Bedtime Stalling 101 (As Taught By A Toddler)

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Bedtime Stalling is something every toddler should master by age two. If you use my personally-tested strategies, by the end of this post, you should be able to push your bedtime a full forty-five minutes. With a little practice, you’ll be eating midnight snacks, watching horrible skits on SNL and ordering Slankets off late night infomercials in no time.

Run around the house at full speed. If a parent catches you, go completely limp so that you weigh 1000 lbs. If mom or dad succeeds in getting your clothes off, do not let that deter you from making a quick getaway and running around fully naked.

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This tactic is best carried out if you have a long established behavior of “not eating”. This way, when you show a sudden interest in nourishment at exactly the same time your parents start the bedtime process, they are genuinely torn between their desire to get you into bed and their fear that you might starve to death.

Brush your heart out. Ask for more toothpaste. Ask to use the Dora toothbrush and then change your mind and ask for the Thomas one. Run your brush under the water for an inordinate amount of time. Decide your teeth aren’t quite clean enough and start over. You get the idea.

Establish the need for as many security items as possible. I suggest a blankie, a stuffed animal and a sippy cup. About an hour before bedtime, hide these items around the house. Precious minutes will be awarded when your parents are forced to go on their nightly security item search, knowing full well there is no way you will go to bed without them.

When it comes to selecting books for bedtime stories, try standing frozen in front of your bookshelf, unable to make a decision. You can also attempt to renegotiate your allotted number of books. If your parent says you can have two, ask for three. If they say three, ask for four. The important thing is to never be satisfied. Lastly, pick the longest book possible or if you are feeling extra daring, pick the book with 100 “look and see” flaps. Those things take FOREVER.

All day, your parents have been trying in vain to talk to you, to get you to smile for the camera, to count to ten, etc. but you have ignored them. Now is your time. Put on your most devoted smile. Conjure up every word in your vocabulary and try to start an actual conversation. Sing a song. Say “I love you”. Your goal is to make it as tough as possible for your parent to walk away.

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If your parent picks you up to place you in your crib, your stalling minutes are numbered. You can try to make a break for it— arch your back, kick your legs, protest, etc. But the way I see it, you’ve got two options— lie down and accept the inevitable or scream their name as they walk out the door.

My suggestion is not to fight it. You’ve done excellent work and there’s always room for improvement tomorrow.

Sleep tight, class!

Related post: You Are Never Going To Sleep Again


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  1. Nicole(Whole Strides) says

    Crib? Was this phase supposed to end while they’re still in cribs? Cause my kids are older and they still fight bedtime tooth and nail every single night. It makes me crazy.

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          • Nicole(Whole Strides) says

            I don’t try anymore. I used to put the kids to bed, wait a bit, and then ‘treat’ myself to a bath. Without fail, one of my kids(usually the older one) would come in claiming he couldn’t sleep and spends the whole time talking to me while I’m in my ‘relaxing’ bath. Not so relaxing…. Why even bother?

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      • Kelly says

        Omg…my kids and the shower first thing too!! I swore it was only mine who did that! How about right when its time for bed I hear “oh I forgot you have to sign this” or “I forgot a piece of my homework to do”…toddler to pre teen…stalling is they’re thing! And its ANNOYING!

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  2. Denise says

    Excellent tips for the newbie staller. As they grow the need for advanced courses increase as they must be far more creative to outweigh the loss of cute and new milestone tricks to use.

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  3. Koren says

    Just wait until they get older. Then the deep theoretical questions start…”Momma, how are rainbows made?” or “Momma, what is 392 x 24?”…right at bedtime.

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    • Beverley says

      My 4 yr old has started this the past couple of nights. “What are tongues for?” two nights ago and “Why do we have blood?” last night. I guess it’s time to get some stories about the human body out of the library!

      My 1.5 yr old isn’t fully into bedtime stalling yet, but I can see she’s heading that way.

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    • Caroline says

      My current favourite is “How do we get to Heaven?” She never asks my sister, the Pastor, these questions. No… it’s always Auntie, preferably well after she should be asleep.

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  4. Rebeccah says

    Mine are still stalling. They are 9 and 11. They will probably be calling me at the nursing home 40 years from now to tell me that they are too hungry to go to bed.

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  5. Keli says

    Lesson 2 has been taken to a whole new level at my house. Midnight snacking is now a want- or should I say 2 a.m. Snacking. Requests for apples, bananas, ice cream… Whatever her little brain can conjure up; and then my still asleep brain has to recall what was eaten during the day to see if she is really hungry or trying to BS a BSer… <>

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  6. Paige Kellerman says

    I just went through this entire list …tonight. My daughter’s favorite thing in the world is to put on a show, right before we tuck her in. Haven’t heard “ABC” song in a while? Looking for a bold rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle”? She’s your lady.

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