When you had a newborn, bedtime was a flurry of baths, feeding, rocking, waking up at night and plenty of crying. Luckily, as your child ages, there are no more sleep worries, right? Unfortunately, no. While you might not have to do the whole swaddling and feeding thing for your toddler or preschooler, your little one does get a little more creative with stalling for time at night. Laughable, silly and downright crazy, you can't help but shake your head at some of the excuses your child gives you to avoid bedtime.
"But my friend doesn't go to bed until after Blues Clues!" You can thank your child's playmate for little nuggets of information that make you look like the bad guy. Little kids can't always tell time, but they can use nightly landmarks to compare bedtimes. If your night owl is playing the friend card, let him know that his friend's mommy makes different rules than you do. And, if you really want to be the hero, let him stay up and watch an episode of Blues once in a while.
"I need a drink." Hey, kids get thirsty. But after the third round of gulping water down like he's lost in the Sahara, your child could easily pee the bed. You'll have to bite your lip and fill the cup until it's last call and you're closing up the bar. Limiting the number of drinks your child downs before bed is a good idea, especially if you're potty training. Try switching to smaller cups and setting the limit at three.
"It's too dark/too light/too noisy." When a child is trying to avoid going to sleep, everything becomes the sleep-robbing culprit. From a missing nightlight to the moon being "too bright," your night rider is on the prowl to find things that annoy him. All you can do is tour his room before bed. Point out anything that could be annoying, plug in the nightlight, draw the drapes and turn on the fan so your guy can get some shut-eye.
"I can't find my blanket!" Kids are addicted to their lovies, which means a red light in your bedtime routine. While you might roll your eyes at your child's stalling, lovies are something you don't want to mess with. Since it's a comfort item that helps your child settle, it's all hands on deck until you can find the beloved blanket or toy.
"I forgot to tell you something!" It's a classic kid moment: You're just about to shut off the light and all of a sudden, your little one needs to fill you in on what happened at playgroup or the funny thing that dad said. In reality, he's just scrambling for ways to spend a little more time with you. That's why having a five-minute recap of the day during his bedtime routine could mean an easier lights-out for you.
"My ______ hurts." Usually said in a whiny voice, you might not know when your child's phantom pain is actually legit. Leg and arm pain might sound incredulous, but growing pains mean it could be for real. Or, it could be stomach pains due to sickness or even hunger. Hand over a child-safe hot water bottle and you should get some peace and quiet.
"There's a monster under my bed!" For as long as there's been children, there's been the age-old complaint of bedroom monsters. Whether your kid just got an eyeful of Monsters, Inc. or he had a bad dream, don't discount these worries. Instead, validate his feelings by doing a pre-bedtime monster check or filling a spray bottle with water and spritzing his room with "monster repellant."
"I'm not tired." After a day's worth of running around, playtime, mealtime, cleaning up and everything else you do as a parent, you're definitely dead on your feet come bedtime. But your little one might still be wide awake, afraid he's going to miss all the cool stuff while he's tucked into bed. Indulge your child once (an extra story might help) and then keep the house quiet for the rest of the night so you can indulge in reality TV in peace.
"I didn't get to _______ today!" Your child is many things: smart, funny, silly, creative and curious. But there's a good chance your toddler or preschooler isn't exactly reasonable. When he remembers that he wanted to go to the park or build a dinosaur out of clay during the day, he might use it as an excuse to avoid bedtime. You can quell his fears that he'll forget in the morning by setting out his sneakers or certain playthings before bed. It works as a guarantee that he can try again tomorrow.
"I hafta pee." Sorry, mama. The nonstop trips to the bathroom are just a fact of life, especially if your little one is potty training. Your best bet is to behave unceremoniously. Help him use the potty and return him to bed without a word so he learns that having to pee at night doesn't mean an automatic potty party.
Pediatrics sleep consultant Irene Gouge reminds parents that sleep shouldn't be an optional activity for your little one. "Well-slept children will be happy, adaptable, and able to handle changes," she says. "Having predictable routines and consistent parental responses are key to keeping sleep habits in place." By taking a hard line and institution a "no more sleep stalling" rule, you'll set a precedent in your home: Sleep is important ... for everyone.
Of course, those few hours of quiet time you get are pretty precious too. Television marathon, anyone?