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Rhythms that Work for My Family: Going to Bed


It’s the end of another long day, and it’s bedtime. My kids are old enough to get themselves dressed now, and don’t really need a “tucking” into bed. Their rooms are upstairs, and I’m out back on the porch enjoying the crickets and solitude. It is often tempting to let them meander themselves to bed, turn out their own lights, and then I’ll see them in the morning.

However, in my quest to make a lasting impression on my kids, I rise from the porch and commit myself to the last consistent rhythm to each day: Putting My Kids to Bed.

There are a few things that happen every night, and a few other things that happen upon request from the kids:

The GoodBye Handshake. You’ve got one with your kids, right? It’s secret, and we practice it everyday. It’s unique to just Dylan and Dad, but don’t worry, because Dylan has another secret handshake with Mom too.

Kiss the Girl. I kiss my boys, but they never ask for it. My daughter however, insists on it. Why would any sane father pass up a request like that? I’ve heard from older dads that it won’t always be there, and that fear alone makes me rarely pass on signs of affection from my little girl.

Saying Thank You. Many nights I work to find something really excellent my kids have done on that day, and tell them that I saw it. Maybe it’s a clean room, or a good grade on a spelling test, but I always try to leave them with something I really love about their day. Sometimes it can be difficult, but it’s usually there somewhere.

Ask about Tomorrow. Anything on your mind for tomorrow? Want to pray for anything that’s coming up?

Pray. I wish I could sincerely tell you that I pray with my kids each night, but it just doesn’t happen every single night. I read once that our kids aren’t given to us, as much as they are gifted to us for a season. That being true, I always use it as an excuse to pray this prayer:

“Thank you Jesus for letting Ryan live in my house and be my child. I’ll always be  grateful for the gift that he is to this family. Help me to be a father he will follow, and help Ryan grow just a little closer to you every day. Amen.”

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.