What This Situation Is Like for Parents


Parenting is exhausting. By the end of the day we are worn down, and ALL we want to do is relax, without anyone asking us for anything, whining, or complaining.

So when it’s bedtime and your kids

try to extend playtime so that they don’t have to get into bed

keep getting out of bed, asking for another hug or class of water

cry and cry unless you stay until they fall asleep  

You have no patience left! You just want them to GET IN BED and GO TO SLEEP.

Getting frustrated only seems to make it worse, but you aren’t sure what to do instead. 


What This Situation Is Like for Children


If you leave it up to kids, they would probably choose to stay awake all night long. And it’s not JUST because they’re afraid of missing out on what happens when they go to bed.

There are other reasons they want to stay up.

Bedtime is often when they feel most connected to parents. Sometimes bedtime is the only time that children get focused one-on-one attention from their parents (away from siblings). They just don’t want that feeling of connection to end.

Just “lying there” is difficult for them. Kids are surrounded by stimulation all day long, and at bedtime it becomes quiet. And dark. And they don’t know how to just lie in bed doing nothing, so they get out of bed simply for something to do.

When they’re lying in bed, all of the “Yuck” from the day comes out. When they close their eyes, they think of every time they got in trouble, or the things their brother or sister said that was mean… and with all of these Yucky thoughts, they crave comfort from their parents.

And they aren’t aware of most of this, so they can’t tell us… They just resist going to sleep. 



How It Usually Goes

When A Child Is Not Motivated To Go Sleep


Scenario: It is bedtime, but Becki has gotten out of bed 5 times since her parents put her down. They are starting to get very frustrated.


Mom: Becki! Get back in bed! I’m not telling you again!

Becki: But Mom, I can’t sleep!

Mom: I don’t care. Just stay in your room.

Becki: I need water.

Mom: I just GAVE you water. And an extra song. And an extra hug.

Becki: Mom!

Mom: BECKI! Get in bed!

Becki goes back to her room, sobbing hysterically… but comes back out 2 more times before she finally stays in her room for the night.


How It Could Go

When Children Are Not Motivated to Go to Sleep

I highly recommend dealing with a situation like lack of motivation between times of Yuck.

That’s because in order to motivate children, they need to figure out a.) why they are not motivated and b.) find solutions to overcome those obstacles…and they won’t be able to do either of those things when they’re in Yuck. You can use the Joint Problem Solving strategy to address this situation when you’re not all in an emotional place.


What A Joint Problem Solving Conversation Might Look Like

When a Child Is  Not Motivated to Go to Sleep


Scenario: It is bedtime, but Becki has gotten out of bed 5 times since her parents put her down. They are starting to get very frustrated.

Mom: Becki, I know we’ve been having issues with bedtime for a little while.

Becki doesn’t say anything.

Mom: After I leave your room at night, you keep coming out. And the rule is that once you’re in your room, you need to stay there. (Pauses.) Is bedtime hard for you?

Becki: I hate it.

Mom: OK. (pauses) Would you be willing to tell me why?


[expand title=”CALM”]

Becki’s mom wants to tell her that it doesn’t matter if she hates lying there; she needs to do it anyway. But she also knows that disregarding Becki’s perspective will prevent her from being able to solve the problem. [/expand]


Becki: I don’t like going to bed.

Mom: I hear that. Sounds like you wish you could be with us.

Becki: Yeah.

Mom: You’re scared about being in the dark?

Becki: No.

Mom: Then what is it?

Becki: It’s hard for me to lie there when I’m not tired.

Mom: Ahh. So when you have to lie there with nothing to do, you want to get out of bed. 


[expand title=”CONNECT”]

Instead of being sarcastic and telling her that “lying there” is a part of falling asleep, Becki’s mom tries to demonstrate her understanding of Becki’s perspective. She knows that when Becki feels understood, she is more likely to focus on a solution to the problem. [/expand]


Becki: Yeah.

Mom: What would you like to be able to do?

Becki: Come out when I’m not tired.

Mom: That makes sense. Unfortunately that’s not possible.

Becki: Then why are you asking me what I want to be able to do?

Mom: I’d like to be able to find a way to help you that is still within the rules.

Becki stays silent.

Mom: Would it help if you thought of a story while you were lying there?

Becki: I don’t think so.

Mom: What would work?

Becki: Can I play?

Mom: You can do something that is in the dark and helps you fall asleep. 

Becki: Can I use a flashlight?

Mom: Sure.

Becki: Can I shine it all around the walls and ceiling?

Mom: Sure. In fact, you can even pretend to draw something on the walls with it, and let me know what it was in the morning.

Becki: OK.


[expand title=”CORRECT”]

Once Becki’s mom understands the problem, she helps Becki identify a tool that will help her follow the rule of staying in her room.  [/expand]


Mom: So what happens if you come out of your room?

Becki: What do you mean?

Mom: If you have your flashlight but still come out of your room?

Becki: You can sit outside my door to make sure I don’t come out.

Mom: And if you try?

Becki: Just remind me that I’m not allowed out. And that I should use my flashlight. 

Mom: OK, we’re going to try this, Becki. But let’s talk again in 2 days. If this solution doesn’t work, we’ll need to try to come up with something else.

Becki: OK.



How to Make This Strategy Work

The “proactive deposits” discussed in the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If you want to be able to handle the situation when your child is not motivated to go to sleep, remember:


[expand title=”Depositing into CALM”]

Becki’s mom will not be able to stay calm if

a.) her own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are low

b.) she has the expectation that Becki will simply “suck it up” and do what she is supposed to do, even when she is struggling

When she makes sure her own needs are met and sets realistic expectations PROACTIVELY,  Aaron and Mia’s mom is more likely to be able to stay calm.

See Step 1 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap for help meeting your needs and setting expectations proactively so you can stay calm. [/expand]


[expand title=”Depositing into CONNECT”]

Becki’s mom will only be able to connect if:

a.) she respects that all behavior has a reason and

b.) she understands those reasons (in this case, Becki is like most kids who crave stimulation, and she really is struggling to just lie in bed)

When Becki’s mom becomes comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, she will be able to connect more effectively

ee Step 2 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap to learn the reasons for children’s behavior so you can connect more effectively. [/expand]


[expand title=”Depositing into CORRECT”]

Becki’s mom will only be able to use tools to correct behavior if:

a.) She has demonstrated consistently in the past that she will not end the conversation until a solution is identified.

b.) She has made enough deposits into the relationship that her mom’s suggestions don’t immediately put Becki into Yuck. 

When she becomes demonstrates that she means what she says and when she makes deposits into Becki’s emotional needs PROACTIVELY, she will be able to correct Becki’s behavior. 

See Step 3 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap  to learn more about improving your influence so you can correct behavior. [/expand]