How I “survive” bedtime.

358 days of not yelling, 7 days of loving more to go!

Dear Bed Time,

Oh Bed Time. Bed time, bed time, bed time. You used to be one of the hardest, longest hours of the day that I never thought I would survive without yelling! Within minutes of starting you, I would begin to experience sweaty palms, heart palpitations and of course an angry, impatient, yelling voice. Sadly, I have many a vivid memory of a bedtime gone terribly, terribly wrong. But ever since my “bedtime epiphany” early on in this Challenge, bedtime in The Orange Rhino house has been out right more enjoyable. And on some nights, get this, I actually LOVE you, dear bedtime. Can you believe it? All because I no longer “survive” you, but welcome you!

The Orange Rhino


I used to dread the bedtime hour. Dread it. The crying over the TV being turned off. The having to practically push each child upstairs. The water splashing all over me during bath time. The taking way tooooo long to brush teeth, to get dressed, to pick out a book. The running in and out of the bedrooms instead of sitting down for story time. The tickling each other during story time. The doing everything possible to keep from going to sleep and keep me from “me time.” I could go on and on. The bedtime hour in The Orange Rhino house used to be an absolute sh*t show storm! And at the end of a long day, well, it drove me nuts.

And so I used to scream, not yell, but scream. A lot.
And every night as I pulled my boy’s bedroom doors shut, I would feel awful, not bad, but awful.

DSC_0878And then one night about 350 days ago, it donned on me. Sometime between getting drenched with bath water, having toothpaste smeared on my jeans, listening to my boys argue over which Berenstain Bears book to read and feeling my blood pressure rise rapidly, I realized that I was approaching bed time ALL wrong.

You see, every night I was going into the bedtime routine with two totally useless and actually quite counterproductive thoughts:

1) “Harumph, this is going to be long and hard and ugly and a real pain in the a*s.” and
2) “Let’s get this hour done with already, I just want to get to my couple of hours of peace and quiet and uninterrupted me time.”

Yep, these two thoughts pretty much guaranteed the demise of bedtime. With a negative attitude like that bedtime didn’t even stand a chance for success or even a peaceful existence. Why?

If mommy is grumpy, the kids act out, mommy yells, the kids act out even more. Bedtime takes longer.

If mommy rushes, the kids go slower, mommy yells, the kids go even slower.  Bedtime takes longer.

And then….

If bedtime takes longer and the kids go to bed over tired and upset from mommy yelling, then chances are they won’t sleep well. And if they don’t sleep well, then the next day mommy and the boys are tired and by bedtime everyone is grumpy. And if mommy is grumpy, the kids act out, mommy yells and you guessed it bedtime takes longer. The cycle goes on and on and on.

Clearly, my negative thoughts about bedtime really did all of us a disservice. So I decided to let them go. That’s right, let them go. I traded in my negative thoughts for some much better ones. I stopped worrying about how I would “survive” bedtime and starting thinking about how I would embrace it.

Instead of thinking ugh, bedtime is going to be hard, I started thinking…

“Yes! Bedtime is going to be hard. I know it. I accept it. I will not be surprised or annoyed when it is. I will just go with it.” The result? I am calmer, the boys are calmer and most nights, bedtime goes infinitely smoother with a lot, and I mean a lot less tears.

And instead of thinking, “lets get this hour done already so I can have my glass of wine and peace and quiet” I started thinking…

“Yes! Let’s get this hour going! It’s my last hour of the day with my boys before I say goodnight for 12 hours. It’s not even a full hour; it’s only forty-give minutes. I can certainly stay calm for forty-five minutes! I am not going to rush; it does no good. Instead, I am going to enjoy the “forced” slow down and make the most of bedtime because I have no where else to be.“ The result? Bedtime is now one of my favorite hours of the day and not just because it is one hour closer to me time.


6.25.07 (2)I now love bedtime because in my forced slow down mode, I am more present than ever. I don’t rush the giggles in the bathtub as my baby splashes about with complete awe of the running water; I soak them up. I don’t rush my Kindergartener reading and discovering new word after new word; I listen proudly. I don’t rush Eskimo kisses and singing ABC’s with my three year old; I stare at his sweet face and think how lucky I am. And I don’t rush my four year old telling a wicked long story before saying good night; I enjoy every detail and then close the door with thrill that another night went smoother than it did a year ago.

Yes, changing my expectations for bedtime and slowing down has made all the difference in the world.  In fact, slowing down has actually made bedtime faster. Even on nights where I do have somewhere to be, staying calm and going slow makes bedtime faster. But forget a faster bedtime for a second. Slowing down has led to sending both my kids, and myself, to bed with more love and less disappointment in our hearts.  And that is way more important than an extra minute (or thirty) of me time.

(Do we still have our nights where I think just “hurry up already and get in bed!?” Yes, of course! But even in those nights, bedtime is still better than it was pre-Orange Rhino Challenge.)  

* * * * *
Learn more about my strategies to not yell during bedtime and other trying moments in my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” It hits shelves October 1st but you can pre-order it now by clicking here.

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5 thoughts on “How I “survive” bedtime.

  1. I did just this last night. My daughter was chatty at sleep time and I just decided to soak it in rather than rush her along. I sniffed her hair, enjoyed the warmth if her body next to mine, and oozed calmness. She felt heard, and soon settled, much more so than if I’d have chosen the path of resentment, and entitlement to me time. Being there, next to my gorgeous was something to savour.

  2. I have the same dread about bedtime though for different reasons. Our kids sleep in our giant bed with us. It started when my first was 6 months old and stopped sleeping through the night and instead woke up every 15 minutes (no exageration). Out of exhaustion I ended up bringing him into our bed and we loved it. When my husband went back to work he loved having extra cuddle time and having his boy in bed with us and it has definitely strengthened their bond. When #2 came along he had really bad reflux and made awful sounds like he was not breathing. I tried all the doctors advice and anything I found online and nothing helped. When he was a month old, I brought him into our bed as well (safely and away from his brother) and the reflux stopped and we all slept brilliantly. When #3 was on his way we transitioned the older two into their own room. Then when I spent the night in the hospital when #3 was born, Daddy let the other two sleep in bed with him and it continued that way when I got home (too tired to reinstate my routine). #3 slept in his crib beside our bed until he was about 3 months old and then it was 5 of us in our big bed. We fit well and all sleep cuddled together. There are nights I want to scream because this sleep arrangement takes more of me then putting them in their own room. Many times I have wanted to transition them back to their beds but my husband (who often works late and sometimes out of town) loves climbing into bed and cuddling with them. I see how connected it makes us as a family and I too let it go. This is not something I regularly tell people because people seem quite judgemental about it where I live but I had to share it here because at times it makes me crazy. Sometimes I just want to put them in their own room and shut the door so I can have me time or time with my husband. Other times it makes bedtime easy because at lights out, after bath and stories I just lie down with them until they fall asleep. My 5 year old is starting to sleep in his own bed because he wants to and I am very pleased for his independance. I know one day soon we will have no more babies in our bed and I will miss being kicked and prodded by little hands and feet all night long. I know this is right for our family but it can be hard especially when I have had a long day with the kids and want to be alone. But once they are asleep I usually get up and have some me time or alone time with my husband.

    Bathtime, on the other hand is not my best moment. Your picture and words about enjoying it have reminded me to slow down and enjoy it with my own little ones (despite the splashy messes).

  3. Oh how I am feeling so grateful for having found your blog and your challenge. Everyday I look forward to receiving your emails and messages on Facebook! And you know what, today I was so happy to see you tackling the bedtime issue. Bedtime is my arch nemesis, tonight I am going to take on your tips and see how we go. I know that the nights that I don’t end up a screaming lunatic are the nights where I have done just as you explain, slow things down and cherish the special time. But today I set myself the challenge to do that every night! Thank you!

  4. Love this post. LOVE IT.

    Bedtime is/was one of our biggest struggles in recent months. It actually used to go quite fine since my boys go to sleep by themselves without issue despite us living in a culture where co-sleeping is the norm and so is extremely late bedtimes.

    My first goal for the orange rhino challenge was to keep calm during nap and bedtime and I am succeeding. I read MORE stories than before. I listen to my 3 year old tell me what it is he wants to do tomorrow and give him the 15 kisses he wants. I let my 2 year old look out the window and find the moon and stars and airplanes. Even if I am thinking “just go the f*** to bed” I keep calm and it has made things go smoother. I end the day on a good note. And that means I can actually enjoy the me time when it starts because I don`t feel guilty that I yelled or got cranky.

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