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10 Toddler-Tested Bedtime Stalling Strategies

By ilanawiles |

If you have a toddler, you are probably more than familiar with the concept of “bedtime stalling”. It’s truly amazing how little people who can’t even add to three, can develop such complex and manipulative strategies. If I wasn’t exhausted and in need of some sleep myself, I would probably be very impressed.

The following bedtime stalling strategies have all been employed by my two-year-old daughter:

1. The Naked Baby Dash: Once you finally get your toddler out of their clothes (a whole saga in itself), they have the tendency to break free and run around the house completely naked. If you are my daughter, then you accompany your mad dash with the “I’m Naked Baby!!!!!” fighting cry as if “Naked Baby” was some sort of crime fighting superhero.

2. Sudden Appreciation for Dinner: If you have an incredibly picky eater, like myself, you might be surprised to find that he/she uses bedtime as the perfect moment to express an interest in health and nourishment. Rejected dinner items look suddenly appealing! Then you find yourself torn between your desire to get your kid in bed and your fear that a dinner consisting of one pretzel stick will surely stunt her growth.

3. Tooth Brushing Obsession: For some reason all aspects of proper hygiene are deplorable by my daughter except tooth brushing. Why? Because the longer she brushes her teeth, the later she will go to bed. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT put more than one child-friendly toothbrush or toothpaste in the cup next to the sink. Your toddler will want to use one and then the other and then switch again at least five times. And you, my poor friend, will be at a loss for fear of discouraging their love of an otherwise healthy habit.

4. Bladder of an 80-year-old: This strategy starts somewhere around the time you introduce the potty. A toddler who expresses no interest in becoming potty-trained will suddenly feel compelled to test it out at bedtime. A toddler who is in the midst of potty-training will suddenly become very confused by full-bladder signals. Numerous trips to the potty will be required even if in reality, your toddler does not have to go at all. BUT. Your kid wins this one too because the last thing you want is your toddler’s full bladder waking you up in the middle of the night.

5. Security Item Search Party: My daughter has two blankies and at least three sippy cups of water that she likes to bring to bed. How did it get this far? I blame myself and my love for after-bedtime relaxation on my couch. If a second and then a third cup of water is going to finally appease your child into going to bed, who are we to refuse them? But be forewarned— the more items your toddler takes to bed, the more time they will take to locate. Watch out for pre-bedtime shenanigans in which your toddler hides her beloved security items, refuses to go to bed without them and then laughs while you scour every inch of your home.

6. Book Selection Difficulty: This is probably the most common bedtime stalling technique. My daughter puts more thought into bedtime book selection than any other aspect of her day. Time-stretching aspects include— reaching agreement on number of books, time taken to select books, choosing lengthy books on purpose and ignoring previously-mentioned-agreed-upon number of books and begging for more regardless.

7. Feigning Toddler OCD: This is the phase in which your toddler who is incredibly messy and disorganized throughout the day suddenly has to make sure each and every toy in her room is in it’s place. My daughter wants all the drawers and closets closed, the blankets folded on the chair and her beloved Corduroy Bear sitting upright in the mini-rocking chair. Again, hard to discourage a cleaning frenzy.

8. SHOWTIME!: At some point in the bedtime process, your toddler might decide to show off any and all learned knowledge that he/she has garnered over the course of his/her short life. Singing songs, counting to ten, engaging you in conversation, etc. He/she has undoubtably learned that you love when he/she performs, you won’t shut it down and this is the perfect time to do it.

9. Love & Affection: If showtime proves ineffective, then you toddler might move on to hugs, kisses, saying “I love you” and general shows of affection. Again, almost impossible to shut down. If your child’s vocabulary improves, then you are truly screwed, because just try to walk out on your kid when he/she is in the middle of saying something like, “You are the best mommy in the world and let me tell you why…”

10. Blankie Suicide: This is the final strategy. You leave the room, think all as well, and all of a sudden “MOOOOOM!!!!!!!!” pierces through the sound of Chris Harrison announcing the next Bachelorette. This usually means your child has thrown one of their precious security items over the ledge. Pick it up, give it back, leave the room, and most likely— REPEAT.

Read more of Ilana’s writing at Mommy Shorts.
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About ilanawiles



Ilana Wiles writes Mommy Shorts, a humor blog geared towards new parents. She is one of Babble's Top 100 Mom Blogs and one of The Huffington Post's top 20 women to follow on Instagram. She lives in NYC with her husband, 2-year-old daughter and a newborn baby girl. Read bio and latest posts → Read ilanawiles's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “10 Toddler-Tested Bedtime Stalling Strategies

  1. jill simonian, says:

    These are the best and will keep a keen eye out for these as my little girl in just entering ‘toddlerhood.’ BUT… you forgot one! The sudden, blood-curdling shriek out of nowhere that leads you to believe their little head is somehow stuck between the crib slats. When you go in there and peer through the dark, their little head is instead peeking over the edge and wildly laughing as if to say….. “SUCKA!!!!! Got you in here again!” :)

  2. Natalie says:

    I seriously thought my daughter was showing signs of serious OCD. I have fallen victim to the stalling drills. I go through almost 5-6 of these every night.

  3. dedosmadre says:

    Never better explained!!!!!

  4. Kerryb of new2two says:

    Wow that is remarkable! Are you in my house at night! I deal with that times two, twin 3year olds. I also get the fake cough-I need water and my eyes hurt! They hurt cause they are tired! Get. To. Sleep.

  5. Lindsay says:

    Awesome!!! Love them all… so true!

  6. Samira says:

    I guess so far I’m a lucky mom because my kid at 15 months now does none of these except maybe the blood curdling shriek and its usually because shes gotten herself tangled in her blankie and dropped her bottle or because she needs a new diaper but usually she will do a “Tebow” lol as I learned is what you call it from the last babble post I read when she kneels down and rubs her forehead then walks over to her crib and starts rubbing the corner of her blankie through the bars in which time I place her in her crib with a bottle of water and she promptly curls up with her blankie drinks her bottle and falls fast asleep

  7. kristina says:

    Im pretty sure both of my kids are pulling everyone of these tricks with me. I have a 2 1/2 year old who LOVES the potty at bed time. And a 4 year old that has to clean everything and come out and say ” mom look my room is how you do it!”…..Im impressed that such little minds have huge thoughts….and can pull these kinds of tricks on me.

  8. kate says:

    Don’t forget the “one more cup of water”….”one more cup of water”…..”one more cup of water”…I get to the point “ok, no more, you’re hydrated. go to bed”. Darn kids!!!

  9. Kim at Let Me Start By Saying says:

    My youngest trained herself to need to poop – actually poop, not even fake it – approximately 17 seconds after the full naked dash/toothbrush/book choice/showoff/extra loving/14 nightlights/there’s no monster/your favorite bunny is right next to you 3 millimeters away routine.
    Only a girl could do this.
    Sigh. That took a while to un-train. I can’t believe I had to un-train a child to poop at bedtime. This was not in her instruction manual.

  10. Andrea M says:

    Those are all PERFECT… and it’s so true that we go along with all of them. If my son would LET me lay in bed with him, we’d be tripley screwed. At about 3yo (and no daytime nap) he finally goes to bed EARLY and without any stalling techniques.

  11. Janet says:

    @Samira – you have a long way to go. My daughter – now 3 – never did any of those either at age 15 mo. Now, she does them ALL!!! They must get together at preschool and exchange ideas on delay tactics.

  12. Courtney says:

    My daughter waits til I close the door and then yells ” I need to give mama a big kiss!!”. How am I supposed to say no to that??

  13. Bonnie says:

    Lol this is SO true!!! Just curious though about 1 thing…does it ever end? My son is 4 and seems to try at least 3 or 4 of these a night. I’ve now, whenever he gets up, resorted to the “silent” treatment. Meaning everytime he gets up I say nothing, just walk him back to his bed, help him in bed and put the covers on and then leave. It works, after awhile lol :-)

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