Bedtime wars toddlers preschoolers

How to win bedtime wars

Bedtime Wars: a classic and often rerun Parent vs Child scenario.  Just what we all need after a tiring day of whatever – this is a battle that is completely indiscriminate of work status.  The good news is that I have some solutions!  The bad news is that it is going to be hard work, so choose your time to embark on this wisely.  If you start, don’t back down until all children are in bed or you’ll lose the war!

Before you start, you’ll want to ensure that you have the very basics mastered: check out my post Get good enough sleep when you have young kids!

This particular post is about behaviour management: getting your kids into bed on time and more importantly, succeeding in having them stay there.  If you’ve mastered that, consider my morning time laziness hack!

1. Bedtime routine

I outline my own routine in the previous post on sleep.  The main advantage to a routine is that after a while your kid will know what to do without prompting!  In order to “earn” his usual two bedtime stories my 4 year old son Billy must go to the toilet, wash in the sink, get into his pyjamas, brush his teeth (supervised) put his dirty clothes in the laundry basket and choose his stories.  If he does not do these properly, he only gets one story.  In extreme circumstances, he won’t get a story at all but this is so rare that I can’t remember the last time it happened.  The reason for two stories is that there is an incentive to behaving well – the second one is a bonus.



Once you’ve said good night, next you have to keep your child in their room and preferably in their bed.  Then you must…

2. Be boring!

Here’s how:

🙁    Your child keeps getting out of bed:  Only say “it’s time for bed” in response to anything they say and escort them back to bed.  This may take what feels like 1,000 times on the first night, but you’ll get there eventually (and it’ll only take 500 attempts on the second night!)

🙁    Your child needs the toilet seconds after you’ve tucked them in.  Make them attempt to go right before bed.  If they insist that they need to go again, wordlessly escort them to the toilet and back to bed again.  Meet anything verbal with “it’s time for bed” or “it’s not time to talk right now – it’s time for bed” or similar

🙁    “I need some water…” .  My son is allowed to have a small sports bottle in bed with him.  If he drinks it all, I will wordlessly collect it from him, refill it and wordlessly take it back to him.

🙁    Your child is playing or reading after lights out.  My rule is that the lights have to stay out after bedtime.  My son is in bed before it is pitch black at some times of year, so I ignore quiet playing or reading at this time.  If he turns his light on, I would go into his room, say “it’s time for bed” and turn it off.  If it took more than a handful of occasions, I would just turn the light off without comment!  Noisy play would result in that particular toy being taken away and me saying “it’s time for bed”.

Do NOT engage in conversation, especially if you’re providing explanations for what you’re doing.  If you feel that a discussion is necessary, save it for a non-bed time.

3.  Consistency is key.

The trick is doing the same things all night, every night.  Need convincing?  Read about why your kids push your buttons.


I hope your kids bedtime runs smoothly tonight 🙂



bedtime wars battle bed A Woman Less Ordinary lives, parents, purchases and thinks differently.  With 10 years of teaching experience, she has many effective techniques for managing kids’ behaviour (and a lot to say about finance if you’re interested) BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANY OF IT!

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