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A classic battle occurs in many homes at bedtime. Parents are eager to have some quiet time at the end of the day by themselves, and children usually want to stay up and play. So what do you do when children are either resistant to going to bed or won’t stay in bed, once put there?

I have found that the key to handling the “Can I stay up a little longer?” battle is to announce that bed time is in half an hour to give them time to get ready and do all the bedtime ritual stuff. With younger children a bedtime ritual would be to get them in their pajamas. Ask them if they are hungry or thirsty and feed them if needed. Sometimes little children need a nutritional snack to get them through the night. Then brush and floss their teeth. Read to them or tell them a bedtime story. Children love to hear stories of their parent’s childhood.

It is time now to get in bed and kiss each of them goodnight. A simple kiss goodnight and telling them you love them is sufficient for most nights, but sometimes it is nice to have a little talk. You can rotate which night you stay and talk on the edge of the bed with each child. Five minutes in each room talking to them about their day or giving them a back rub or singing them a song creates a special bond between parent and child.

A fun thing to do at bedtime is to allow children to spend the night in their sibling’s room. They invite each other to spend the night just as they would one of their friends. Being together makes it easier for them to stay in bed at times. Throw a sleeping bag and pad on the floor and let them giggle and whisper themselves to sleep. Spending the night together is special treat to look forward to and creates a friendship and bond with each other.

What should you do if you have a 3 year old who stays up until 2:00 in the morning? Make staying up no fun! Put away all the toys and put on a boring movie that only you like and they will get bored and want to go to bed. Also, around the age of three, nap times during the day need to go for some kids. This is a difficult transition time- sometimes you even need to avoid car rides in the late afternoon so they won’t fall asleep or they won’t go to bed until midnight!

Parents have to remember they are the bosses! If all the above doesn’t work peacefully, you make it work regardless! We have to be smarter, more imaginative and stronger than our children. When I say more imaginative, this comes in handy when you have a child that says there are monsters in their closet; you have to be more imaginative to explain why there are no monsters! Say there are magical fairies or pokemon to fight away the
monsters. Whatever it takes to calm those over active imaginations.

So, the next time your children says, “But, I am not sleepy”, you say, “I don’t care if you’re not sleepy, your father and I need some time to ourselves, bedtime is in half an hour!” Most importantly, be consistent and never give-in to their ploys! Once you decide to rid your house of bedtime battles, then half the battle is over! But most importantly, if children feel satisfied that they have gotten the attention they need, they are more willing to stay in bed.