A SHARP LIFE: Navigating the 5 stages of bedtime


Children despise the word, and hate the very idea that they need to go to bed. Meanwhile, the knowledge that bedtime has been coming is what keeps Mom and Dad in the vicinity of sane a lot of days.

At times preparations for bedtime resemble the five stages of grief:

Denial: Children run, hide and attempt to distract exhausted parents from realizing what time it is. They react to the word bedtime as if you are speaking another language, or perhaps introducing them to a brand new concept they couldn’t possibly hope to understand like nuclear physics or cleaning up their rooms.

Anger: At this point the child knows that as a parent you are determined to put them in bed despite their wishes to the contrary, and so they react. This stage may include children grasping door jambs, screaming, temper tantrums, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Toothbrushes may be slammed down in sinks, and pajamas may be thrown through the air.

Bargaining: Now that it is clear to everyone involved that bedtime really is happening children get desperate and the negotiations begin in earnest. Children will barter for more time. They will suggest that maybe bedtime is ok if they can just watch one cartoon. From there they will suggest that perhaps it is time to read a book. As things get truly desperate, one of them might even propose that they be allowed to clean their room before heading to bed.

Depression: They have made their best efforts but hugs and kisses are being dispensed and the parents are looking gleefully at the light switch. There is always some moaning, complaining and occasionally a crocodile tear or two. In a last-ditch effort puppy dog eyes are deployed, and children who not two minutes ago stood atop the coffee table shouting, “Do not go gentle into that good night!” now say, “Goodnight” with quivering lips in a voice barely above a whisper.

Acceptance: This is the glorious part of the evening for parents. The children have succumbed to fatigue, the negotiations have ceased, the battle is over. We have to enjoy the peace and tranquility while we can. The clock is ticking, and we will be dealing with denial again before you know it.