What to Do When Nighttime becomes Fight Time—Bedtime, Kids… Discipline? Is Punishment the Answer?
By Kelly Nault
When parents say, “It’s bedtime, kids!” discipline frequently follows.
If any (or all!) of the following sound familiar, know you’re not alone:
• “One more story…pleassssse!”
• “I need another glass of water.”
• “Can I stay up just 15 more minutes?”
Bedtime delays are an epidemic problem that plagues most households. If it’s not
one more story, it’s “ten more minutes” of their favorite show or dawdling in
the bathroom. We’ve all been there.
Bedtime + Kids + Discipline + Anger = More Problems
When your child puts up a fight at bedtime, responding with anger can often
create even more problems. Your best bet is to be firm, yet loving. How?
One of the most effective methods I have found is outlined on page 152 of my
book When You’re About To Go Off The Deep End, Don’t Take Your Kids With You.
Here it is:
1. Tell Your Child What You Are Going To Do. Say something like, “Part of
what I love to do with you is read stories at bedtime, but sometimes I feel
frustrated when bedtime takes a lot longer than it needs to be. So from now on,
I will be at your bedside promptly at ____PM to tuck you in. If you are not
there at that time all ready to be tucked in, I will start getting ready for bed
myself. If you would like a hug you can come and find me for a quick one, but I
will not return to your room.”
2. Follow Through. As stated be in their room on time. Give them one
five-minute warning if you feel it is necessary (although it is not). If they
are not ready, leave and be prepared to keep your mouth shut at all costs,
regardless of tears, angry words or pleas to be tucked in. Go into the bathroom,
lock the door, and get yourself ready for bed. Give one hug if they ask, then
continue with your tasks. If they try to get you involved, simply say, “I’ll be
happy to speak with you in the morning. Sweet dreams.” And that is all.
Responding to difficulties in this way encourages your children to be punctual
and when it comes to bedtime.
Kids’ discipline doesn’t have to be harsh to be effective. Going to bed without
a story is a commonsense consequence that results from bedtime dawdling.
Usually, even a small consequence like this is enough to encourage your son or
daughter to make good time management choices the next night.
Dealing with the Boogieman
Fears are natural, and your children will face many throughout their lifetime.
The best thing you can do is to help them learn to deal with these fears,
including the fears they face at bedtime.
Take time to understand your son’s or daughter’s fears, and validate their
feelings—but stay firm on the need for them to stay in their own room at night.
Instead of letting them take refuge in your room, help them find ways of making
it safe. Each time your child comes into your room, take them back to their own
room and stay with them for a couple of minutes. Tell them that you have faith
in their ability to handle the situation. Instead of telling them there is no
boogieman, ask them what the boogieman is like, why he is there, and what he
You can even brainstorm with your child possible ways to live together
peacefully with this creature. Suggest writing a note to the boogieman or
visualizing a magical fortress that protects their bed. When they make it
through a night on their own, encourage them.
Silent Night…All Is Calm
With a little bit of practice, nighttime doesn’t have to be fight time at your
house. You don’t have the fear the words, “It’s bedtime, kids!” Discipline and
angry words aren’t good approaches, but gentle, loving, firm patience that
encourages your child to make good decisions is right on target.
Before you know it, bedtime dawdling will be gone for good!
Kelly Nault, MA author of When You’re About To Go Off The Deep End,
Don’t Take Your Kids With You inspires moms to put themselves first—for the
sake of their children. She shares time-tested tools that motivate children to
want to be well behaved, responsible and happy! Sign up for her
free online parenting course here.
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