My children are the joy of my life and there is nothing I wouldn't do for them, but around 8:30 p.m. each day I need to stop seeing their precious, demanding little faces. Need to. Your nighttime sweet spot/breaking point likely differs, but the struggle to find the perfect bedtime for your child (or get your child to accept that bedtime is real, and non-negotiable) is universal, and sometimes near-epic. While best practices vary from household to household, it can nevertheless be helpful to hear from others, so we asked 20 moms how they manage to pull it off (or mostly pull it off).
Growing up, my parents were always really strict about bedtime, even as I got older. Until I graduated high school, there was always a set time I needed to be in my room for the night. Not going to lie: it was super annoying and felt very condescending around the time I hit 13 or so. But... I get it now. In talking to other moms, it would appear this is a recurring theme. There comes a point at night at which parents feel, "I love you, you're amazing, now go lie down and be unconscious for several hours so I can do this again tomorrow."
So when is bedtime? Here's what they had to say.
"My daughter is 3.5 and she has for the longest time now slept about 9:00 p.m. to 9:00 am. We’ve tried scaling her bedtime earlier a bunch of times, and all it does is leave us in the bedtime routine for longer. She still falls asleep between 9 and 9:30. So 9 it is."
"My boys are 13 and 8. Both get off all electronics at 8:30 and start their bedtime routine ... Most nights they are happily snoring by 9:30 and get up without issue at 6:30 ... I'm not a scheduled parent but this I make an exception for. Getting enough sleep just makes us all happier more adjusted people and I'm less likely to commit a felony so. Win win."
"My kids, ages 7, 5, and 2 all start their bedtime routine at 7:30 and are usually in bed and asleep or falling asleep by 8. They usually wake at 7 a.m., though I really wish it were 15 to 20 minutes earlier because it's hard getting out the door in time for school. I just can't make our evening dinner routine work with an earlier bedtime to make that happen."
A Second Rachel
"[We] started the bedtime routine at 7 and in bed by 7:30 for the longest time. Our oldest (now 9) started staying up later last year and dragging out bedtime so we started letting him read in bed. The younger one (now 7) followed suit. Then we had a medical issue that essentially rendered us a single parent household for several months. All that together and now it’s in bed by 8:30 and lights out at 9. They are up at 7am in weekdays and 6:30 on weekends. How? Why? I haven’t the slightest."
"Since they came home from the hospital I've had them in bed by 8. Now that they are older it's 9. It's so weird because my 19 and 16-year-olds still get tired at 8 and are ready to knock out by 9 on the weekdays. My youngest is out by 8."
"My 3 year old daughter is a night owl (she doesn’t fall asleep until 10 sometimes) and will also wake up early (6 a.m.) if not urged to sleep longer. At night if she finally does get tired enough to sleep, she will say she is just "taking a break.""
"My kids ( 7, 4, and 2) all go to bed at 8:30 ... All three end up being at the same time because it makes the routine easier and due to my husband’s work schedule. He is often home on the later side, so we do things a little later."
"Bedtime for both (18 months and 3) 7:30. One-and-a-half-year-old gets rocked to sleep and transferred to her crib usually by 8:15. ... [With my 3 year old] it’s anywhere from three minutes to 10 minutes of him either sadly saying he doesn’t want me to go yet or shouting at me that it’s not time for me to go yet. He’s usually asleep between 8:45 and 9:00."
Yet Another Rachel
"Early to bed at 7 p.m. and [they] go down without a struggle, thank God. But also early to rise (often between 4 and 5, FML). We are currently working to get them to wake up later to preserve everyone’s sanity!"
"My 18-month-old goes down around 7:00 and his 4-year-old sister around 8:00. They both are 12-hour sleepers, and since I need them up around 7:00-7:30 on school days, that bedtime works out just right for us!"
"[My 4 year old]'s bedtime has been 6:30 for years. Recently we’ve been pushing it to 7 some days but she’s an early bird and needs that early bedtime ... She wakes at 5:30 or 6."
"[My 8 year old], is in bed by 8:30 most nights and wakes up between 6 and 6:30 most mornings. Even when she's up later, she's up by 6:30. [My 9-month-old] goes to bed at 6:30 and then again at 10:00 after she wakes up to yell at me because someone peed in her diaper. She usually then goes back to sleep until about 5."
"[My 5-year-old] is a night owl like me and will stay up as late as she can. We aim for 8 to 8:30. Key word 'aim.' She’s a 'might miss out on something' type. So in bed by 8, 8:15 rolls around she will come down and tell me she needs to go potty. OK. Go. You don’t need to tell me. 8:20, 'I need water I’m so firsty'... I gave you water, go to bed. 'I need more. I’m so hydrated.' OK get a drink of water. Go to bed. 8:30 'mommy I want to give you another kiss.' OK come give me a kiss, go to bed. 8:40 'Mommy you have to tell the monsters to not get me again.' OK. Done. Now go to bed. I try to start getting ready for bed around 7, so that we can avoid all of these. She’s usually up between 7:30 and 8 no matter what time she went to bed. So even on the rare chance she gets to stay up with me, she’ll be up at 8."
"[My 8-year-old] is in bed by 7:30 and up around 6 (he reads until we get up). [My 5-year-old] is in bed around 7 and up around 6 no matter what time we put him in bed. They leave the house around 6:40 a.m., so the early wake-ups work for us."
"[Our kids] would not choose this bedtime [9 p.m. for 8-year-old and 8 p.m. for 5-year-old], but they both do best at school with an earlier bedtime. On weekends, we don't really care. They are both usually tired enough for bed by 10:00."
"My kids are 8, 6 and 5. Bedtime is 8 p.m. and has been for years. It's fast and to the point too ... My youngest always has to tell me 'one last thing' but that's it. We, as parents, NEED that time to ourselves after 8 ... our kids are super active, mainly with hockey, so their bodies need the rest too."
"We had a wonderfully easy bedtime routine, and then she turned 3. Now it starts at 8 ... she’s started asking for me to stay with her until she falls asleep, which on some nights is the most endearing moment ever ... but on other nights I just feel trapped and annoyed... [that] we’re burning through my alone time."
"They go to bed by 8 because 8 is my breaking point of the day. So we start prepping at 7:30 on the dot. Bathroom trip, PJs, all the water bottles filled up, reading, so many hugs and kissies, then lights out. DO NOT DISTURB. MOM HAS CLOCKED OUT."
We actually do it in reverse of how most parents might: Oldest down first. ... This is because [my oldest, almost 6] wakes up for school between 5:30 and 6. [My 4-year-old] is a ball of energy and he goes to bed around 8, or whenever my oldest has fallen asleep, because they share a room. He still naps during the day. ... My 20-month-old, goes into his bed (a crib) last, at about 8:30. By then, the older two are downstairs and quiet and won’t keep him awake upstairs. He’s very social and he won’t even consider sleeping if it sounds like someone might be having fun. I’m hoping this wears off by college!"
"[My daughter] is 8 going on 80, so if we accidentally keep her up too late she will lightly reprimand us. We try to have her get to bed at 8, but usually it's more between 8:30 and 9."