Are you sick of getting your kids that “one more drink of water” after tucking them into bed each night? Bedtime excuses are common in kids of all ages, and can lead to much frustration for parents.
There are several ways to handle bedtime excuses and avoid the extra stress that comes along with putting energetic kids to sleep.
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1. Address all possible issues beforehand
Make a list of all of your child’s usual bedtime complaints and run through them each night before tucking them in. Do they have a cup of water? Have they used the toilet? Brushed their teeth? Got their favorite stuffy or blanket? It’s no guarantee that they won’t come up with something else but at least you’ll have the bases covered.
2. Spend quality time together before bed
This is something that our family has recently started doing and it’s made a huge improvement in the number of bedtime excuses. Since we started putting the toddler to bed a half hour earlier than the older two, it allows time to do more “un-toddler friendly” activities like crafts, puzzles, board games or science experiments.
You can try starting a big puzzle and working on it a little bit each night. One of these Roll & Go mats will help you save your progress without making a mess.
We all know how much children love attention, and at bedtime is no exception. Spending some time together right before bed can satisfy your child’s need for some extra one-on-one time.
3. Offer a distraction
Kids have wild imaginations and lying alone in bed is the perfect time for a child to come up with all kinds of excuses as to why they can’t sleep. A distraction at bedtime is a great way to help them slow down their thoughts and forget that they needed to tell you about something funny that happened that day.
The Tranquil Turtle by Cloud B is a popular choice for good reason. It’s soft enough to cuddle with, projects soothing underwater images and plays ocean sounds.
4. Stick to a consistent routine
Consistency is key when it comes to sleep training at any age. Handling bedtime excuses requires the same practice as sleep training a baby, and having a designated routine will help teach your child what’s expected of them. If your kids know what to expect when it’s bedtime, they will be less likely to ask if they can stay up longer or refuse to go to bed altogether.
5. Be boring
Dealing with bedtime excuses over and over again can be extremely frustrated and drive a parent to the edge of madness. Staying calm and positive is easier said than done but at the very least – try to be boring.
Make yourself a cup of tea, grab a good book and sit outside their bedroom door, waiting for the excuses to come rolling out. Then handle each one in a slow, controlled manner and speak in a monotone voice (if you need to speak at all). Basically, try to be as boring as possible. Eventually, they’ll realize that it’s no fun getting out of bed.
6. Fresh air & exercise
If your child seems to have an abundance of energy at bedtime, consider how much fresh air and exercise they are getting throughout the day. While they may be active enough, fresh air and heart-pumping exercise is important to make sure they get enough oxygen in their blood. Tired kids make way fewer excuses than ones with some residual energy leftover at the end of the day. An after dinner walk may help to get your kids off to dreamland a lot faster.
7. Avoid giving in
Kids are way smarter than we give them credit for. And if we give in to one excuse, even on a night when we’re exhausted and at our limit, they will remember it and realize that it worked. They don’t call it a bedtime battle for nothing. If the bedtime excuses have gotten out of control and you truly want to put an end to them for good – then you have to stand your ground and avoid giving in.
8. Give out one free pass
Finally, my favorite tip to battle bedtime excuses is the use of a free pass. This has been tried and tested on my middle daughter, a.k.a. the QUEEN of bedtime excuses. Essentially, each child is given one free pass to use after they’ve been tucked into bed. If they absolutely need something, they may use their one free pass, i.e. one excuse. But once it’s been used, there’s no more excuses for the night. It provides something solid in the way of “just one more” and gives your child a sense of control and lesson in prioritizing.
2. Print it (preferably on card stock) using double-sided print settings.
3. Cut out the door hanger and hang it on your child’s bedroom door with the available side facing out.
4. When your child has used their one free pass, turn it around to the “Already Used” side so that your child knows there are no more excuses allowed tonight.
Bonus: If your child hasn’t used their free pass by morning you can offer them a reward!