“I’m hungry?” , “Can I have another story?” , “I need a drink of water?” , “I need to go to the toilet”
…do any of these sound familiar?
If you’re having trouble with the bedtime routine, don’t worry, you’re not alone! Studies have found about a quarter of children aged between 1 and 5 will actively resist bedtime by calling out to you or leaving their bedroom after being put to bed.
It’s a very hard transition for some young kids, separating from their parents at the end of the day, so to help you ease them into sleeping alone, here are some quick tips for overcoming the ‘stalling at bedtime’ routine.
6 tips to overcome stalling at bedtime
1. Accept that this is going to take time
Perfecting the bedtime routine is likely to take up a good part of your evening for a few weeks as you train your little ones, so the sooner you accept this, the less frustrated you will feel in the moment. Children tend to feel how you are feeling which doesn’t help them to fall asleep so try your best to stay as relaxed as possible.
2. Work out their bedtime
Sometimes, stalling at bedtime could be because your little ones aren’t really tired yet. If they are still napping in the day, assess whether they are ready to give up that afternoon nap or push back their bedtime to half an hour later. As toddlers become young children, they need less sleep than they did in the day so consider helping them transition. It’ll make your life a whole lot easier!
3. Lie down with them until they settle or fall asleep
Many parents resort to this tactic because it is the easiest and it works! It can be a difficult habit to break, however, and sometimes this isn’t an ideal way for you to spend your time. While bedtime is a great time to connect, here are some steps you can take to help your child learn to fall asleep by themselves:
- First, lie down with your child and tell them that you will leave when they are asleep.
- After a few nights, lie down with them and tell them that you are going to leave before they fall asleep. Remind them again about 5 minutes before you actually get up and make a point of reassuring them that you will come and check on them in 10 minutes.
- After they get used to this, start to sit in a chair beside the bed and leave before they actually fall asleep. Offer your child a teddy bear or blanket to cuddle with instead of you.
- Gradually move the chair closer to the door and shorten the amount of time you stay.
4. Cover all the bases before you tuck them in!
If you make sure that your child has had a snack, some water, they’ve used the bathroom, and they have their chosen cuddly toy or blanket all before they are tucked in, this will minimise the chances of them making excuses to get back up again. This will help most of the time, but remember that nobody is perfect! Sometimes we even climb into bed and need to get back up again to use the toilet!
5. Ask your child what would make them feel comfortable
If you feel like the stalling at bedtime is never going to end, talk to your child. Ask them what is wrong and why they won’t go to sleep. Some won’t be able to answer but some may surprise you! Maybe it’s something as simple as leaving a night light on or installing a rail so that they feel more secure in bed. It could even be something as nonsensical as a certain object looking “creepy” in the dark which once removed makes all the difference!
6. Try a bedtime pass
If you’ve tried everything and your child is still stalling at bedtime, one of the most effective techniques to overcome this is said to be the “bedtime pass.” When your little one has one pass for each excuse they use (e.g. one pass to get a drink after bedtime), they soon learn that they can only use it once. Any other time your child gets out of bed and leaves their room, you just simply return them to their bed without comment. Children learn by association so after a few nights, you’ll soon find that they will leave their room less or not at all!
Remember to be patient and consistent!
Overcoming stalling at bedtime can feel like a mammoth task but a lot of parents have made it through to the other end! All it takes is a lot of patience, a lot of consistency, and a lot of praise when they go to bed straight away.