Toddler Stalling Tactics at Bedtime: Calm The Chaos

Toddler Stalling Tactics at Bedtime: Calm The Chaos
Alex Warrack

Alex Warrack

Hi, I am Alex! I’m new to the Bella Luna team so you don’t know much about me yet!  I’m excited to share more about my little one and some of the antics she has been up to lately, including typical toddler stalling tactics at bedtime!

I am the proud mom to a beautiful, kind, sweet 2-year-old, Adeline.

Did I also mention she is a crazy monkey that can literally climb the walls, jump for 10 minutes straight and out run me?

I feel like overnight my explorative baby drank an extra-large Red Bull and hasn’t stopped drinking it since becoming a toddler! Trying to keep up with her during the day is exhausting, but honestly, bedtime had become the most exhausting time of the day.

Toddlerhood brings on a whole new phase of parenting. From tantrums to changes in sleep behavior, and transitioning to a big kid bed.  I expected all this, but what I didn’t expect is the change to our bedtime routine.

Out of nowhere, Addie started boycotting bedtime and bringing in all the toddler bedtime stalling tactics!  If you are a parent to a toddler or have parented a toddler, you know what I am talking about.

My husband and I created a bedtime routine that we loved, and Addie seemed to really enjoy it. Then, almost like someone flipped a light switch, bedtime turned into an epic battle.  

She wants to play with one more toy.

She is running away from us when it’s teeth brushing time.

She’s hiding behind furniture where we can’t reach her avoiding bedtime. 

The list goes on and on…

Let’s explore together, why toddlers stall at bedtime and how we got back to our calming bedtime routine.

Why Do Toddlers Stall at Bedtime?

For me, this was an obvious answer because of Adeline’s personality. She has FOMO (fear of missing out)!

Simply put, bedtime is boring, and she wanted to stay up and play with her toys and us.

Also playing into it is I’m a working mom. Addie was craving attention and connection from being apart all day.  This is where Adeline’s stall tactics stemmed from. She wanted to play with me longer. She tried every bedtime stalling tactic to steal a few extra minutes together.

Whether it’s a request for one more hug or one more book, or the endless battle over which PJs to wear or the request to go to the bathroom one more time, toddler bedtime stalling can be so frustrating and wear on our patience.

So how can we keep our toddler’s bedtime on track and not cause endless tears?

toddler stalling tactics at bedtime

Here Are My Top 5 Tips I Used to Help Manage Adeline’s Bedtime Stall Tactics.

  1. Quiet time before bedtime. 1 hour before bedtime, we put all technology away and engage in some quiet, child led play with her. Colouring, puzzles, building blocks, or Adeline’s favourite, have a tea party with her stuffed animals. This time right before starting the bedtime routine allows for me to fill her cup, making it easier to disconnect at bedtime.
  2. Prepare the sleep environment. While my husband was bathing Adeline, I make sure her room and crib are ready. I closed the curtains, turned on the sound machine and make sure her favourite lovie and blanket already in the crib. This way when she asks for them it is not a mad hunt around the house trying to find them. So, if your toddler has a preferred lovie that they sleep with make sure it is ready and waiting in their crib/bed for them.
  3. Stick to a routine. Even if Addie didn’t want to stick with the routine, I continued to follow our routine of bath, lotion, PJs, and book. A consistent routine each night helped her to know what was coming next, which helps make her feel safe. You can download our bedtime routine checklist here. If she was fighting with me about the bath, I stayed the course. This way she knows that I mean what I say, and I say what I mean.  This helps to lessen the stalling tactics if our little ones know we will stay consistent no matter what. Consistency is so important with our toddlers. Keeping the routine will also help with separation anxiety your little one may be experiencing. 
  4. Do a countdown. I give Adeline verbal warnings that bedtime is coming. When it is about time to go upstairs to start our bedtime routine, I say “One more minute and then it’s time to brush teeth”. When changing activities, bedtime or leaving the park, it is helpful to give our children a warning that the activity is changing to give their sweet little brains a chance to adjust. You can also use your timer on your phone or the microwave to follow-up your verbal warning.
  5. Give options. Toddlers love choices! It makes them feel like they have control, which they love.  At first, I would give Adeline the option of picking between two pairs of PJs that I had out. She realized that she had more PJs in her drawer so she would stall bedtime by trying to choose another pair of PJs. Then I would try to put those on her, and she would change her mind as another stalling tactic! I quickly learned that if I only had two pairs of PJs in her drawer, she would only choose between those two. I also did this with books. We only read 2 books, so we give her an option of three books vs. having a whole bookcase in the room.

Most toddlers are genuinely tired at bedtime but stall because they do not want to miss out on the action.  Stalling tactics could also be a sign of a sleep challenge because your little one is overtired or under-tired.

Make sure your child’s sleep needs are met to help reduce toddler stalling tactics at bedtime. If you are having such sleep challenges and unsure how to manage them, connect with me for a free discovery call to see if I can help you improve your child’s sleep

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