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Tuesdays with Jane: What if you’re a disorganized parent?

Close to half of all adults thrive on operating in a rather last-minute way, according to some studies. They do their best work when the pressure is on and find that too much schedule and routine not only robs life of excitement but actually can leave them feeling somewhat depressed or trapped. However, most children need the security of routine and certainty, and an adult’s last-minute ways may be disastrous once they become parents.

Fortunately, there is room for spontaneity, but there are a few key areas where routines really, really help the small ones in your house. The last few blogs have dealt with structure for mornings and other times for leaving the house. Bedtime is another area where children really need consistency!

Busy parents may struggle with sticking to bedtime schedules more than ever—bedtime often gets in the way of fun evening activities. But the research is clear that the behavior of tired children mimics the symptoms of ADHD. All of us struggle to behave well when we are tired, and children struggle most of all. Here are a few things to try:

  • Reading aloud is the number-one strategy for settling children down. If you’re under the impression that you don’t like children’s books, get to the library or an independent bookstore where true book-lovers will delight in helping you find just the right volume to start with! Most children will climb into bed even fifteen minutes before lights-out time for a good story. Look for an upcoming blog on how and why we read aloud at bedtime into our kids’ teen years.
  • Music is a close second. I happen to play guitar. I’d sit between the kids’ rooms. Each got to choose one song. That was that. If you don’t play, get a children’s playlist together on your iPod or MP3 and use the same rule: one song each.
  • Stories of when they were little. Even 3-year-olds love to ask, “Tell me about when I was a baby.” Sit down with your spouse or grandmother to generate a list of stories you might tell. Advantage: you can do this in the dark!
  • A posted list. Face, teeth, PJs, then under the covers. We made it the “Only Do” list, as in, once we were within 30 minutes of bedtime, they couldn’t do anything that wasn’t on the list, even if they’d forgotten something!
  • Silence is Golden. If you haven’t enforced bedtime, your child may pop in and out of bed with requests endless times. Try telling them that they can read or play silently in bed with a designated toy if they don’t think they’re tired yet. Think ahead to waylay other typical complaints. Station a sippy cup with just a bit of water for the “I’m thirsty” syndrome. Say you’ll get them up five minutes early if they claim they forgot something for school.

Remember, you’re the adult. Rest is important. Actually, it’s crucial. How well your children interact with peers, behave for other adults, perform on tests, absorb knowledge, show stamina in sports—all of these things are tied to rest. “Go to bed” is one of the most helpful things you can say to a child!

Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is