Bedtime tickets are a quick and easy way to manage those “callbacks and curtain calls” that all kids like to make after the bedtime routine is over. Callbacks are those requests your children make when they call you back to their room after the bedtime routine is over for “just one more thing.” They might want one more story or one more water refill or one more escorted trip to the bathroom. These are not a problem, of course, unless there are way too many! Curtain calls are those trips your children make out of their room to find you again (just when you were sure they were finally asleep).
Bedtime tickets are small cards good for one or two more of these callbacks or curtain calls. These tickets are a great way to set limits at bedtime in a way that still lets kids feel like they have some control but that keeps you from granting dozens of requests.
You can make simple bedtime tickets by taking 3×5 cards and decorating them with your child during the day. Feel free to go crazy with paint, crayons, glitter and stickers.
First, be sure your bedtime routine addresses all of the usual things your children need (final bathroom trip, cup of water on the bedside table, lovey found and tucked in, some reading time to wind down, and a final hug and kiss). Then, when the bedtime routine is over and it’s time for you to leave your child’s room, give your child two tickets along with a reminder that they will need to grade a ticket for any other request.
When your child makes a callback or curtain call, ask for a ticket and quickly grant the request. (These requests should be ones that only take a minute or two. I worked with one family whose child was clever enough to use ticket to order a pizza!) The tickets expire in ten minutes and unused or expired tickets can be traded for a small reward in the morning. A timer can be useful to make sure that there’s no confusion about when they have expired.
If your child’s request is vague (“I don’t like my bed”), let him or her know that you’ll do one thing to fix it (as long as it doesn’t involve your child leaving the bedroom or take a very long time, of course).
If your child calls your back after the tickets are gone (or have expired), just reply with a reminder that he or she has no more tickets and that it’s time to read or play quietly in bed until he or she is drowsy enough to fall asleep. If your child makes another curtain call after the tickets are gone (or have expired), just walk him or her quickly back to bed as silently as possible each and every time and, again, remind him or her to read or play quietly in bed until sleepy. If the curtain calls don’t stop after one or two, try sitting in a chair in your child’s doorway facing out, being very quiet, and reading a book or doing some work. Quietly put your child back to bed each time he or she gets up. Once this is going well (this may take a week or two of being very consistent), you should be able to leave right away at bedtime.
As you work on this, let your child know that you’ll have lots of fun in the morning but that now….it’s time to sleep!