Bedtime Battles: 5 Steps to Get Your Kids to Bed on Time with No Complaints

girl sitting at the window

Do you struggle with bedtime battles? This is such a common area of stress for many parents (myself included). Kids may fight the expectations of going to bed and going to bed in a timely fashion. They may whine and complain or tantrum and cry. They may dilly-dally or get distracted.

So, if you are looking for a solution to the bedtime battles, follow the 5 steps below.

Step 1. Create a bedtime routine.

This should include activities that are fairly calm. For instance, your children’s bedtime routine could include

  • a quick clean up of their toys,
  • a snack,
  • brushing teeth,
  • pajamas on,
  • and having a book read to them.

Step 2. Create a visual schedule for the bedtime routine so everyone remembers what is expected.

Place the schedule in an easily accessible location for quick reference until everyone gets to the point where things are flowing smoothly. A visual schedule can be a list of all of the activities or it can include images and checkboxes. It may also be made with a laminated chart 4and velcro icons.

Step 3. Provide positive reinforcement for following the schedule.

Give lots of praise when your child is participating in and completing the bedtime routine. Positive reinforcement should be anything that your child may like that will motivate him or her to complete the routine again in the future, such as 20 minutes of electronic time (possibly to use in the morning), an extra bedtime story, or a quarter. Always give praise and attention, as well.

Step 4. Ignore bad behavior.

Ignoring the undesired behavior as much as possible is recommended. Paying attention to it just often escalates the situation and stresses you and your child out.

Also, sometimes kids regress and display some problematic behaviors that they don’t usually have. This is okay. No one can have things together 100% of the time, especially a growing, tired child.

Step 5. Remove distractions and refuse to participate in the battle.

If your child is a dilly-dallyer (they waste time and get distracted), remove the distractions. For instance, if they notice a toy and start playing with it during pajama or snack time, remove the toy and remind them of the part of the routine that is supposed to be occurring.

A battle requires more than one person. Refuse to get involved in an argument with your child. Simply state the expectation, remove distractions, reinforce positive behaviors, and commit to the schedule and your new way of interacting with your child.


Announcement: I will be launching an email course: Ultimate Parenting Success: Raising Toddlers very soon. To register to be notified of this course and also to get access to a free expert tip shift for raising toddlers, go to: and sign up to receive the FREE EXPERT TIP SHEET: 7 Expert Solutions to Your Toddler Parenting Concerns You Can Use Right Now

image credit: Konstantin Yuganov via Fotalia



About Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA. Heather has obtained a master's degree in clinical social work and a bachelor's degree in psychology with a youth services minor. Heather is also a Board Certified Behavior Analysts. Additionally, Heather is a dedicated and passionate freelance writer. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, mental health, happiness, and life coaching.
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