Bedtime Battles

Okay, I’m doing something wrong. I know I am. The last couple of nights it’s a freaking scene trying to get Vivien to sleep. I admit it does not bring out the best in me. I just want a little TV/reading time and then to go to sleep.

Just a few nights ago, she told me to beat it, and she went down peacefully all by herself. But the last two nights are indicative of what about 25% percent of my week is with her. I say, “last cartoon.” Then we go and book out picks, have some milk, brush teeth, a little talk or song, and sleep… except she is writhing around and doesn’t want to sleep, can’t sleep. I stay with her while she sleeps. I have since she was tiny. It bugs Mark, but I’m like, hey you aren’t home at bedtime most of the time anyway, so what do you care?

I can stay till she goes to sleep, that’s okay… when it’s a few minutes, but these nighttime battles are making me bonkers.

My neighbor said yesterday that her kids pass out at 7:30. Wow, that would be a dream. Her kids are a little older and no longer have a naptime at school. Okay, so I told Vivien, “You don’t have to nap at school” hoping she would be so pooped I’d be watching “Modern Family” all relaxed with a facial mask.

Mark looked horrified when I said “no nap.”

“But she will come home in a terrible mood.” Let’s try it, I said.

Sure enough.  After school Vivien, my sister Cecily and I all played Zingo till Vivien threw all the pieces down on the ground and rushed from the screaming, “You aren’t going to win, you aren’t going to win.”

Later, dinnertime went fine, last cartoon, fine. Reading books, teeth brushing, check and check. The lights when out.  And “Mommy I do not want to go to sleep.”


I said, fine, take your time, but I’m moving on. I didn’t say, “I’m tired of being your hostage.” Though I thought it. But she follows me out and says, “What should we do now mommy?”

Go to bed, that’s what we should do. Go to sleep. I remember some child development class saying stressing them out about bedtime is a bad idea, but now, I’M STRESSED.

Rex is looking perplexed, but now he see’s Vivien, so he is excited and he isn’t going down. Now I need to nurse him and get her down. And it’s 9:12 and I want to shut my door and watch TV by myself or take a bubble bath, or put a hobo sack over my solider and jump on a freight car.

14 thoughts on “Bedtime Battles

  1. sorry to hear about your bedtime battles… and sorrier i don’t have any fix-its for you. :-/

    when zel (our 9.5 year old) was viv’s age, she went through a rough patch with going to bed, but we would just shout from the living room that we were off duty and DONE for the night. And then ignored her. But, we didn’t lay down with her ever, so i don’t think our method would work, especially since viv is just following you out of the room. zel always stayed in her bed, luckily for us. hrm.. bedtime issues are definitely some of toughest things for parents, based on all our friends. good luck!

  2. Hi there! I love your blog…so entertaining!

    I have a suggestion for bedtime. While I do not have children I have been watching children for about 15 years.
    I find that when they are wound up at night and don’t want to sleep to give them a nice relaxed warm bath…then go slowly about getting them dressed and then STRAIGHT to bed with a book or two. It seems to relax them enough to start them getting sleepy….

    Just a suggestion 🙂

    Take Care,


  3. Daphne,
    I hate to say it, but I think it is time to stop Vivien’s nap. My kids all went through this when they were her age – nightmares at bedtime because they had gotten a nap in the afternoon. They simply weren’t tired enough to go to bed at a reasonable time (7:30-8:00pm). Once I stopped the nap, the bedtime problem went away, and they were happy to go to bed. I definitely need some time to myself in the evening, so it has never worked for my kids to stay up late. There will be an adjustment period as she gets used to staying up all day – brace yourself!
    The other things that I have started watching out for are too much sugar late in the day, and too much tv in the evening – I try to limit the desserty stuff in the evening and keep the tv off as much as possible (difficult!). Also, popcorn is a good evening snack – fills them up and apparently helps induce sleep – it has been working like a charm with my 9 year old who often has had trouble falling asleep at night. This has been an issue with my kids, so I can completely relate. It’s so difficult.
    Good luck!
    PS: how is Rex sleeping at night these days??

  4. OH! Just when I thought Rex couldn’t get any cuter. I just want to pick him up…anyway, I do a couple of things, I always begin with a bath, then straight to bed, while the fuzzy, warm feeling is still there. No getting up for anything, teeth are brushed, hair blown dry, allllllllll done. Jammies, and in bed.

    We read a book, quietly. Then, I leave their night stand light on and let them look at the book. I leave the door open and tell them that my work with them is done for the day, I have to do all the other things now. Like laundry, etc., OTHERWISE I’ll have to do all that stuff during the day the next day and won’t be able to play with them.

    What happens is that, IF they do get out of bed and need me, then I make sure that the next day I don’t play with them (sounds mean, I know) but I spend the day in housework, and if they want me to play, I keep saying over and over “sorry, can’t…remember you took my housecleaning time up last night, when you were supposed to stay in bed? now I have to clean, cuz I didn’t get to last night..” A few days of that, and they made the association quickly.

    But, I think, what really does the trick is the earplugs I put in right when I put them down. It muffles the noise coming from them just enough to not get on my nerves, and I don’t run in there all the time, kinda hear them, kinda don’t.

    I swear by the ear plugs, the kids end up falling asleep with no interaction from me. They learn pretty quickly, that I am done for the night. I went to a child behavior workshop, and the speaker said, “any kind of interaction from you gives them hope, they know if they keep trying, they’ll get some sort of face time. So, any words , good or bad, gives them hope.” So, I think of that and just zip my lip. No interaction.

  5. My suggestion: Tell her “You don’t have to sleep, but you do have to stay in bed.” Make sure you don’t do anything interesting, maybe she feels like she’s missing out on all the good stuff?

    Set her up with a relaxing CD, tell her to relax her body from toes to head and think quiet thoughts. But she can’t be getting up, following you through the house. If she gets up, silently walk her back to her room. Don’t engage, don’t make it interesting, but do keep it consistent.

    It’s so hard to stay on top of things when you’re tired! I know.

  6. Daphne, I am so sorry. Thankfully Moanna is still in her crib, so she can’t follow us out of the room, but I know the day is coming.

    Moanna tries to talk her way out of bed when we lay her down. We say prayers, give kisses, and say good night. When she protests, we say “It’s bed time. We need to get some good sleep so that we can color/make cookies/watch a movie/play games/whatever.” We close the door and that’s the end of it. She may fuss for a minute but usually she accepts it and goes to sleep. Again she is in her crib still.

    It could be that she is anxious about something. I know kids go through a phase of being afraid of something happening to them or their family while they are sleeping. They think that if they don’t sleep, it won’t happen. Try talking to her about why she doesn’t want to sleep. Is she afraid, not tired, just rotten, is getting sick?

    Maybe it’s time to institute the star chart. Map out the bedtime routine on a poster board. Let her put a clothes pin or something on each thing when it’s completed (brush teeth – check). When it gets to be the end, she puts a clip on the picture of the bed and goes to bed. If she goes to bed and stays there, no fuss, in the morning she gets to put a sticker on a chart. The next night the bedtime map is paper clip free and you start again. The point of the bedtime map, is to solidify the routine. She knows what’s coming next and isn’t shocked when it’s time to lay down because she know’s it’s coming. It also shows her that once you lay in bed, there is no more stories etc. When she gets X amount of stickers for staying in bed she gets a special treat.

  7. I cannot adequately express how much I feel your pain. Our daughter is almost three and has been keeping me hostage at bedtime for a couple of weeks now. Last night was especially bad. I hate the mom that I am when she does this. But if I let her cry/scream, she’ll do so until she pukes or the police come. Plus I’m not such a fan of listing to my child beg for me.

    Offers of treats, stickers, ponies and hovercrafts do not work. Threats do not work. Pleading doesn’t work. So I don’t have any advice, just commiseration…if you find something that works, please share!

  8. Rex is so delicious oh my goodness! Do you bite him?

    I know exactly what STRESS you are talking about. I really look forward to my calm evenings when the kids are asleep and I get to chill for a couple of hours and when my daughter starts acting up and cutting into that time–well, let’s just say it’s not pretty.

    Usually she just wants another song or another story or (when she sees I’m real upset) ‘just another hug and kiss mommy that’s all’. I really love the Supernanny so I just do what she says and say ‘It’s bedtime’ and don’t go back in her room. Not sure if it will help you but it’s worth a try!

  9. thank you all. would have written sooner, but just had a battle with my girl who didn’t nap-again. I am “not a nice mommy” because I asked her to not eat chocolate pudding on my bed.

    I like hearing the “my job is done” approach. I feel kind of mean when I really want to bail. I’m wondering if I should get more food in her at night.
    The star thing sounds cool too. But, I bet it will be a while before I get that together.

    btw Rex-yes, I kiss him all the time.. is doing better. He woke up once at 11, and I did a non Ferber replacing the pacifier and he slept till almost 6!
    went so well I checked for breathing once.

  10. Those were tough times indeed. We don’t envy you. Good luck.

    Naps never seemed to impact night time for us. If our kids slept for two hours during the day or none, the night time routine was always the same.

    You might want to think about letting her be more independent now. Let her “read” by herself, look at books, draw a picture in bed, etc for 20-30minutes without you. Tell here when that time is up, it’s lights out.

    Or get your husband to deal half the time.

    All the best to you. Either way in a few years this will pass. Lots of coffee!!

  11. Bedtime battles are so maddening, aren’t they? My son quit napping at 13 months. 13 MONTHS. I begged for a kiddie sleeping pill—no luck. He just didn’t need the sleep.

    Now that he’s 5, we still struggle with bedtime. Once he’s asleep, he’s out for the night. But getting him to go to sleep is a saga. After trying everything we could think of and still having a child who took 1-2 hours to fall asleep, our pediatrician recommended Melatonin supplements. They are all natural, non-habbit forming, and totally safe. You give them one pill approximately 30 minutes before bed and it begins the sleep cycle. it works like a charm. It can be used short term or longer, if needed. We buy our meatonin at Whole Foods in a chewable, so he takes it along with his vitamin right before bed. If it continues to be a struggle, you might ask your pediatrician about it.

  12. Hi Daphne,

    Bedtime battles can be brutal, no question about it. From what I read of your routine, I’d first try cutting out that last cartoon. All the research shows that screen time can elicit a stress response in your child’s brain–even “educational” shows. That’s just one suggestion. I have others on my website, or feel free to shoot me an email if you want or reply here. Good luck, these battles are no fun–I speak from experience!

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