Bedtime prayers have a soothing effect. Children like them (although nowadays so many never get a chance to find out that they would) because they help them calm them down after they've been over-excited-and most exuberant, healthy youngsters are over-excited by the end of an active day. They need help in winding down. Ordering children to be quiet accomplishes little except to make the children (and the one giving the order) irritable, but giving them something genuinely calming to do-like praying-will make them peaceful.
It is understandable that most of us would be reluctant to teach our children the followoing traditional bedtime prayer, which was once almost universally used in an era when the death rate among children was very high:
Now I lay me down to sleep.But today bedtime prayers have become not only less frightening but also less formal. They are usually longer and more leisurely than morning prayers, and most children plunge into them eagerly.
I pray to God my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray to God my soul to take.
If I should live for other days,
I pray the Lord to guide my ways.
Especially when they are shared with an affectionate, interested parent, evening prayers can provide solid comfort, cozy warmth, and a useful transition between running around wildly and becoming peaceful in preparation for sleep and pleasant dreams.
Once the habit of saying thanks in their evening prayers has been formed, most children will be delighted, because it's fun to recall things that happened during the day that were fun, and thus to prolong and relive them. All a parent may need to do to start them off is to give them a simple cue such as, "Okay, what things do you feel especially thankful for today?"
Even after the most disappointing, difficult, boring, tiring, or "blah" day, there is almost always something to be thankful for, although it may take a bit of searching to remember it. If so, encourage your child to pretend he or she is a detective or a pirate searching for buried treasure.
Even when a sad day has occurred, when someone loved has moved away or died, you can remind your children to be very thankful for having known that person and having enjoyed good times together.
When children learn to make time to notice every day's pleasures and learn to verbalize their evening prayers, this fosters a warm sharing time, which is a lovely and comforting way to end each day. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude helps develop the sort of consistently cheerful temperament that makes a person able to remain calm even when difficulties arise, please and kind even when other people are cross, patient in a traffic jam, hopeful when everyone else is frightened or gloomy. It helps one add a bit of happiness to the world.
So keep on helping your children to develop interest and to make good friends, and to be appreciative of everything funny or lovely, nice thing s they might overlook, little kindnesses that have been shown them, problems that have been solved, and dangers that have been avoided.