How many of you have had this experience?

It is 8 pm and time for your toddler to go to sleep. You have fed him, bathed him, and pampered him. Then you announce that it is time to go to bed. All of a sudden the gates of hell are unleashed. Crying, screaming, throwing toys, begging you not to send him to the awful place called bed to be tortured by sleep. As you finally get him in bed, turn off the lights and close the door he either get out of bed or scream for what sounds like an eternity. 

Maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration of what happens in your home, but I think most of us parents have felt this at one point or another. What if I told you there was another way, a way that would leave you and your child sleeping stress-free?

First, I would like to explain peaceful parenting. It is a philosophy that promotes peaceful interactions between parents and children. When approaching our kids, we treat them like we would like to be treated. One of the most commonly held features of peaceful parenting is that we do not hit our children. No smacking, no spanking, and no forceful grabbing. We believe that as adults, we have the capability to interact with children without hurting them.

Second, I would like to disclose that both my wife and I are educators. She teaches pre-k to 3rd grade, and I have taught middle school, high school, and college. Neither of us has worked in or for an institution that allows us to hit children. All problems within our 8-hour day have to be resolved peacefully.

This philosophy has leaked into our parenting. I would like to share with you that we never have a problem with putting our children to sleep. No crying. No screaming. No tantrums. Here is our secret: Our toddler determines his bedtime.

If your jaw is hanging open, you can close it now. Let me explain what bed time looks like in our house. We first will put our daughter, who is 19 months, to sleep when she starts rubbing her eyes. She loves to sleep and has never fought us. It is not fair for me to use her as an example because she is too young.

Now our 3 & 1/2-year-old is a different story. We used to fight with him. He would do what we described in the story above. It was horrible, and it stressed everyone out. Now around 8 pm I ask him when he is planning on going to bed. When we first started implementing this style of parenting, he tested us to 11pm then crashed on the couch. But now he usually goes to bed sometime between 9pm – 10pm on his own.

When he decides to stay up later, he has to deal with the natural consequences. The next day he is tired and being tired is no fun.

My son has learned to take care of his sleep schedule at the young age of 3-years-old. Most people don’t get to take on this responsibility until they are in college.

Before anyone says that we have abnormal children and that this would never work with your kids, my son still picks his nose and eats it. He takes toys from his sister. He sometimes has accidents in his pants. He is a normal 3-year-old. The only difference is that he has been given freedom and peaceful parents who nurture him.