Sometimes parenting solutions are the culmination of copious amounts of research and planning, due diligence, and exhausting effort. And sometimes, like a fortuitous fairy godmother, they just appear. Such was the case when I solved bedtime.
It happened by accident.
There I was, three years ago, cruising the aisles of my local hardware store, stocking up on batteries and flashlights and other hurricane season necessities, when I spotted them—small, battery-operated lanterns in a bunch of fun colors. It was an impulse buy.
“Huh,” I said to myself. “I bet the boys would like these.” So I tossed them into my basket with a shrug and went about my day. I had no idea what those two small lanterns would bring.
My kids were obsessed with the lanterns as soon as I gave them to them after school and they continued to be enamored up until bedtime.
Which gave me an idea.
Now, bedtime in our house had become an obnoxiously elaborate affair that included reading, rocking, singing one boy songs, singing another boy songs, asking for one more hug, one more kiss, one more song, a sip of water pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease…You get the idea.
But that night, after bath time and pajamas and the brushing of teeth, I introduced a new concept to bedtime: Lantern Time!
*Choir of Angels Sing!*
The concept is simple. Instead of the usual rigamarole, the boys could have 15 minutes of time to play in their beds with their new lanterns.
My boys jumped at the idea.
So, with a quick hug and a kiss, my husband and I turned off the big light in their room and left them to their own devices.
I remember we held our breaths as we went downstairs, but there wasn’t a peep. We even lost track of time and ran upstairs 30 minutes later to tell them to go to bed to find the lanterns off and them already asleep.
It was a miracle! An honest-to-goodness miracle and I won’t be persuaded otherwise.
And the miracles continued.
They asked for lantern time the next night and the next. And the night after that. And the night after THAT.
This concept of “Lantern Time” became an ingrained part of their bedtime routine and the usual (literal) song and dance ordeal became a distant memory.
We were finally free! And I was incredibly grateful.
However, I never gave much thought as to why it worked until I sat down to write to you all about this incredible bedtime hack.
But it makes sense.
All humans, and especially children, need time to transition from one activity to the next. This is called, surprise surprise, Transition Time.
Every child is different and it seems mine required a transition time between the lights being turned off and them being ready for sleep. At first, they filled this gap with requests because they didn’t know what else to do and they both needed more time to prepare for sleep once the lights went out. By giving them the lanterns and fifteen minutes of freedom after the lights were off, they now had full control over their transition time and thus no longer needed mommy and daddy to help them.
Not only did the introduction of Lantern Time save my sanity, but it has helped my boys be more independent and responsible/aware of time (they have a clock in their room so I can tell them lights out at a specific time and they usually stick to it.) This concept has also helped with promoting healthy bedtime habits.
So now, instead of dreading bedtime and growing increasingly frustrated, a typical weekday bedtime for my 7- and 5-year-old looks something like this:
7:30-7:45 Lantern Time!
Bedtime is done and dusted for my husband and me at 7:30 p.m. which gives us the time and energy to do other things.
So, if you too are struggling with bedtime and are desperate to take back control, I humbly suggest introducing the Lantern Time concept to your bag of tricks.
And, who knows, maybe those lanterns will shine some joy into bedtime for you, too.