Managing Unwanted Behaviour at Bedtime

“First, we have about 30 minutes of saying ‘No! I don’t want to go to bed’. Then I normally have to part drag him up the stairs to brush his teeth. We have a story together – one book is never enough – sometimes we will have up to three stories. Then I try to leave but he says he needs the loo/needs a drink/needs the light off/needs the light on. Then if I try to go downstairs, he shows up in the doorway after about 10 minutes. So I usually end up laying on the bed next to him until he has fallen asleep, which is about 10pm by this time. By that stage I want to go to bed myself.

At around midnight he will get up and get into bed with us and because he takes up so much room my husband goes to sleep in his bed.”

Does this sound familiar?

If so it’s time to take control of bedtime and get your evenings back!

The ideas below are not hard and fast rules. You may need to adapt them to suit your own situation, but the key thing is you must persevere with whatever routine you carve out for yourself. As you know from your current circumstances, habits can be tricky to break so expect that the first two weeks after making the change will be bumpy. The second two weeks will not be perfect but will be better. The two weeks after that will be much easier. If you give way and go back to your old patterns in the bumpy period you will need to start from scratch all over again.

Tell them there will be some changes to how bedtime works from now on. Tell them that things are going to happen your way from now on so that you can both have a better sleep and be much happier. Tell them the about steps below.

Give two warnings that bedtime is approaching. One 20 minutes before and one 10 minutes before. When it is bedtime, get up, take your child by the hand and say “Off we go.” If their legs give way, as much as possible carry them safely up the stairs. Say very little, do not respond to their moans and protests.

Give a choice of one book or another. When the book is finished, tell them to go to the toilet whilst you go and get them a glass of water (if you haven’t already) that will create a break in the pattern of you being stuck in the room.

Say goodnight and go downstairs. If they emerge in the doorway, take them back upstairs and say very little about it. If they need more water tell them you will take it up to them and send them back to their bed (use your own judgement the amount of water at bedtime). If they have come to ask you to tuck them in again or something similar, take them back upstairs, get them back into bed and go back down the stairs. Be prepared, those first couple of weeks you may be doing a lot of up and down the stairs!

If they arrive in your bed in the middle of the night, quietly and sleepily lead them back to their bed. Go back to your own bed. This may mean you have disrupted/less sleep for the first 2 -4 weeks.

If you want to change the habit then you will need to have more persistence to change the habit than your child has in maintaining it – and children are highly persistent!

Contact an NLP4Kids practitioner if you feel you need some extra support.

By Gemma Bailey

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