bedtime battles

The Definitive Guide to Bedtime Battles: How to Prevent & Stop Battles

Battling bedtime is a right of passage for all parents. It’s the time when we face our greatest fears: will my child ever sleep? Will they ever sleep in their own bed? Is their bedtime battle just a phase that I should put up with and wait out, or is it something more serious? This blog post will teach you about bedtime battles and how to end them once and for all!

What are Bedtime Battles?

The bedtime battle is something that most parents of toddlers and elementary-aged children have to face. It’s a time when your child decides they’re NOT going to bed, no matter what, and there are no more bedtime rules! In order to get them into bed before midnight you have to battle it out, tooth and nail. Forget about the 8:00pm bedtime you dream about.

Why do Bedtime Battles Happen?

The bedtime battle is often a power struggle between parent and child. Why are they refusing bedtime? They might be afraid of the dark, or worry about monsters in their room, but there’s usually something deeper going on with them. They might want to assert their will over you. Because, after all, it’s impossible for you to actually make them sleep.

Bedtime battles can be triggered by a number of things. Over-tiredness is a popular one, but they could also be hungry, thirsty, overstimulated… or they could just want to feel the power that comes with making your evening miserable.

How to Stop Bedtime Battles in their tracks

Remain Calm

When bedtime rolls around, stay calm. Don’t start screaming or yelling because this will only make your child more resistant to the idea of bedtime! Bedtime battles can be frustrating and exhausting for parents… but staying calm is key to winning the battle once and for all.

Be firm

Bedtime means bed time. You don’t have to be mean about this–in fact you should remain calm and firm when telling your child bedtime is here.

Set a routine, and have the clock dictate bedtime (instead of you being the bad guy!). Having fun activities before bed will help set the right tone of happy excitement in your home.

Don’t give in to attention-seeking behavior

Bedtime battles are often about attention-seeking behavior. They might start whining, crying, begging at bedtime… whatever it takes to get you to give them more attention because bedtime means the end of their day with you!

You’ll know if this is the case when bedtime battle are particularly bad on days when you have plans with friends or family, and bedtime routines are better when mom is home.

Don’t give in to attention seeking behavior. Even just acknowledging their whining might feel like a win to them. So remain silent, don’t engage!

Focus on what you can control

You can keep them in their room by using a gate or a door monkey. You can keep bedtime routine as scheduled, but you cannot actually make them sleep.

So focus on the items you can control, like the environment and the schedule.

How to proactively prevent bedtime battles

The best solution to end bedtime battles is to prevent them as often as possible.

Fill their power and attention bucket

Children crave power and attention. The more power and attention you give them during the day, the less likely they are to initiate a conflict at bedtime. Let them make as many choices as possible, like wearing the red PJs or blue PJs. Or you can let them choose which order to do things, like brushing teeth first or getting dressed first.

Use a consistent bedtime routine

Kids thrive on routine. A bedtime routine makes bedtime easier for children. It’s a way of clearly communicating that bedtime is here and it can help them relax into sleep more easily.

Having a consistent bedtime routine will also make your life much easier! You’ll know exactly what you need to do at the end of each day, which means less planning and more time for you!

Roleplay bedtime

Roleplaying is a powerful tool you can use with kids. Practice the entire bedtime routine during the day… and then reverse the roles and let your child direct YOU through the bedtime routine. They’ll love the opportunity to be in charge, and they’ll get familiar with the routine, making actual bedtime easier.

Stay calm, but firm

Be matter-of-fact about bedtime. Explain the reasons your child needs sleep, and that it’s your job to make sure they get that sleep. It’s not a negotiation! Keep your cool, but stay firm.

end bedtime battles with toddlers
end the bedtime battles with your toddler

Slowly backup bedtime to the desired time

If your child has been staying up way past their bedtime, don’t try to jump to that new bedtime immediately. Slowly back up bedtime by 5 to 10 minutes each day until you reach the correct bedtime. The slow transition will make things easier for your little ones.

Use intrinsic motivation to your advantage

Intrinsic motivation is a powerful motivator for kids. Ask your child what bedtime means to them. Does bedtime mean they get to read another story, or play with their favorite toys? Once you know how bedtime is important for your child, find ways of making it so!

When you have a great bedtime experience, point it out. Tell your child they should be proud of themselves (as opposed to saying you’re proud of them) to drive that internal motivation.

The Bottom Line

The bedtime battles suck. But you’ll get through them! Use these strategies to reduce the number of bedtime battles in your house!

What You Should Do Next…

1. Snag Our Connected Parent Challenge

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2. Join Our Free Online Community

Connect with like-minded moms (and dads!) in our free online community. You’ll find a plethora of resources to help you through your parenting challenges. Plus, you’ll find me there! And I’d love to connect.

3. Take a Free 60-Minute Parenting Webinar

Do you need actionable strategies right now? Register for this free 60-minute webinar titled How to Get Kids to Listen, Without Nagging, Yelling or Losing Control. You’ll walk away with parent-tested tactics to get your kids to listen starting today.

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