We’ve always had some form of bedtime battles with Landon – really since a few months after going to his big boy bed and discovering that he could get out of bed on his own. I am pretty sure our story is not alone. One more drink, potty one more time, down to I don’t want to be alone, stay with me a little longer.

Bedtime parenting has also been a struggle for me. I would say that in the day time issues I very much follow a love and logic type philosophy. I am firm but loving and have high but realistic expectations of Landon (and Riley). I expect him to behave and when he doesn’t there is some form of consequence – and I try to make that consequence as natural as possible. We have very few behavior issues in the day time. But something about bedtime is so different.

Bedtime in our house was not peaceful. The last few weeks before our changes it had escalated to be more and more difficult to get Landon to go to sleep on his own without getting out of bed a million times just for the sake of getting out of bed. I knew something different needed to happen, but honestly I didn’t know what. We went down the path of laying with him until he fell asleep a long time ago, and while that works great for him going to sleep without getting out of bed, is not a practical long term solution for us.

After a lot of self reflection about what really happens during bedtime and some advice from some other great moms we’ve come up with a solution that is working well. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better than things were. Here’s what we did and hows it’s working so far.

Stick to your guns

The first problem was on the way I was handling his many “call outs” and times of getting out of bed. I was being pretty inconsistent and not following through with what I said. And he knew it. There was a reason he would call for me and not Brad. I hate the night time tears as I want him to go to sleep happy and peaceful – and I don’t want the last thing on his mind to be “mean old” mom barring him in his room. I’ve been better about making sure all his true needs are met and giving him those opportunities for the last drink and potty before it’s time to sleep then not responding to any more call outs – even when (especially when) it turns into a fit. This has been an important foundation to making bedtime more peaceful.

It did get worse before it got better. It’s the pitfall of caving in once (or twice or….) once you stop caving they don’t stop trying right away – it becomes a challenge of sorts to see what will make you cave. The first 3 nights ranged from 5 – 30 minutes of fits, but as I stayed consistent he is now re-learning what to expect and the fits are much shorter if happening at all.

Let him choose his bedtime

Yeah – you read that right. This was the most beneficial advice I got from some blogging friends. The idea was first introduced to me by the blogger at In Lieu of Preschool, she got the idea from a Mom With a Lesson Plan.

We do our whole bedtime routine and then let him have “Big Boy Bedtime” where he gets to stay in his room and read books or quietly play. When he’s ready to go to sleep he’ll come out and let us know. He has to stay in his room and he has to stay quiet, but the light can be on and he can play or read or really do whatever he wants.

When he’s ready to go to sleep he turns off his light and gets into bed. We’ll come in and give him a hug and a kiss and make sure the covers are on, but we make it quick then leave.

I know you’re thinking it’s crazy – and that he’ll be up for forever playing if he gets to choose when to go to sleep. But he isn’t! So far the longest he’s spent reading has been 30 minutes. The first few days we started the bed time routine early to allow time if he did take forever. Now, almost a month and a half later, he usually reads or plays for 5-10 minutes then comes out announcing he’s ready for sleep.

We let him sleep with a few small toys and the deal is he can keep them in bed with him but if he gets out of bed they start going away (one by one for each time he gets out). Occasionally it’s taken a reminder of following through with that arrangement and having some sadness on his part about his choice to get out (and loose a toy), but for the most part it’s pretty successful.

This system gives him a bit of control over when he goes to bed; making it feel more like his idea to go to sleep. There’s also a factor of allowing him to let us know when he really is tired. Just like you or I go to bed at slightly different times depending on how tired (or not) we may be, I think that kids have a similar thing going on. This system allows them to go to bed when they are actually tired not fight us because he’s honestly not tired. I know this to be true for Landon as there are many times that we’ve gotten to bed a little late with this new system and he chooses for NO play time and says he just wants to go straight to sleep.

Will this work for everyone? No. But I’m pretty sure that it will work for many!

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4 Responses to Bedtime Blues {how we made bedtime better}

  1. Sara says:

    Thanks for the great idea. We just switched to toddler bed after our daughter had a sudden resistance to sleep and started climbing out of crib. I’ll try it this weekend.

    • Jessica says:

      I hope it works out for you. If it doesn’t the first day, don’t give up – it took about 3 days for it to fully catch on for him! Good luck and let me know how it went!

  2. TnMom says:

    Sorry, but it’s absurd to let your children dictate to you when their bedtime is. I have 2 kids ages 12 and 6. I have been through bedtime battles. Our arrangement is they have to get in bed by 9 with lights out and they have to lay in their beds. No TV. No books. No toys except for stuffed animals. If they can’t sleep, they can lay there peacefully without disturbing all of us who can. It’s respectful. If they need to go bathroom, go quietly. If they need a sip of water, go quietly. Straight back to bed. Only exception is if they are sick. By letting a child dictate to you when it’s time for them to go to bed you are giving the child complete control over the situation.When do real boundaries come into play ? I would never let my child dictate to me what they will and will not do and when they will and won’t do it. Trust me, the older they get the more they will test your boundaries. I say it’s time for bed. They will not keep me up waiting on them to tell ME when it’s time.

    • Jessica says:

      I’m glad that that arrangement works for you and your family! The beauty of the way we do things is it ends up being the same (sometimes earlier) time he goes to sleep than if we were to just have a battle over it every night. I think the biggest thing is the reverse psychology that they think it is their idea to go to sleep so it’s easier for them to come to terms with it. Also holding firm to the fact that once he decides to go to sleep there’s no going back. Again, I’m glad your arrangement has worked out so great for you. My hope is that for families that it isn’t working, they might be able to find another solution from what we found has worked for us.