How do I handle bedtime battles? My child will do anything to avoid going to bed: screaming, crying, whining, asking for another drink, wanting more hugs, and so on. It can be exhausting.
You’ve zeroed in on the heart of the issue by identifying the root cause of this oh-so-common (and oh-so-frustrating) problem: your child will do pretty much anything to avoid going to bed. It doesn’t matter which strategy (or strategies) she turns to on any given night. She’s got a single goal in mind—stopping the dreaded bedtime clock.
This may work brilliantly for her, but it isn’t working at all for you. By the time bedtime rolls around, you’re desperate for a break. You’re patience reserves are running on empty (or close to it). So how do you minimize the bedtime hijinks so that you can salvage part of your evening for yourself? Here are a few tips.
- Anticipate as many of your child’s needs as possible before tuck-in time. She won’t need to ask for a drink if there’s already one in her room (well, at least until she’s finished that one first). And you won’t feel too guilty turning down her request for ‘just one more story’ if you’ve already read three books at bedtime and left her with a stack of books to flip through on her own.
- Ask yourself what she really needs (it may not be what she’s asking for). Is she trying to delay bedtime because she wants to spend more time with you (maybe she’s having trouble making friends and she’s lonely) or is she reluctant to go to bed because she’s been having terrible nightmares? If you can try to figure out what’s going on inside her head, you’ll be one step closer to troubleshooting the problem.
- Finally, try to minimize the stress at bedtime. No one wants to go to bed angry or upset. Not you and not your child. You may find that coming up with a predictable bedtime routine helps your child to anticipate and prepare more effectively. Note that a routine is different than a regimented schedule, which lacks the flexibility to adjust to the needs of real human beings. It’s a routine you want, not a boot-camp like schedule.
Remember, any of these methods will take a few tries before completely fixing the issue, so keep your calm and may you all get a good night’s sleep.