Consequences for Bedtime Battles that Work

Is your child misbehaving at bedtime and refusing to go to bed? Check out these effective consequences for bedtime battles that work!

Consequences for Bedtime BattlesThe last thing any parent wants to deal with at the end of the day is a battle of wills with her child. But for many of us, this is exactly what happens every night, right when we have the least patience and willpower.

Maybe you have to take your toddler back to bed 20 times a night because he won’t stay in bed. The second you leave, he’s already crying hysterically and heading to the door, so much so that you have to stand outside his room.

He drags this whole fiasco as long as he can, taking him nearly two hours to fall asleep. Never mind that he still wakes up five times, and can sometimes stay awake for several hours at night.

You’ve tried taking his toys away, or giving a reward for easy bedtimes. You’ve even begged and yelled, but nothing is working.

Consequences for bedtime battles

If only bedtime was seamless, each night. Instead, you can’t get your hyperactive child to settle down, he misbehaves when he should listen, or he simply refuses to go to sleep.

You may not even know how it got to this point, except you do know it needs to get fixed, fast. It’s all too easy to get frustrated and feel crazy when you don’t know how to make this easier.

I hear you, friend. I know all too well the importance of a good bedtime for younger children, and how to respond with consequences that are effective and empathetic. Take a look at these suggestions below to turn bedtime battles around:

2 Year Old Refuses to Sleep

1. Do the bedtime routine before anything else

What are some of the privileges your child gets to do at the end of the night? Maybe it’s watching an episode of a television show, reading bedtime books, or playing with his toys.

Instead of doing these before he starts his bedtime routine, do it as a reward for doing so.

For instance, have him brush his teeth, use the potty, take a bath, and change in pajamas—all before he gets to watch his favorite show. He still might whine, but he has more of an incentive to get them “out of the way” in time to participate in activities he likes.

Children's Books about Bedtime

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2. Implement a hard cutoff

Don’t put up with stall tactics—instead, implement a hard cutoff. If it’s time to turn off the tablet and your child refuses, take the tablet from his hands. If he won’t stop playing with his toys, put them away for storage until tomorrow.

You might even use a timer so it doesn’t feel like you’re stopping his fun just because. Instead, the timer is the one that’s saying when it’s time to stop.

Don’t beg or plead, but don’t be upset about it, either—simply do what needs to get done in a matter-of-fact way. By controlling the environment that allows him to delay bedtime or not, you eliminate yet another obstacle to bedtime.

3. Prevent stall tactics

Another way for a smoother bedtime is to prevent your child’ stall tactics to begin with.

Let’s say she delays bedtime by getting out of her room claiming she needs a glass of water. Set a sippy cup by her bed, so that she can reach for it any time.

Or perhaps she drags bedtime reading with constant requests for another bedtime story. Set a pile of books aside, letting her know you’ll stop when the books run out. Maybe she insists that she needs to use the potty again (and again). Have her sit for one last potty break before you settle in for the night.

By beating her to the punch, you can prevent many of the gimmicks that prolong bedtime.

4. Give choices

Sometimes your child’s rebellion rises because she’s simply tired of being told what to do all the time. From what she eats to when she sleeps, you pretty much decide nearly everything about her day.

One way to help her be more willing to oblige is to give choices during transitions, all while being firm on what’s non-negotiable.

For instance, she has to stay in her room for the night, but she can decide whether to sleep in her bed or in a sleeping bag. Changing into pajamas is a non-negotiable, but she can choose to wear either the superhero ones or a t-shirt and shorts.

You have to be okay with either choice she makes, as well as hold your ground on what’s not up for debate. But by giving her a say and inviting her into the decision-making process, she’ll be more likely to follow through with the choices she makes.

Learn more about how giving children choices gets them to listen.

Giving Children Choices

5. Use “lost time”

How do you tie your child’s bedtime tantrums with lost privileges when they don’t seem related? After all, we’ve all heard to take them away, but it’s tough to tie in behavior problems the previous night to what he gets to do the next day.

One way is to explain it through “lost time.”

Let’s say it’s taking some time for him to settle down and stay in his bed. You might say, “The longer we stay awake tonight, the less time we’ll have to watch television.”

The next day, explain that he won’t have screen time because it had taken him a whole hour to fall asleep. Or perhaps you were supposed to take him to the park as part of your schedule. But now, you have to use that time to catch up on things you couldn’t get to the previous night.

And still another consequence for lost time could simply be an earlier bedtime. You might explain that he’ll be extra tired from being up the previous night. To make sure he’s well-rested, you’re going to move bedtime up 30 minutes earlier to catch up on lost sleep.

In other words, his choices at bedtime is going to affect what he gets to do the next day.

Toddler Bedtime Tantrums

6. Keep your child in his room

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The first time we converted my son’s crib into a toddler bed, he kept getting out of his room. So much so that, two hours later, I was still walking him back to bed, with no end in sight.

To stop this from happening, I closed the door and checked in on him strategically.

You’ll definitely want to baby proof the room, just as you made sure his crib was safe to sleep in. Having a baby monitor in the room can also let you see what he’s up to without having to open the door. And checking in on him every 15 minutes will reassure him that you’re still here, but that it’s time to sleep.

The most important part? Congratulate him the next day for staying in his room with lots of kisses. Yup, even if he cried for mommy or daddy and woke up all through the night. Let him know that he was a champ for doing what you asked, even though it was a new experience.

Crib to Toddler Bed


Finding consequences for bedtime battles starts with preventative measures first. Run through your bedtime routine before his preferred activities to ensure that they get done. Implement a hard cutoff instead of pleading, begging, or threatening him to do (or stop) something.

Prevent stall tactics by setting clear boundaries and doing what he usually requests before bedtime. Let him decide between two parent-approved choices, so long as you’re firm about the non-negotiable.

Use “lost time” as a way to take privileges away the next day, whether activities he doesn’t get to do or by having an early bedtime. And finally, keep him in his room to stop him from leaving throughout the night.

No more battle of wills, friend! Now bedtime can be smooth and peaceful once again.

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  1. How do you do this morning session with multiple kids? I have 4 total, 3 of them are 3 and under.

    Also, biggest struggle is bed time for the 3 year old and 21 month old. It’s a major battle every night. They started sharing a room when baby 4 arrived. We’ve tried everything and it still takes at least 90 minutes from start to finish with a lot of yelling, threats and frustration.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Boy, 4 with 3 who are 3 and under is rough! I had 3 with 3 and under but not 4 lol.

      It’s so especially hard when they’re close in age. My twins tend to argue with each other more so than with their older brother. One thing I would do is to stay really, really consistent with your routine, and enforce any consequences that happen if they don’t follow it. For instance, if you typically read books at the end of the night, but they took too long to get dressed, then they’ve lost the privilege of reading books because they have to be in bed by a certain time. Let the natural consequences teach them that you really mean your word when you say something.

      That said, don’t make it sound like a threat or that it’s punishment. State it like a matter of fact, like you were saying the weather or the time of day. You could say, “Well, it’s 8pm, and that’s when bedtime is. Looks like we won’t be able to read tonight. Hopefully tomorrow we can bathe on time and read.”

      Also, give choices when it matters. Let’s say you struggle to get them to change into pajamas. Give them a choice between two things to wear, both of which you’re totally fine with. You could say, “It’s time to change into pajamas. Do you want to wear the ninja one or the striped one?” Then honor the choice they make.

      And again, be consistent with the routine itself. Do the same things at the same times and in the same order. The more you do this, the more automatic it becomes, like a habit, where they won’t even have to think about it. You’ll be able to be flexible down the line, but for now, you need to be strict with time and the activities you do, so that it becomes ingrained into their nighttime routine.

      Lastly, give them as much autonomy as possible, especially the oldest one. Let them have responsibilities and teach them self-sufficiency so that they need you to do things for them less and less. It can be little things like pumping the soap into their hands or getting their diapers or putting dirty clothes in the hamper. The more independent they can be, the less you’ll have to do for them.

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