Bedtime Training

Updated: Jan 14, 2020

Note: Be sure to read the blogs The Secret to Good Behavior? Training! and How to Train Your Children with Training Sessions to learn the basics and specifics of training.

For some parents, bedtime is an exhausting, dreaded ordeal. Their child cries to stay up later, resists going to his room, whines for another drink, or won't stay in his bed.

If bedtime is a nightly battle, train your children how to go to bed with a Training Session! By training your children exactly what you expect them to do at bedtime, you can prevent the majority of bedtime troubles.

To illustrate a Bedtime Training Session, let’s go over what you might do to train your child to go to bed. Remember, the first rule of a Training Session is to schedule it at a neutral time, not during the problem. So if the problem is at bedtime, plan your training session in the morning or afternoon.

To briefly review, the 8 parts of a Training Session are:

1. Give specific instructions with a demonstration.

2. Inform your children of the exact consequence they will receive for not performing the correct behavior.

3. Ask lots of questions to make sure the correct behavior is fully understood.

4. Practice the correct behavior over and over.

5. Praise the correct behavior.

6. Supervise and inspect to make sure the right behavior is carried out.

7. Enforce any consequence incurred.

8. Review the rules often or as necessary.

In this example, let’s say you’re having a problem with your children resisting going to bed and then constantly coming out of their room after you’ve tucked them in.

To begin, have your children sit down and give INSTRUCTIONS. Let them know that from now on, when you tell them to go to bed, they need to do these 4 things: (From the blog How to Train Your Child to Have First-Time Obedience.)

1. STOP what they’re doing.

2. LOOK you in the eye.

3. RESPOND “Yes ma’am or Yes sir” with a good attitude. (Note: You can have your children respond with any wording you choose.)

4. DO what you told them to do.

Your children need to immediately get up and start getting ready for bed. They’re going to:

1. Take a bath.

2. Brush their teeth.

3. Go to the bathroom one last time.

4. Get in bed.

Now once they’re in bed, they’re not allowed out of bed. They’re not allowed to yell for you or bother you in any way. Because they need sleep and you to spend time with your spouse.

Let them know that the only way they can call for you is if they’re throwing up or bleeding.

Then, let them know the exact CONSEQUENCE they’ll receive for not following the rules. And be sure to ASK them questions along the way, like:

· So what are you going to do when I tell you it’s time to go to bed?

· Are you allowed to get out of bed after I tuck you in?

· Can you yell for me if you have a question?

· What’s your consequence going to be if you don’t obey?

Once you’ve explained exactly what they’re supposed to do, have them PRACTICE the correct behavior. Go to the living room, and have them pretend like they’re playing with their toys. Then say, “Sweethearts, it’s time to get ready for bed.” They need to immediately:

1. Stop what they’re doing.

2. Look you in the eye.

3. Respond “Yes ma’am or sir” with a good attitude.

4. Get up and head to the bathroom.

Once they’re in the bathroom, have them pretend to take a bath, pretend to brush their teeth, and pretend to go to the bathroom. Then have them get into bed. Kiss them goodnight and leave the room.

Then, do it again! This time, have them pretend to be watching TV. When you say it’s time to go to bed, they need to stop, look, respond, and immediately head toward the bathroom. Again, have them pretend to get ready for bed. Have your children practice this correct bedtime behavior until they can do it perfectly. And be sure to PRAISE your children each time they do it correctly.

Then, sometime before bedtime, REMIND them of the rules of bedtime. Ask questions like:

· So what are supposed to do when I tell you to go to bed?

· What’s your consequence going to be if you don’t?

Then, for the next two to four weeks, remind your children every evening BEFORE bedtime what they’re supposed to do.

For the first week or so, be extra diligent. Each night, SUPERVISE and inspect that they are truly getting ready in the bathroom. If they dawdle, you might want to give them a time limit. For instance, you could say, “You need to be out of the bathroom and in bed by 8:00. If you take too long to get ready, tomorrow night you’re going to have to start getting ready 30 minutes earlier.”

And finally, the most important component of the training process is to immediately GIVE THE PREDETERMINED CONSEQUENCE IF THEY DISOBEY. Your children need to know that you mean what you say, and you don’t give idle threats. So whatever consequence you said you’d give during the Training Session, by golly, do it if they break the rules. If you are truly consistent with the consequences, you will actually only have to administer them a few times before your children know you mean business.

To learn more about how to train your children in good behavior, read my book Proactive Discipline: A Parent’s Guide.

Learn how to get your children to clean their rooms and help around the house with Rubric Rules: A Cleaning System for Kids.A

“ Train up a child in the way he should go, 

and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Proverbs 22:6​

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