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Got bedtime power struggles? Oh, friend, I feel you!
For me the bedtime routine is bittersweet. Sweet because I LOVE snuggling with a sleepy, freshly bathed kiddo in warm jammies. Kissing their forehead and whispering prayers. One last hug before the day is done. But bitter because…well, let’s face it, sometimes getting there is a battle.
Some days, I get pushback. “But I don’t wanna take a bath,” they whine. “No brushie teeth,” my toddler says. “Can’t we just play five more minutes?” (You get the idea.)
Over the years, I’ve developed some bedtime hacks to end the bedtime battle once and for all. (Or at least make them a little more peaceful and less stressful for everyone!)
11 Tips for Peacefully Ending the Bedtime Battle
1. Get organized for bedtime right after dinner
If you have a partner or family member to help out, you can tag team to get everything ready. One person can clean up the supper dishes while the other gets everything ready for bed.
(Pick out pajamas and lay them out, make sure everyone has a towel… Are we out of soap again? Lay out clothes for the next day. Turn down the beds, find the blankie and stuffed animal, etc.)
Having everything organized will help things feel less chaotic and prevent running around all over the house looking for that missing teddy or the last pair of clean underwear.
2. Let them finish what they’re doing
For us grownups, it’s so hard when we’re in the middle of something to stop and leave it unfinished to go do something else.
It works the same way for kids and their bedtime routine! If they’re in the middle of playing a board game or building with blocks, be sure to give them enough advanced notice so they can wrap it up before getting ready for bed.
Instead of, “Okay, it’s time for bed! Come downstairs right now!” Try saying, “It’s time to wrap up for the day. In 20 minutes we’ll start our nighttime routine. What do you need to finish before you take your bath?”
Giving them enough time to wrap things up will help avoid a power struggle. It also helps them feel prepared for what comes next. Oftentimes my kids are so busy having fun that they don’t even realize it’s getting close to bedtime!
3. Validate their feelings
When rushing through bedtime routines it can be tempting to say, “I don’t care if you want to brush your teeth or not, you’re doing it anyway! You don’t want them to fall out, do you?!”
But one key to avoiding power struggles and helping your child feel heard is to validate their feelings and show them you understand.
“You feel frustrated when it’s time to put away your toys.” “I know brushing your teeth isn’t your favorite thing to do.”
4. Do the hard stuff first
Where do you usually get the most pushback? Teeth brushing? If so, try putting that first on your bedtime to-do list.
You can say, “As soon as you brush your teeth, we’ll (take a bath/read a story). This will get the dreaded thing done and over with first so the rest of the night can be smooth sailing.
5. Offer a choice
If your child is resistant to doing the hard stuff first, you can offer a choice.
“Would you like to brush your teeth first or take a bath?”
This helps them feel more in control and less likely to initiate a power struggle.