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Bedtime battles: A matter of endurance

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

When will the sleep saga end?

Sunshine's bedtime routine has taken a dive recently. It's making me a little crazy.

Stubborn girl resisting bedtime

The challenge

My experience with Sunshine's brothers was that kids' responses to the evening routine varied with the weather, the seasons, age and developmental milestones. My experience also was that if I kept to my end of the routine – stayed consistent – the variations in normal would settle down soon enough, though not always quickly, we'd be back to bedtime baseline. To say that Sunshine is challenging that experience is an understatement. We've had several weeks now of extremely inconsistent bedtimes, and I can't figure it out.

Sunshine resists bedtime. We go through our normal routine: pajamas, teeth, braids, books, music, kiss around, hugs, lights out. I quietly remind her of bedtime expectations, that she stay in bed (unless she has to use the toilet), stay quiet, and so on. But every single night she puts up a fight. She gets out of bed two and three times, and I am firm with her need to get back in bed. She wails. She calls out for Daddy (the white knight who is sure to rescue her, in her mind). She insists she has to pee, often three or four times in a thirty minute span, squeezing out droplets to prove she was right, she really did have to pee. This goes on until, typically, 10:00 or so. Bed time is between 8:00 and 8:30.

It's not just her bedtime she is affecting. It's her brothers' bedtimes and her parents' evenings, too. The boys need to sleep and we need to have our time.

At first, I thought it was the continuing afternoon nap. I tried (much as I hated to) a couple of days without naps. Nap or no nap, the evenings were the same.

I tried waiting it out for a week or so, like I had with similar routine disruptions with the boys. It went on too long for that.

Then I realized it's a plain old power struggle.

Once I realized this, I have to say I gained a new respect for my daughter's will. It's a strong one. She is going to get what she wants in this life, one way or another – though not at bedtime, at least not right now. I identify with her strong will. I've been called a tad stubborn myself.

A matter of endurance

As the mom in this situation, I have to "win," or at least out-endure her. Whatever it takes, I have to ride it out. I have to offer than consistent message of "This is bedtime and it is time to settle down and sleep." I have to be firm and loving at the same time. I have to do this every night, week in and week out, for as long as it takes. I will.

I may lose my mind in the meantime, but that's just details.

More bedtime tips and tricks

The importance of bedtime routines
Go the F**k to Sleep and other bedtime stories for parents
How to help your kids fall to sleep at night

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