Our bedtime routine is working pretty well these days. I thought of it because today it didn't, quite; I guess that made me pay attention. We haven't said much about bedtime since Lijah's been around, which is maybe surprising since there's some concern, I think, about having the third kid: now the parents are outnumbered! But for us going from one to two was actually trickier. As it is now, Harvey and Zion have pretty similar interests and schedules, so it's workable for one parent to put them both to bed at the same time.
What usually happens is that Lijah starts getting sleepy sometime around 6:00, and Leah takes him upstairs to nurse to sleep in the bed. He's fairly sensitive to noise when he's falling asleep, so I work to keep the boys quiet and contained in their after-dinner activities. When one or both of them seems tired—usually between 6:30 and 7:00, this time of year, we head upstairs for stories. That they both love books more than just about anything else is very convenient, since if there's any recalcitrance I only have to say that the window for story time will be closing shortly to get them going.
They each get one book "in the lap"—so called as a historical relic from when Harvey was the only audience; these days we're just all in a row on the edge of the beds—then I direct them to brush their teeth and pee. That last bit is the only trouble spot lately, since Zion isn't always (ever?) happy to be made to use the toilet on command, and the requirement is a new one for him. But we make it work. Then I read two more books "in the bed", lying in Zion's bed between the boys (their "beds" are a pair of mattresses on the floor, pushed right up against one another). The lights are off for the second round of stories; they're lit by headlamp. I limit the "lap" stories to shorter picture books, but the "bed" material can be longer; most nights Harvey asks for a portion of a chapter book (we're currently in the middle of The Four-Story Mistake).
After I finish reading I turn off the headlamp and assess the situation. Zion often falls asleep as he listens, or nearly so, but Harvey has only dropped off during a story a handful of times in his life. Sometimes he asks me to pray for him to have no scary dreams, something which used to be a ritual but now is pretty intermittent, and every once and a while he'll request a song; Zion also tends to want a song if he's still awake enough to speak. After I do those things—or just lie still for a minute or two, if there aren't any requests—I say goodnight and get up to go, letting anyone still awake know that I'll come back to check on them in a couple minutes.
Most of the time that's all it takes. We work the boys pretty hard most days, and even Harvey can't usually last more than 30 seconds after I stop talking to him. But on the rare occasion it doesn't work and we have open rebellion I do my best not to fight, while also not setting any precedents that'll possibly extend bedtime in the future. Today, for example, Harvey was too worked up to settle down to sleep, so ten minutes or so after I left him to go downstairs I heard him walking around up there. Investigating, I told him that I was cleaning the kitchen and he was welcome to come help me, or he could turn on his headlamp and look at a book in his bed, or anything he wanted. He sat at the top of the stairs for a while, then came down and started drawing in the playroom. When I finished cleaning and started turning off lights, he whined indistinctly for a while until I was able to get him to ask me for what he wanted, which was "help going to sleep". So we went up together and I petted his head for, oh, about a minute and a half until he fell asleep. That was a little past 8:00.
Our kids are not awesome sleepers. Lijah wakes up four to six times per night, and its a rare night where I don't have to go in to settle Zion down at least once. But at least—and this is a great relief to me—they mostly don't fight sleeping. Lijah wants cuddles and nursing, and he get them, and Zion mostly just needs reminders that it's sleepy time and he should be lying down. He actually likes sleeping, which very gratifying to his parents; we're big fans too!
I don't know how other folks do with bedtimes; our culture seems to say that we should just put kids in their rooms and tell them to sleep—starting weeks after birth!—but there's also an industry of authors catering to solving sleep problems in the young. If you ask me, getting your kids to sleep isn't something you can "get right": all kids are different, and what works one month might not even work with the same kid the next month. But when I can relax about it things seem to go better. And I'm feeling pretty relaxed these days, so life is good!