Whether you want to give your wife a break or just spend quality time with your kids, here's a dad's ultimate bedtime routine:
1. Routine, Shmootine
It's time to mix it up. Sure, the experts say a consistent bedtime routine is important for kids. But what fun is that? Give 'em a bath before dinner. Go for it. Your messy eaters may have to take a bath twice and change their pajamas again, but that's a chance you're willing to take. Or a quick wipe-down with a damp kitchen hand towel might suffice.
Kids respond well to craziness. Think of it like the rat pellet experiments; if it rewards them at random, they go nuts.
2. Sugar Them Up
Next up? Lots and lots of sugar. Make them the best sundae they've ever had. Start with warm donuts, topped with ice cream, topped that with marshmallows, chocolate sauce and crushed candy. Wash this all down with some soda (with caffeine if you really want to mix it up).
That was dinner. Now find something even tastier for dessert.
3. Screen Time
Hand them their iPads, play video games or sit down over your dinner of refined sugars and watch a show. Television helps tune brain waves and makes sleep even more challenging. Shouldn't bedtime with daddy be tougher?
Really want to shake things up? Pick something terrifying like JAWS. Then your bedtime routine can continue well into the night. Each time they wake up terrified, you'll have more quality time with them.
4. On Your Mark, Get Set, Go
Time to settle down for a relaxing book? Nah. Finish off the last rays of daylight strong with some vigorous play. I'd suggest jumping on the couch, hide and seek, tag, a wrestling contest, races or any activity where the children really have to exert themselves.
Even better, turn out all the lights in your house and pretend to be a monster and chase them until they scream.
When you're finished with the routine...
...ask mom to tuck them in and sing them a bedtime song. Let her know they've been in the very best hands and should easily drift off to sleep.
PS: Don't do any of this if you truly want to help and stay married. Research shows that having a bedtime routine that does not include sugar, screen time or vigorous activity can help kids settle down for sleep faster. Help them establish a routine that is both fun and relaxing, and that you can follow consistently. Another important step is helping children understand why sleep is important. According to new research, kids who buy into the importance of sleep actually get more of it.
My wife and I are the authors of The Angel Guardian, a children's illustrated book designed to help kids get more sleep and enable parents to put an end to bedtime chaos. The little angel with a big heart helps her charge through every step of the bedtime routine. Angel Guardians are responsible for keeping kids company, sharing secrets and dreams with, keeping track of kids' deeds and reminding them to listen to their conscience, comforting children in the night, and making going to sleep fun.
The Angel Guardian hardcover, and along with a matching angel doll, are available for pre-order here through November 15, 2014.