Original Member Post: Our 3 year old is learning to extend the bed time routine longer and longer. Getting in the shower results in screams, as does getting out. Then comes the books, snuggles, stories, water etc. Skipping or refusing any of these results in screams. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy the books and snuggles, but a routine that used to take 30 minutes is now an hour and getting longer.

Rachel’s Response: I can completely relate to this struggle. And it’s sooooo hard when it’s bedtime and you just want them to go to bed. (I’m sure you’ve heard of the book “Go The F to Sleep”?) I’m personally a horrible mom after 8:30PM. The struggle is real.

So I mentioned that I wanted to tell you what’s causing their behavior. Here’s what I see…

Remember, the 3 reasons kids misbehave are:
1.) We aren’t balancing firmness with respect
2.) They’re missing tools
3.) They’re in Yuck

Let me address each one:
1.) We aren’t balancing firmness with respect
Extending the bedtime may seem respectful, but respectful doesn’t mean giving them what they want. Respectful means giving them what they need. And very honestly, I think the firmness is missing here. Lindsay’s question was How do I transition to just leaving the room without a meltdown on her part? The truth is, you don’t. She’s going to have to get upset. Just expect that and realize that eventually when they realize you are firm with your boundaries, the pushing will stop. But if aren’t firm with your boundaries, kids will push and push and push.

Now it will be easier when you also consider the other reasons:
2.) They’re missing tools: Going to bed IS hard for some kids, especially because it’s “boring” and because they’re physically disconnected from you. So my suggestion is, add to your routine some sort of “bridge building” exercise. Ask them to make up a story or song to tell you in the morning. Ask them to think of new names for some of their stuffed animals to tell you in the morning. Give them something to do that actually gives them something to do (besides focusing on getting Mom/Dad back in the room) and keeps them connected to you.

3.) They’re in Yuck (trying to meet emotional needs) I’m all for having sweet routines with kids at bedtime, but very often they don’t us to leave because they’re getting TOO much connection with us (sometimes that’s one of the only times they get one-on-one, focused attention) and they don’t want it to end. Bedtime routines should certainly be loving, but they should be short and sweet and have a clear end (perhaps with a special goodnight handshake). Also, if you have more connective time during the day (even for 5 minutes where your full attention is on them), they’re less likely to need as much at bedtime. Also, having the connective routine mentioned above may help.