Family life

Ask Sarah: How to Reduce Bedtime Struggles

Has your child mastered bedtime stall tactics? Parenting expert Sarah Rosensweet shares tips to make the nighttime routine easier on everyone.

By Sarah Rosensweet

Ask Sarah: How to Reduce Bedtime Struggles

Source: Getty

Struggling with tantrums, bedtime boundaries or simply wondering how to raise happy, confident kids? Sarah Rosensweet offers peaceful parenting advice to help families find balance. Have a question for Sarah? Send us an email at Q: Bedtime is a real struggle, my son is coming up with more and more stall tactics every night. We find ourselves getting frustrated because we're tired but know he needs more from us while trying to calm down from the day. Help!
mom carrying two sleeping kids in the kitchen Source: Getty

This is such a common struggle for parents! You are not alone. 

Our children experience bedtime as a difficult time of separation from us. They might as well be being sent to the moon! The ‘stall tactics’ are often an attempt to keep the connection going with you. 

Here are some tips to help make bedtime less of a struggle.

Try to increase your connection with your child before bedtime

Add ‘special time’ to your routine. Special time is one-on-one time with your child where you join them in their world. You can say, “I’m all yours for the next 15 minutes. What would you like to play?”

No need to go anywhere or spend money. Just 15 minutes a day of your deep attention to fill their cup! Don't have enough time during the week? Try for special time on the weekends, I've included some tips below.

Find micro-moments of connection throughout the day to help your child know how much they mean to you. ‘Delight’ in them by smiling when you see them.

Give an unexpected hug or ruffle or their hair. Wink. Give a compliment. 

Try for at least 5 minutes of laughter and roughhousing before bed. I know it’s counterintuitive! Many parents worry that laughter before bed will wind up their child but it actually helps most children settle down.

Your child will feel more connected and therefore stall less. Also, laughter releases tensions and stresses in their body which makes it easier to fall asleep. 

When you have left your child’s room, keep the connection strong

Here's a few ideas to try:

  • Attach an ‘invisible string’ between you and remind them that it will keep you connected.
  • Tell them you’ll keep checking on them and do it. (I used to check on my daughter every 5 minutes.)
  • Give them tangible ‘proof’ you’re still around. “You’ll hear me doing the dishes downstairs” or “You’ll hear the radio/tv/music” etc.
  • Give your child something to sleep with that smells like you or a special stuffie that will be your stand in.

If your child keeps stalling, make sure your interactions are brief and boring. Lead them back to their bed with no fanfare. Be firm but also kind and compassionate.

Remember that your agenda (get them to bed!) is completely opposite to theirs (stay up with my parents as long as possible!)

mom kissing her daughter goodnight Source: Getty

If your child is still struggling

Your child may need more support at bedtime. You haven’t said how old your child is, but many children- even older ones- still need someone to stay in their room until they are asleep.

You don’t necessarily need to lie with them unless you want to. You can stay in the room in a chair and listen to a podcast or read.

The point is that you are there to firmly and kindly remind them that. “It’s bedtime. It’s time to be still and quiet and stay in your bed. We’ll talk in the morning” And repeat! 

Nighttime parenting certainly is hard when you are tired as well. Stop, drop and breathe! Give yourself some compassion and remember that this won’t last forever.

My youngest child needed a LOT of support at bedtime and now she tucks me in! 

You might also find my podcast episode with many more bedtime best practices tips helpful too! 

Need support with other parenting challenges? Our Ask Sarah series covers topics like how to stop sibling fights and how to prepare for playdates.


Sarah Rosensweet is a certified peaceful parenting coach, speaker, and educator. She lives in Toronto with her husband and her 15- and 18-year-old kids. Her 22-year-old son has launched.

Peaceful parenting is a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Sarah works one-on-one virtually with parents all over the world to help them go from frustrated and overwhelmed to “we’ve got this!”

Sarah offers a free course, How To Stop Yelling At Your Kids, so that you can be the parent you want to be. Read more at:  or listen to her top-rated parenting podcast, The Peaceful Parenting Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts!

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