Ending Bedtime Stalling
Kids can be pretty crafty when it comes to devising reasons for not doing what they need to do—especially when it comes to what they need to do most—sleep! I worked with one couple that dubbed their oldest daughter "Captain Loophole" for her brilliance in delaying bedtime! As parents, it's important to create a plan to end bedtime stalling so your kid can get all the rest she needs (and you can get a break too!)
Your best defense against "Captain Loophole" is a sensible bedtime (i.e. asleep between 8-8:30pm), a good bedtime routine and the ability to gently disengage when she starts to pepper you with all sorts of questions and requests. If you find your kid trying to use master stalling techniques, here are some tips to help you out:
- Set expectations! If your child wants you to tuck him in 300 times, tell him you'll just do it once or twice. Let him know when the "last time" will be, then stick to it! If your kid gets out of bed and protests, you may have to say you're going to close the door until he gets back in bed and is quiet. If you've gated the door, you can sit on the other side of the gate and repeat "Get back in bed, Mommy gave you your last tuck in." The key is to stay calm and outlast your child. If you cave you will teach him to keep asking and asking and asking. The next morning review the behavior.
- Take care of business! Make sure your kid is well fed before bedtime and has gone potty before tuck-in to avoid those stall tactics. Tell her she must eat and go potty before she gets into bed. At nighttime (and anytime!) your best defense is a good offense!
- Check in but don't engage! You can come back to her doorway in a few minutes to quickly praise her for understanding and following the bedtime directions. Once you've given her that dollop of praise and reassurance, leave before she starts trying to engage you all over again. Skip this step if it makes matters worse. Use your judgment.
- Get gated! Consider putting up a gate if your kid is sleeping in a bed and insists on coming out a zillion times; she'll get the message. You can even tell her that if she stays in bed you'll take the gate down the next night.
- Rule out fear and anxiety! Children this age are brilliant procrastinators and any separation anxiety or nighttime fears only hone their skills. As parents, we need to inject some discipline into bedtime but still keep it warm and cozy. Help your kid with those bouts of the scaries that can make bedtime difficult even when she isn't turning stalling into a competitive sport. Sincerely address the monsters under their bed as real threats, and help her look there and in closets as assurance before you turn off the lights.
- Use incentives! Make a Sleep Manners Sticker Chart and dole out stickers and lots of love and praise the morning after your kid uses his best "sleep manners" and goes to bed without a fight!
More sleep advice articles:
- Commit to Getting Your Kid to Sleep
- Educate Yourself About Your Childs Sleep
- Start a Sleep Log
- The Importance of Consistency When Sleep Coaching
- Create a Soothing Bedtime Routine
- Create a Sleep-Friendly Bedroom
- The Importance of Putting Your Kid to Sleep "Drowsy but Awake"
- The Sleep Lady Shuffle: What It Is and How To Do It
- Do Step 1 of the Sleep Lady Shuffle
- Do Step 2 of the Sleep Lady Shuffle
- Do Step 3 of the Sleep Lady Shuffle
- Be Your Kid's Nap Coach
- Check Off Your Sleep Coaching Checklist
- Create a Solid Sleep Plan
- Nightmares and Night Terrors (And How to Tell the Difference)
- Potty Training and Sleep
- End Early Rising
- The Sleep Lady on Transitioning Your Kid from a Crib to a Big-Kid Bed