Some of the first advice we received when we were new parents was to establish a before-bed routine. It seems that most modern parents have one of some kind, but we struggled to decide what we wanted in ours. Some nights we’re home at bedtime. Some nights we’re in the car. Some nights we’re somewhere else. The whole point of a routine is consistency, so whatever we had in our routine needed to be something we could do anywhere. We wanted it to be a bonding time, but most importantly, we wanted it to be centered on God and training our children in His ways. Here’s what we’ve come up with. Maybe it’ll help you develop or enhance your nighttime routine.
First, all the hygiene & basic necessity things get done: change into pajamas, brush teeth, etc. On Saturday nights, the kids also lay out their clothes and find their Bibles for Sunday morning. If our kids attended school outside the house, I suppose we’d have them do that every night.
Next comes hug-kiss-nuzzle-bonk-zuzzle-hair swishel. It’s silly and it’s adorable, and some of the kids are too big to want this every night, but it’s our own family version of hugs & kisses. We hug, kiss (those are obvious), rub noses, bonk foreheads, rub foreheads together (called “zuzzle”) and then hair swishel (brush the end of my pony tail on their faces). They love it and I love it. I like that it’s a touch silly, that it’s affectionate and it’s ours, like a secret handshake. I hope the kids will long remember doing this for a long time, and, honestly, I’d love to hug-kiss-nuzzle-bonk some grandkids one day. It’s an important part of our routine for the sake of bonding; affection is important! Usually right after hug-kiss-nuzzle-bonk is bubbling. Really, it’s just for the little kids and it’s only when we’re home, but it’s another fun thing. We flip the blankets high up in the air and bring the edge down quickly so there is plenty of air left in the middle (like a bubble) that slowly seeps out as the blanket falls gently on our little people.
The next part of the routine is really the heart of the whole thing because it’s the spiritual training part. Lots of nights after dinner, we have family devotionals with Bibles out and all of us sitting together, singing and listening to a lesson from my husband (often he uses Kaio’s Family Devotional Series), but I don’t count that as part of our before bed routine because it isn’t always feasible to do. Like I said, we wanted something that we could do anywhere. So, once the kids are laying in their beds, or they’re strapped in their seats and it’s time to start heading for Dreamland, my husband runs them through “priority review”(I jokingly call it brainwashing). It’s a call and answer set of questions that we’ve adopted from a few different places, primarily Glenn Colley’s KidSing program. He asks the questions, and they’re expected to call out the answers.
Q: What’s your number one goal?
A: To go to Heaven!
Q: What’s your number two goal?
A: To take as many with us as possible!
Q: What’s God’s plan for marriage?
A: One man, one woman for life.
Q: If you marry, you’re going to marry a…
A: …a Christian
Q: What’s your purpose?
A: To bring glory and honor to God.
After these, he works on various memory verses and lists which correspond to devotionals my husband has taught on previously. One night he might ask them to recite the beatitudes. Another might be the virtues listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7. Sometimes it’s the armor of God or the fruit of the Spirit.
Next they sing a few devotional songs, primarily songs that are scripture. For example, “Seek Ye First”(Matthew 6:33) or “I’ve Been Crucified with Christ”(Galatians 2:20). He always makes sure to say the verse that he song comes from, too.
Lastly, He prays with them. He makes sure to thank God for each child by name, spiritual goals for their lives, any spiritual needs they have acknowledged (e.g. an anger problem), and the like. It isn’t a time we use to pray for others’needs (we do that at other times), but primarily a time to focus on praying for our family’s spiritual growth.
Sometimes the kids are still wide-awake after all of that, but they need to stay put. One of our favorite things to do, especially when we’re driving, is to put on an episode of The Heavenbound Podcast for them to listen to. They’re great lessons, and they’re on a kid’s level. They’re entertaining, so the kids really enjoy listening to them. They have a lot of re-listen value, too. Another thing we put on for the kids to listen to is an audio Bible. It’s amazing how much they pick up this way!
Of course, this is not the extent of our children’s spiritual training, but it does help tie everything else together. I love that the last thing they hear about before drifting off to sleep is about God and his ways and growing up to serve Him. It’s a great finish to the day and reminds all of us what is truly important and what our family is all about. Maybe there’s something here you’d like to add to your before-bed routine. Either way, I hope you’ll consider building a routine that will focus your family’s hearts back to the King every night.