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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Comments on "Bedtime battles: A matter of endurance"

amy September 26, 2010 | 6:59 PM

I have a toddler bed ready to put up, but , to be honest I am dreading it. what then??? I know all about consistency, we do the same thing everynight at the same time. I am about to loose my mind!!!! The person suffering the most besides myself is my 5 year old, who shares a room with the two year old. The poor guy has to go to school and isn't getting enough sleep. I guess i'm just running out of ideas and sanity. he is such a beautiful child but is also terror on two feet!!!! lol!!! any suggestions??

bford January 06, 2010 | 8:09 PM

If your 2 year old knows how to get out of the crib, it is time to get him a regular bed. This will be disruptive at first, but you will soon be glad you did. As for bedtime battles, consistency is the key. Do the same thing, at the same time, every night. Be kind, softspoken, and firm.

Amanda November 08, 2008 | 7:23 AM

Knowing there are others going through this makes me feel a bit better. My 2 year old has recently learned to get out of the crib, and is now taking 2 hrs a night to get him down for sleep. I'm hoping to get the toddler bed set up ASAP - hope this helps. Good luck to all of us on sticking to our guns and coming out "the winners."

Stacey November 06, 2008 | 7:04 PM

Ditto on letting us know we are not the only ones in the boat! I have a very strong-willed 2 year old who thinks sleeping means she will miss something exciting! One night, after the 12th time of putting her back to bed, she started laughing - thinking it was a game. I have cut out the nap, and that seems to have helped. You are dead on about sticking it out, and thank for the encouragement!

Breezy November 06, 2008 | 7:13 AM

Jen, I am so relieved to see that I am not the only one dealing with this issue. My husband and I are so incredibly frustrated with our soon to be 4 year old. It has been a struggle for about 2 months now. We keep up with the routine and continuously pray that one of these nights it will dawn on him that we aren't giving in. Thank you.

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