Conquer Bedtime Battles: Three Tips That Can Help

Conquer Bedtime Battles: Three Tips That Can Help

By Michelle Mady

I love my children, playing with them every day and hanging out with them in general. But when it’s bedtime, it’s bedtime. That’s the time of day where parents are supposed to reap the rewards of their hard work all day with their children. At the end of the day, we as parents are tired and ready to lovingly tuck our children in for bed, close the door, and start our own unwinding of the day.

I love my children, playing with them every day and hanging out with them in general. But when it’s bedtime, it’s bedtime. 

And then they ask for a book. And then just one more. But also some water. And did you remember to feed their fish? And why is the sky blue? And also they would like a song, but no, not that song. The other one with the goat. What goat? How could you forget….

And then the bedtime meltdown.

And it isn’t just your child melting down either. You have used up your allotted patience for the day and all the gentle parenting in the world is not going to help you talk this one through. You are tired and cranky and overwhelmed. Your child is tired and cranky and overwhelmed.  

It's a stalemate.

Luckily, there are a few relatively simple things you can do during our bedtime routine to help ease (although not eliminate) the likelihood of bedtime becoming a time of major meltdowns.


If you have read any of my other blogs, you know how important routines can be to a young child. However, during bedtime struggles, that’s not a great time to talk through routines. Instead of going through the cycle of reminding your child about the predetermined routine, consider making a visual schedule. Add a list of pictures including the steps in your routine and post it near your child’s bed. Sometimes when emotions run high, and energy is low, pictures can help keep things on track.

Trade Off

Although consistency is most important, sometimes dividing higher stress times (like bedtime) can be beneficial to keep patience as high as possible. Give some effort to make your inconsistencies consistent. If you swap off daily between which parent does the bedtime routine, color code a calendar! Parent A is blue, parent B is red. Color each day on the calendar with the corresponding color so that your child knows what is coming next.  

Take a Break

In life, sometimes a “reset” is enough to put you back on track. That’s also true in parenting. Although I can talk all about routines, predictability and consistency all day.  Sometimes we have to go back to the drawing board. If bedtime is getting out of control and you feel yourself (and your child) losing it - go to plan B. Stop your routine and throw a dance party. Pause your book and take time for five deep breaths. Skip the bedtime song and teach your child a clapping game instead. Sometimes a redirect before restarting the routine is enough to help everyone reset emotionally.

Bedtime can be a great time to bond with your child. It can also be a really frustrating time that tests all of your parenting skills. Go into it with the expectation that we are not our best when we are tired, and neither are our children. So stay strong, and don't give in … too often!


About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15.  As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey.

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