Your little princess is finally tucked in when you hear, “Mommy, I’m thirsty.” A glass of water reminds her about the fairy story you said you’d read, which reminds her she has to get up and look for her book for library day tomorrow, which…kids are masters of bedtime stalling tactics, says Lisa Meltzer, PhD, a pediatric sleep specialist at National Jewish Health in Denver.
To stifle the stall: Set up a calm bedtime routine—20 to 45 minutes—that might include a snack, bath, pj’s, teeth brushing, potty, then reading or songs (something she likes) in the bedroom. reinforce this schedule with a bedtime chart your child can help make using old magazines or photo prints to show each activity. Then you can say, “the chart says you already had a drink and two stories. now it’s time to sleep,” says Dr. meltzer, adding that consistency is key.
Your child’s protests may increase before they decrease, “but if you’re consistent, they’ll diminish after several nights when she realizes her tactics won’t work,” Dr. Meltzer notes. “if you give in, she learns that she’ll get her way if she keeps making requests.” Once the stalling stops, have the “sleep fairy” leave a sticker reward under her pillow every night for the first two weeks, and then sporadically, as “she has a lot of children to visit.”