Sometimes parenting feels like a battlefield. You need your child to do something, and they want to do the complete opposite, so you both line up on opposing sides.

Maybe it’s putting on their shoes or getting dressed.
Maybe it’s eating their green beans.
Maybe it’s putting their toys away.
Maybe it’s over a piece of candy or a toy at the grocery store.

But for some parents, the biggest challenge is bedtime—those sweet little angels just don’t want to end their day. They don’t want to miss out on anything. So, they will stall. Or move slower than you’ve ever seen them move—well except for when you are running late and trying to get out the door.

At the end of the day, when all your energy is spent and you are exhausted, the temptation may be to send them to bed and just be done with it.

But it’s in the everyday moments that we can connect with our kids, and bedtime for a preschooler is a significant opportunity you don’t want to miss. Because you’re doing more than just tucking your child into bed. You’re laying a foundation that says, “I care about you.”

Building an “I care about you” culture in our home begins with listening to our children when they are very young. And bedtime is one of the best times to listen, for two main reasons:

1. The day is done, and you’re not in a hurry to go anywhere.
2. Children are relaxed when they lay down, causing their thoughts (and words) to open up.

The challenge is that listening at bedtime (or anytime really) requires some sacrifice—putting the phone down, letting go of the to-do list, looking our preschooler in the eyes, pushing through our own exhaustion, listening with our full attention, not getting to our own bed nearly as quickly as we would like to… however, when we choose to do these things, bedtime becomes an opportunity to show our children that we care about them and what they have to say.

When your kids are little, reading together can open up some great discussions. True, the bug they want to tell us about probably won’t be the most important thing we hear that day, but our children believing that we care about what they have to say will be. And that’s what we want them to believe as they go from preschool all the way through their high school years and beyond —that we care about what they have to say.

I “tucked” all three of our kids into bed until they went away to college. I didn’t do it because I wanted them to stay babies. I didn’t do it because I loved doing it. If I’m being honest, there were many nights I would have rather gone straight to bed or sat in the living room to watch TV. But, I didn’t. I chose to tuck my kids in, even if it was nearing midnight after practice and homework, because that’s when they talked the most.

It wasn’t weird, because it’s what I had always done. Most nights began with a simple question, “How’s your heart?” Followed by a simple answer, “I’m good.” And ended with a quick prayer and an “I love you.” But then there were those nights—those precious nights—when I got the privilege of sitting on the side of their bed, listening to them pour out their heart.

And it all began at bedtime, during the preschool years.


5 Minutes to Bedtime: An Ollie Adventure