Bedtime Procrastination


Time for Bed

Putting children to bed when they are not tired increases the chances of bedtime struggles. Therefore, for some children it is best to start by setting the bedtime at the time they usually fall asleep and gradually making the bedtime earlier. For example:

  • Work out when your child is naturally falling asleep and set this as the temporary bedtime
  • If you want your child to go to bed at 8:30pm, but they usually do not fall asleep until 10:30, choose 10:30 as the temporary bedtime
  • This will make it easier to teach your child how to fall asleep within a short time of getting into bed
  • Once they are falling asleep easily and quickly at this temporary bedtime, then make their bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every few days
  • Be patient - if you move the bedtime back too quickly, you may have problems with your child not being able to fall asleep
  • Stop moving the bedtime when you have reached the bedtime you want (for example, 8.30pm)

Bedtime Schedule

  • Set a definite time for bed and make it the same time every night (until you change it, if you are using the above technique)
  • 10 minutes before bed time set a timer for 10 minutes and tell your child that they may ask you 3 questions before the timer runs out, and then it is time for bed and you are unavailable for questions after their story or other bedtime routine
  • Make sure your child has everything they need, drink, warm covers, books, audio meditation or story, bed clothes ready before you set your clock
  • Stick to your guns about being unavailable
  • Don’t respond to questions after the 10 minutes just put your finger on your lips and point to the bedroom
  • Your child will settle quicker if they don’t have a TV or tablet running as the blue light and stimulation are not good for sleep

Going to bed

  • Take your child up to bed. Kiss them good night and leave the room. Repeat if necessary
  • If your child comes down put your finger on your lips and point upstairs without speaking, then firmly and calmly send or take them up to bed
  • Leave the room quickly and calmly. Repeat if necessary

Rewarding positive behaviour

  • Make a sticker chart together with agreed targets like settling down, staying in bed, no questions after the final 3
  • You can reward your child with stickers the next morning for any, or all, of the targets they meet
  • Do not refer back to bad behaviour if it happens, as this gives your child the attention they are seeking and encourages more bad behaviour the next bedtime
  • When your child has 5 stickers a bigger reward would be good, like going out to the park or swimming or similar. Discuss these rewards with your child and try to make them physical rather than material

Occasionally giving in to your child’s refusal to go to bed is likely to make it more difficult to change their behaviour in the long-term.