Your kid is watching their tablet, working on an art project, or playing with a favorite toy in their bed. The problem is: It’s bedtime. You give them a one-minute warning and then tell them it’s time to put away what they’re doing. Cue the instantaneous meltdown. You’re now faced with the question: Do you try to negotiate with them or do you hold firm and stand your ground on it being “lights out” time? Neither one seems like a particularly wonderful option, right?


♬ original sound – Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta

Breaking it down into easy steps and remaining consistent is the way to go when setting expectations around bedtime, according to parenting expert Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta. Here are the steps you need to get through a bedtime battle when your child is refusing to stop what they are doing:

  1. Remove the object from their hands. “Center yourself. I want you to approach with a heaviness [and say,] ‘I’m gonna remove the art project.'” Dr. Hauge-Zavaleta goes on to recommend that if you have to remove an object from a kid’s hands, moving their thumb will make them lose their grip more easily.
  2. Turn off the lights and sit in front of the doorway. You can say, “I’ll wait” or say nothing at all. “This is called sitting doorside,” shares Dr. Hauge-Zavaleta. “Adding language to it is only going to make it worse. You’re literally waiting it out. When you notice the child’s breathing start to regulate, I can say, ‘You’re almost ready.’ You’re holding the space and letting the child have a second to get regulated. And I’m not saying anything about the meltdown.”

Once you’ve made it through the meltdown and your kid is finally asleep, you need a plan for tomorrow that will prevent the behavior from happening again. Dr. Hauge-Zavaleta recommends that for the following nights, the child doesn’t have the distracting toys or art project in their bed. You can say something like, “Hey, last night was really tricky. With the art project tonight, we’re going to do [it] at the dinner table.” There’s no blame in this statement.

The key to any change in routine is that you remain consistent going forward. This will help your child to understand the expectations and behave appropriately the next time. Or, at least we can cross our fingers that they do!

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