA HA! From the mouths of babes!
We always end the questions by praying “Our Father” followed “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep”. I have to be honest here for a second, the “Now I Lay Me” prayer is a little morbid to me so we changed it to this:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
Praise the Lord my soul to keep.
His love go with me through the night,
Wake me with the morning light.
Now isn’t that much better than, “If I should die before I wake, Praise the Lord my soul to take”?
After the prayers we do the “God Blesses”. This is where she gets a chance to ask for protection or give thanks to the important people in her life. Of course, you can imagine this gets a little long-winded when she is particularly awake but we usually let her go because if someone is laying on her heart, even if it’s the neighbor’s dog, who am I to stop her from giving them God’s blessing.
I am happy to report that even as our daughter has grown older the questions are still a constant in our bedtime ritual. While we might not be able to do it every night, my heart warms when she walks into my bedroom occasionally and asks me if I want to do “the questions”.
Sue Nowicki is an alumna of the 2014/15 Disney Parks Moms Panel. She is a team mom extraordinaire who has filled her time serving as secretary, navigator, head cheerleader, treasurer, athletic trainer and team psychologist for her daughter’s travel sports team for 10 years before becoming a team owner in 2015. You can follow her on Twitter @TeamMom365.