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10 Toddler-Tested Bedtime Stalling Strategies

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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