24 May 2010 10:25 AM

Bedtime Prayers and Other Rituals

by Dr. Rick

Regular readers of the Dr. Rick Blog know the importance I put on kids’ routines.  I’ve written about them in many posts – on building reading habits; minimizing homework and study-time hassles; improving study skills; organizing study areas, backpacks, and notebooks; establishing your expectations; encouraging perseverance, among other topics.  (Click on Archive above to read these and other tips.)


Routines give children structure.  Routines provide safety.  Routines give kids a reasonable expectation of what happens next.  They organize kids’ lives.  (And ours, too.  If you ever doubt the power of routines, try changing your morning routine by just a few minutes, and see how it affects your whole day.  Imagine how it affects a child’s day!)


Important routines eventually become rituals, the rhythms of our lives.  They are the foundation of the lifelong habits we want to give our children.  If you want to give your children healthy, wise, and helpful habits of body and mind, start early.


There are many rituals – wake-up time, playtime, mealtime, study time, family time.  One that I find particularly important yet often overlooked is the bedtime ritual.


Bedtime can be hassle-time for many families.  What better way to end the day than with an anticipated, peaceful, warm “quality time” with your child.  Many families like to have a “bedtime prayer” time.  Doesn’t have to be a religious service, of course, but a quiet routine that puts the day to an end with a slowing pace, some whispered talk, a tucking-in, a good-night kiss.


When kids know that bedtime will be a peaceful shared time with you, after the bath is taken, the teeth are brushed, and they’re snuggled in their beds, when you reflect on the day together and share togetherness for a few minutes, the hassles fade.


Here are some ideas about prayers – or, if you’re not comfortable yet with prayers – conversations you and your child can share at bedtimes.  The whole purpose is to bring calm and reflection.

  1. Favorite prayers, songs, and poems you remember from your childhood.  You may have to search your memory for this, but children love to hear about our childhoods, as long as we don’t turn a short memory into a long, boring saga.

  2. Family stories that inspire, elate, or give courage.  Turn the story of your family’s immigration, or your grandparents’ successful struggles, or whatever you want, into a nightly serial for your child to anticipate.

  3. “What I learned today.”  Could be a lesson in school, an experience from the playground, or an insight from a conversation.  Kids love to learn, need to learn, and appreciate our approval and pride.

  4. “What I’m grateful for today.”  We’re surrounded by gifts everyday.  It’s up to us to recognize them.  Give your child the gift of slowing down daily to recognize how blessed she is.

  5. “People who have helped me today.”  Being grateful for the attention of others – intentional or unintentional – helps us to grow and teaches us how to return the favor.

  6. “People I’ve helped today.”  A wise person once taught me to “be a blessing to someone each day.”  Not a bad daily goal.

  7. “What made me happy today?”  It’s easy to concentrate on the one or two negative things that occur each day.  More difficult, and therefore more satisfying in the long run, is to concentrate on the positives.  Kids will be surprised how many there are.

  8. “What I hope for me.”  Kids’ goals change often – that’s the prerogative of youth – so let them talk about their dreams.  Just listen.  That’s all they want, really.

  9. “What I hope for others.”  Encouraging kids to think of others lets them see how they fit into the world and develops the necessary trait of charity.

  10. “What Mom and Dad hope for you.”  Here’s your chance to show your child where his talents and strengths can lead.  “You’re so interested in science, I can just see you inventing something useful and helpful to others.”  Or, “You care so much about your friends, I can just see you helping as a doctor, nurse, teacher, or preacher.”  Set goals together.

The bedtime ritual is a time rich in warm bonding, a peaceful close to the day.  So much better than the chaos so many parents tell me occurs in their homes.  With your child, say a prayer, tell a story, sing a song, share a dream.  You’ll each love this ritual.


Sweet dreams. 




Add comment


  • Comment
  • Preview

Blog Posting Rules

This blog is for the good of education - for students, for teachers and for parents. I very much value a two-way communication with you and welcome and encourage your comments and feedback. However, to facilitate a constructive conversation that is beneficial to everyone in this online community, I expect the same respect in your comments that I present in my blog.

Read the full Dr. Rick Blog Posting Rules.