Around 7 o’clock every night I glory in the fact that it’s time to put my kids to bed! Then some nights I want to scream when I so-very-politely (and clearly!) ask my 5-year old to put her pajamas on, and instead she heads to the kitchen. REALLY slowly. In a zigzag route.
But then I remember our trick! Instead of arguing with her, I just go over to her story chart, and “ksshhh” (that’s the sound of the velcro being separated), I take off one of her stories.
“You have 2 stories left.” I tell her in my nice-mommy voice. “Awww…” she says every time, and then sometimes she gives me a “mean face” to show me her frustration. (We’re working on the “mean face” right now…) But then there’s no more discussion needed! My girls love their stories, and to get them each night, they have to obey! So right away she’ll either run to her room, or I can quickly say, “you better get those jammies on!” and then she hops or storms, (depending on her mood) to her room and gets out the pajamas…and hopefully gets ‘em on! If not… you get the idea, right? She loses another story!
So here’s the details:
My kids (ages 3 & 5) each have their own chart with three card-stock books with velcro on the back. When it’s time to get ready for bed, they know that if they don’t listen the first time I ask them to do something, they lose a story. They know because we took the time to train them.
First, we pick up toys. I call each girl by name and give them directions for cleaning up specific toys. If they don’t listen and obey, I take a story. I do not ask them twice. If I have to remind them–off comes a story. Sure there’s a little leniency for the 3 year old especially- but I think that’s been a key to success- it’s always the same. If you obey right away you keep stories, if I have to ask twice you lose one! Period.
After the living room is picked up, I ask them to put pajamas on, brush teeth, and go potty (one instruction at a time). If they aren’t focusing on the task I’ve asked them to do, or if the 3 year old is clenching her teeth together so I can’t help her brush: “Sorry! You lost a story!” Some nights they get no stories. And yes, they do cry when that happens sometimes. Do I feel bad? No! Because then we just snuggle them in their little bed and chit-chat for a minute or two so they are still getting some parent-connecting time.
I LOVE this bedtime story system because it takes away the power struggle. The rule is already figured out, which means I’m not the mean mom that’s getting all worked up if my daughter isn’t listening. It just works! If they are really quick that night to get ready for bed, we naturally have more time. If they’re dilly-dallying, we have less time.
It took me about an hour to put the chart together. First I searched for some images of cute books online, printed them, cut some scrapbook paper, and lastly- I took some plain ol’ packing tape to them to “laminate them”. I put a sticky velcro dot on the back of each book, and viola! Chart done! I SERIOUSLY do not know what I’d do without it. Being able to see the consequences of not obeying is so helpful for parents and kids, both!
If you’d rather just print a cute chart that’s already adorable, you can buy one here on Etsy! Or if you’d like to get it FREE: we’d love to email it to you. Just subscribe to our emails by entering your name and email in the box on the right column where it says “Join the Convo!” We’ll send it to you- just be sure you confirm your subscription 🙂
3 KEYS to making the bedtime system work well:
- Train them first: Explain in detail to your kids about how it will work. Before you start using a chart they need to be trained on how it’s going to go:
“Every night when it’s time to get ready for bed, Mommy and Daddy will start to use our cool story chart. When we ask you to put a toy away, you need to do it right away. If we have to ask you AGAIN, then we’ll have to take a story off! We want to read you lots of stories, so I hope that you will listen really carefully and obey sooo fast.” etc.
You may want to role play with them any problem scenarios you anticipate: (the toddler clenching his teeth instead of letting you brush) on that first night so they really understand it.
2. Be consistent: Sure, they may throw a fit about losing a story, but if you give in once and give them a chance to earn a story back… then the system is all screwed up. They will always bug you about earning it back! The rules are plain and simple: perfect for young kids to actually grip if you can stay true to the rules you set up.
3. It helps if your chart has these two things: 1) A spot that the chart will stay so that your kids can always see what’s happening as they do or don’t obey: our’s is in the hall outside their room so I can reach it easily. And 2) a place for you to put the books that come off so they wont get lost: we use a tall table. If you don’t have a piece of furniture that’ll work to set the books on, you may want to hang a little plastic envelope or something right below the chart.
You actually could make this even simpler if you don’t want to be cutting card-stock, as long as you follow those 2 above rules! There’s tons of options you could use for visual aids: three cotton-balls in a jar you can take out, three popsicle sticks in a clear envelope… endless possibilities! The biggest aspect to the success is following the keys I just laid out.
Here are our top favorite stories that I’d highly recommend:
*They are listed in order of our discovery, and I’ve linked all the books into amazon if you want to snag a few new books to get your kids really enjoying their stories!
“What’s Wrong, Little Pookie” by Sandra Boynton- All her board books are seriously so fun for toddlers.
“A You’re Adorable” by Martha Alexander- *You’d have to be willing to sing this one! My kids LOVE it though, so I had to mention this one!
“Who is your Hero?” series by David Bowman- Great to teach great religious principles, really fun artwork that I was really surprised how much my kids adore these books, even 18 months after we bought them.
“We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Rosen and Oxenbury- CLASSIC!
“Duck and Goose” series by Tad Hills. Fun and simple- there’s tons of them.
“Pigeon” series by Mo Wilems- Hilarious for kids and parents!
“Elephant and Piggie” series by Mo Willems – Ditto on hilariousness.
We always love a good book recommendation- so please share your’s below!