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Ask An Expert / Children / Mama Drama / Mama's Product Picks / Motherhood

How can I get my kids to bed (and stay there?)

Dear Mama Drama:

I can’t get my kids to bed at night. They don’t listen when I tell them to stop watching TV or playing and get ready for bed, they fuss about washing their faces and brushing their teeth, and they always have a million reasons why they need to get out of bed. Every night seems to end in yelling and tears. My husband and I are exhausted and the kids are cranky because they don’t get enough sleep.

~ Tired and Cranky Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Tired and Cranky:

Please read the Mama Drama column on getting kids to tune in to help you with the listening issues.

It sounds like you are feeling like the kids are in charge and you are struggling to manage the situation. Take back your parental control by setting limits. Rules that are clear, understandable, reasonable, and enforceable. Offer choices so your children still feel empowered and you avoid becoming authoritarian. Make sure the choices are ones that you can accept and enforce.

Many children have difficulty winding down in the evening. They have often had so much activity during the day that settling it all down is challenging. Children need to be taught tools to help with this transition.

Make sure your children are getting enough physical activity during the day. Burning off energy during the day improves sleep. However, lots of physical activity or energetic interactions just before bed can make getting to sleep difficult.

If they are nearing the age of five, examine whether they still needs naps in the afternoon. If they do, you may consider an earlier or shorter nap. Napping too late in the afternoon can lead children to feel less tired at bedtime.

About an hour before bedtime, start slowing down the tempo of activities. Warm baths, dim lights, and calming books help children to prepare for sleep. Deep pressure input such as back rubs, massages, and gentle compressions of the joints help to calm the sensory processing systems.

I recently had to opportunity to try out the Smart Dreamzzz meditation CD* with my own children. While they don’t regularly have difficulty getting to sleep, there are some nights they struggle to settle in. Both of my sons, ages seven and ten, really enjoyed the meditations and reported that they fell asleep faster and easier. My ten year old said he noticed his dreams changing as the meditations changed. My seven year old reported that he felt more well-rested and alert upon waking the morning after listening to the CD at bedtime.

Smart Dreamzzz was researched and developed by a mom just like you who was struggling to get her children to sleep. It contains three animal meditations that bring about a sense of deep relaxation. Children learn to relax their bodies and slow their breathing to quickly ready themselves for sleep. It is a great tool to use with your children or to have them listen to on their own.

Another great resource for ideas is The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Gentle Ways to Stop Bedtime Battles and Improve Your Child’s Sleep by Elizabeth Pantley. She has tons of great tips she has used with her own children.

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  1. Great suggestions and a little shout-out for Smart Dreamzzz. My kiddos are always high-strung right until bed and it was a wonderful way to get them to settle down.

  2. We have used the Smart Dreamzzz CD for my 6 and 8 year old just to wind down at the end of a hectic day- they really look foward to it and it helps them relax.. My kids sleep until 9, which makes me a happy and productive mama!!

  3. We are huge fans of SmartDreamzzz! We just started listening this winter and our kids (3&5)love the CDs. We all relax at bedtime now, rather than being frustrated. I wish we had the CDs when we were first setting up bedtime rituals when they moved from crib to bed. The CDs really help take away the fear of being left in their own rooms to fall asleep also. Thanks SmartDreamzzz!

  4. This is so true, I appreciate a thoughtful approach to something we often just muddle through without considering if it could be better. This system has made bedtime better for everyone in our house and the kids get a good nights sleep.

  5. We’ve using SmartDreamzzz CDs for our twin sons who are almost five for almost a year now and every since bedtime has been transformed to one of my favorite times of the day. Before using the CDs, one of the boys would spend an hour trying to wind down (and cutting into our treasured alone time!) but now he goes straight to sleep. Both of the boys look forward to turning on their CD players each night. It’s become their favorite post-storytime ritual.

  6. Thanks for the kind words, we are so glad people are finding the CDs helpful. Wanted to share that as of today our latest, DINO DREAMZZZ, can be purchased as well on . Again, thanks to those who have tried Smart Dreamzzz, we are grateful.


  7. We have been using SmartDreamzzz CD’s for over 6 months now and it has changed our nights completely.The stories have taught my 6 year old daughter and 4 year old son to relax not only their bodies, but their minds as well. Before SmartDreamzzz, we struggled each night trying to wind down. Now, both of my kids know when it is time to sleep when they hear The Cuddly Bear, Giraffe or Baby Elephant! Thanks for making bedtime easier!

  8. Wow! How fabulous that Smart Dreamzzz CDs have helped so many of you. Making bedtime a peaceful time by using these CDs and the other suggestions can make us all much happier families.
    Happy Sleeping! 🙂

  9. The Smart Dreamzz CD’s are great to bring calm to the kids at the end of the day! We have 5 kids so we try anything that will make bedtime more enjoyable. They truly work!

  10. My son has become quite attached to his Smart Dreamzzz CD. So much so that it’s time for me to get the new one. He insists upon it every night. Some nights, he’s out before the 2nd track is half through. Other nights, he listens to it over and over again until he calms down (he needs that on the days he naps at preschool). Great product.

  11. Okay I am getting that Disc tomorrow — geez I have never even heard of it. I have 2 girls, just adopted my second daughter as a single mom 6 weeks ago. The 3 year old is getting up all the time with a broken eyelash and such wanting comfort and to sleep in my bed. It is waking up the baby an KILLING me.

    I really appreciate the input here.
    Kelly Ozley

  12. Hi mommies! I salute the makers of the Smart Dreamzzz CD! A friend gave it to me as a gift for my 2 yr old daughter and I agree, the little one is zzzzzzz all the way! 🙂

    I have also purchased the Sing with Me Kitty Book from Chicco. When it’s already bedtime for my little girl, I show her the Kitty Book and she knows already that it is bedtime. She packs away all her toys then ask me to help her in brushing her teeth. We pray together and then i tuck her to bed wit the Kitty Book on her hands. She plays with it for a while but goes to sleep after the 2nd or 3rd song. Really amazing. Check the toy here I’m thinking of buying the Talking Cube and Talking Telephone. Need suggestions from you, please. 🙂

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