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Ending Bedtime Battles

It’s been a long day, you’ve tucked in your little one and then it begins…

“Just one more story, please!”

“I need a drink of water.”

“I have to potty again.”

Dealing with bedtime battles can be aggravating and exhausting. There are some steps you can take to finally put an end to the endless cycle of requests. Keep in mind it won’t be a quick and easy transition, but with patience you’ll eventually be heading into the bedtime routine without dread.

Before a new bedtime routine can be changed, you (the parents and/or caregivers) will need to decide what a new routine may look like and when to begin implementing it. You may also want to make a promise to stick to it no matter how much your child fights it. Keep in mind, this won’t be an easy transition. Hopefully you won’t lose too much sleep through the first few nights.

Let’s begin be taking a look at how the ABC’s of Parenting can be used in this situation…

Acknowledge your child’s feelings – “I know you enjoy having time with us at bedtime.”

Be clear about the parameters – “We all need our sleep, so we are going to tuck you in once each night and that’s it.”

Consider Options (these are outlined later, and you can formulate what will work best for your family).

Before you start a new routine, talk with your child during the day and explain it. This is a good time to also discuss options for the new routine. Allowing them to have a small say in the new routine will help you understand what they need to wind down.

Possible options:

  • Allow your child to choose the bedtime story.

  • Maybe they would like to pick out soothing music for after you leave the room (my kids loved the Kenny Loggins lullaby cd (my hubby and I enjoyed it too, unlike much of the kids stuff out there!).

  • A special nightlight may help. Something that worked with my daughter was glow-in-the-dark stars and moons for the ceiling. We spent the day placing them on the ceiling and she couldn’t wait each night to turn out the lights and start counting stars.

Now that the new routine has been discussed, it’s time to put it in place.

Where to start:

  • Remind your child of your confidence in the fact that “We know you can do this!”

  • We’d suggest you all go up together, especially in the beginning to reinforce that you are working together to change the routine.

  • After you have completed the agreed upon routine, tuck in and that’s it. “Time for tuck in and sleep” means no more stories.

Now for the ugly part... Your child may cry, throw a fit, and try to make you miserable so you’ll give in and they can stay up longer. Don’t do it! They’ve learned that if they act out long enough you’ll give in. If you’re ready to put a stop to bedtime drama, you need to stay committed! After you’ve read the stories, given hugs and kisses and left the room, you’re child may still follow you out. Now what?!

  • The first time they come out of the room you remind them “It’s bedtime, you need to stay in bed.” Take them by the hand walk them back to their bed and tuck in.

  • The second and any following times, do NOT say a word, just walk them back to their bed. This way you won’t get sucked into her drama. It’ll be hard, but when she realizes you aren’t going to engage in conversation, the game won’t be as much fun. You may have to do this over and over the first few nights, but eventually they’ll get it (hence the warning of lost sleep for you!)

  • Don’t pick them up after the first time. That lack of physical touch along with not engaging them in conversation takes away the feeling of getting more time with you. It’s less of a power struggle because they’re not being rewarded with your attention (their goal) for her inappropriate behavior.

It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.

Most importantly, if you want your child to repeat an appropriate behavior, acknowledge it! Statements such as: “You did a great job staying in bed after we read stories last night!” or “I’m so proud of how you cooperated last night” will give your child a feeling of accomplishment and pride.

Using our technique works for many reasons! First, a child learns that throwing a fit will not get them what they want. Secondly, they learn to problem-solve with you in a calm, respectful manner. Finally, they understand that your family works together as a team to work through life’s challenges.

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