One Simple Secret to Great Sleep, Better Behavior, and Happy Kids

Developing a consistent family routine for children can be a challenge even under the best circumstances. When you account for age, various activities, homework, and maybe even a baby – it’s hard to get the stars to align each day and night.

But add on a hard working mama with a busy work schedule and keeping the family on a consistent routine can feel impossible!

However, children benefit from having a consistent routine. They sleep better, they perform better (both academically and socially), and they experience lower stress. Knowing what to expect each day, and having those expectations met, decreases stress for the whole family. It gives everyone peace of mind and takes the guesswork out of what needs to get done.

Although creating that schedule might seem impossible at first, there are small steps that even the busiest mom can make to keep the family on schedule.

Image via Katie Hurley


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Establish a bedtime routine:

While this sounds simple, it is often one of the most difficult things for busy families to do. Depending on age, your kids need anywhere from 10-14 hours of sleep (total, that includes a nap). You might think that they need less. They might say that they need less. But to truly have the optimal level of sleep that gives them the best chance of a good day and the best chance of maintaining good health, sufficient sleep is important.

Aim for a 7-8pm-bedtime window each night. While you might think the oldest should stay up the latest, it’s actually the child who takes the longest nap who can go a little longer at night.

Create a specific routine (ex: use the bathroom, brush and floss, shower/bath, books, lights out) and put a copy of the routine on each bedroom door.

Use an alarm. One of the more difficult parts of working all day is the pull to sneak in extra time when you get home. Establish a time to start the bedtime routine and set an alarm to keep yourself on task. The kids will follow your lead.


Focus on quality time:

Yes, you’ve been working all day. Yes, you’re tired. And, yes, you missed your kids. But keeping them up late doesn’t do anybody any good.

Remember: It’s not the amount of time that you spend playing at the end of the day that matters, it’s the quality of the time spent together. Unplug. Avoid distraction. Allow yourself the freedom to simply be present during that window of time. 

{ MORE: Meal Planning Tips for Surviving the Weeknight Rush }


Encourage responsibility:

Even a two-year-old can place his socks and sneakers by the front door to decrease morning stress.

Think about age appropriate chores for each child that will help make the morning move along without stress. Choosing outfits, putting dry snacks in lunch bags, packing backpacks, and putting all necessary items by the front door can save time and sanity in the morning.


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Laundry days:

Choose a specific day for each family member’s laundry and stick to it. Following a laundry schedule helps decrease overflow and erase those “oops, my kids has no clean shirt moments”.


Do homework together:

No matter how many kids you have, sitting around the kitchen table doing homework together keeps everyone on task. Establish a specific “homework time” (preferably after they’ve had some downtime) and get to it. Got one with homework and one who is too little? No problem! Hand over the art supplies and give him a prompt!


Meal planning:

Plan your meals for the week on Sunday. Ask your kids for input. Bring them along for a grocery trip to get what you need for the week. Post that schedule up on the fridge so that you’re not stuck wondering what you intended to make.

Get your kids involved in the cooking to increase both time spent together and responsibility. Toddlers can wash vegetables and help set the table and older kids can chop (with kid safe utensils) fruits and vegetables. When kids are involved in the cooking, they are more likely to eat the food and they have fun with mom and dad in the kitchen. It’s a win/win. 

{ MORE: Home-Cooked Meals: Back to School Meal Planning Made Simple }

How do you develop a consistent routine at home?

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One Simple Secret to Great Sleep, Better Behavior, and Happy Kids

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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1 comment

  1. mommy nhoj says:

    These are all good points!


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