Today I’m happy to host Grace Fox posting about her newest book and the family tradition behind it.
Grace is an international speaker at women’s events and the author of seven books, including 10-Minute Time Outs for Moms, 10-Minute Time Outs for You and Your Kids.
Her latest release is Tuck-Me-In Talks with Your Little Ones: Creating Happy Bedtime Memories (Harvest House).
A Bedtime Tradition with Long-Lasting Results
Our five-year-old daughter, Kim, could hardly wait for bedtime. Each evening, she donned pajamas, brushed teeth, and went to the potty without a parental nag or threat. The moment she jumped into bed, she reached under her pillow. Then, wearing a wide grin, she retrieved and opened a zip-locked bag stuffed with little cards. Each card featured one question. “What does it say?” she’d ask, handing the card of her choice to her dad.
One evening the question read “What’s the best way to eat spaghetti?”
“With my hands,” Kim answered. She cupped her hands, put them to her mouth, and slurped make-believe noodles.
“Why not chopsticks?” asked her dad.
“No, not chopsticks,” said Kim. “The noodles would fall off!”
“Maybe an ice-cream scoop,” my husband suggested.
“No, Silly. Scoops are only for ice-cream,” said Kim. “Ice cream is cold but spaghetti is hot, so a scoop won’t work.” Her dad chuckled at the preschool logic.
The banter continued for a several minutes. Finally, convinced a fork was the best option, Kim slipped the card back into the bag and hid it once again under her pillow. Then she crawled under her covers, said her bedtime prayer, and kissed her daddy goodnight.
That bedtime tradition, simple as it was, still carries fond memories nearly two decades later. “I looked forward to bedtime because answering the questions was fun,” says Kim, now 26. “It was like a winding-down play time with my parents.”
Her dad and I remember it fondly too. We adopted it when Kim’s kindergarten teacher suggested parents ask their youngsters simple questions when tucking them into bed. Doing so would provide a positive end-of-the-day routine, she said. It would also build imagination and language skills and encourage an intentional connection between parents and kids.
It sounded like fun, but truth be told, at first we wondered whether it was worth it.
Like most parents of young children, we felt exhausted at day’s end. Striking up a conversation with Kim at bedtime seemed counterproductive if we hoped to relax and enjoy a few quiet moments alone. Then again, we longed to connect with our daughter in a meaningful way, so we gave it a try.
We discovered that, like any other method of spending intentional time with one’s children, it was a small investment with huge returns.
Questions like “Pretend you’re a fish swimming in the ocean. What do you see underwater?” stimulated Kim’s imagination. Storytelling skills developed with questions such as “Tell me about your day. What was the best part?” We explored emotions with questions like “Show me a sad face. What makes you feel sad?” And letter and sound recognition developed with questions such as “List five words that begin with the letter B.”
Kim’s cognitive growth proved to be a positive return on our investment, but there were other benefits too. These became more obvious throughout our daughter’s growing-up years.
When families eat, play, and build traditions together, says youth and family expert Jim Burns, the result is a strong family identity, which in turn results in the children possessing a strong sense of self-identity. This enables them to develop “a clear starting point for discovering their own place in the world.” Burns also suggests that these children are more likely to embrace their family’s values, and therefore are less likely to engage in promiscuity or drug and alcohol abuse later in life. He adds that children regard a parent’s presence as a sign of care and connectedness.
Youngsters whose parents spend quality time with them usually perform better in school and exhibit less negative behavior than those whose moms and dads do otherwise.
I’m grateful that my personal experience as a parent reflects Burns’ insights. I believe that connecting with Kim on a regular basis helped establish her self-identity that enabled her to make wise decisions later in life.
If I could replay this aspect of her early childhood, I’d make only one change: I’d start this tradition sooner. From three to five, especially, children are all ears and greatly concerned about what their parents think about topics big and small.
Today, as a mother of three young adults, I recall those preschool years with joy. Moms with older kids or empty nests told me to enjoy my offspring because they’d be grown and gone before I could blink. Some days I doubted that wisdom, but now I pass along the same advice. The window of wide-eyed openness and opportunity to lay healthy, lasting foundations closes far too soon. The more engaged we are with our youngsters now, the stronger our influence will be. And the stronger our influence is, the less likely culture, media, and peers will sway them later.
As parents, it’s our responsibility to encourage our kids’ spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical well-being. The tuck-me-in bedtime tradition proved to be a valuable resource to help accomplish that goal in our family. Give it try. You might find it helpful too!