Bedtime Stalling 101 (As Taught By A Toddler)

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

About the writer

Ilana Wiles is the blogger behind Mommy Shorts, a humor blog that aims to deliver parenting information similar to how Jon Stewart delivers the news. Or, at least, that's what someone told her once and she liked it. You can also find her on her facebook fanpage.

From Around the Web


Betty 7 months ago

All on point! I would add “water” to the list. When my twins ask for it, I can’t say no! What if they are thristy and can’t sleep because of that? argh. They have me pegged.

Heather McMahan Davenport 7 months ago

I pretty sure my 5 year old wrote this blog! For years this has been our bedtime routine. I have nicknamed her “Delay Fish” which is what Merlin called Dory in Finding Nemo. It makes me want to read the Go the &$:@ to Sleep book narrated by Samuel L. Jackson!

Helen Russo 7 months ago

Not always! I’m REALLY good at saying no, and not caving, but there for about a year I thought I would lose my shit at the bedtime drama, EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT!

Helen Russo 7 months ago

no shit! “Just one more” was a common theme in our house, but I stuck to my guns, 2 bedtime stories , max!

Magdalena Grabowska-Stopyra 7 months ago

Aaaaahahaaaahaha that is our fight every night

Jewell Nettles 7 months ago

Now that look would erk the face of God. Cynthia would always have to inspect her food three times before deciding to eat.

Lori Randolph Ball 7 months ago

Lol. This is my life every night!

Melissa Pukajlo Brumbaugh 7 months ago

this is one area, that SO FAR has not been too bad with my nearly 4 year old son (from what I hear from others) We’ll see how my 17 month old does lol

Shannon Day-Cheung 7 months ago

This is classic. So funny!

Jen Sowden 7 months ago

My 9 year old FINALLY figured out that the easiest way to anger me is to give me a hard time at bed time.
He FINALLY has his routine of going to the bathroom, refilling his cup and brushing his teeth before he turns off his light.
My 4 year old, on the other hand, has not.
She figures out she’s hungry, thirsty, is missing some long-lost stuffed animal, is wearing the wrong pajamas, didn’t bring security blanket when she brushed her teeth and the 40 minute hysterical sob fest commences. She turns into a red-faced pile of drippy-faced girl.
I’m tired.

Patti Perich 7 months ago

Ha ha ! Hilarious !!

Denise Louise Stewart 7 months ago

Or a near 9 year old

Heather Scott 7 months ago

I’m wondering if our 5 year old will ever grow out of this nightly routine! Last night he came up with a business plan for an ice cream parlour that he wanted to talk through and detail his every last idea. What parent can get cross and tell their child to sleep when their little mind is securing our future! Russell Scott

Jennifer Donohoe 7 months ago

Missed – going to the toilet ( not actually doing anything on it, just sitting there for 15 minutes, accompanied of course), drinks of water or milk, turn the fan on/off

Vanessa Sanders 7 months ago

My 8 yr old does this too! Lol

Lynn Fletcher 7 months ago

I love these articles! My kids are well out of the baby and toddler stages but between the two I can always check off almost every thing you say. And reading them always takes me back to when my babies were that age :-)

Holly Buckle 7 months ago

Haha my daughters last night was I’m going to try do my tomorrow poop….ten minutes later surprise surprise no poop!

Veronica Swinney Powell 7 months ago

Always have the “its time for bed” with the response of “I’m hungry” lol

Veya van Noort 7 months ago

Ha, my almost-three-year-old often wants to go to bed early. No stalling, no fussing.

Brianne McNally 7 months ago

A new one for me, tonight my toddler insisted I sew a hole in her jammies. A change of jammies would not do, neither would living with the hole for a night.

Catherine Hallada Nohr 7 months ago

Lesson four: hide security items. I SWEAR every night it’s something new, but my daughter always asks for something that is missing!!!! I spend 10 minutes looking for something I haven’t seen in weeks. Ugh.

ketchup 7 months ago

Ours is an odd duck. Instead of stalling she often goes to bed early herself. She’s almost three.

Belinda Ashford 7 months ago

We have all been there… So true

Lauren Gardin 7 months ago

Miles for sure

Kristen Chambers 7 months ago

Yessss! !!

Jenn 8 months ago

How could you have left out the tactic of waiting until lights are out and the door is finally closed to announce that you need to have a bowel movement?

Carrie Pena 7 months ago

Tonight we had a trial run of poop? My unpotty trained toddler knows a poop means getting to stay up… Lots of pointing and saying poop, even a please thrown in there… Tricky little bug!

Valerie Tobgi Organ 7 months ago

More water!
Rub my back!
Are two other popular ones at our house. Lol

Missy Carter 7 months ago

Bedtime is a easy peasy now. I think it was just a phase. (Thankfully)

Sue Flickinger 7 months ago

Too cute…think I have seen all of them!

Life as a Morticians Wife 7 months ago

this is hysterically…true

Lindsay Christine Atteberry 7 months ago

You forgot the “I haven’t used my potty in five hours but now I need to use it every three seconds” lesson.

Cindy Bryant 7 months ago

Oh and for slightly older kids :
Ask deep philosophical or scientific questions. Like : Why does the earth spin ? And where is heaven and can we visit ( insert grandparent or other loved one that has died ) ?

Kenya Woods 7 months ago

My daughter just turned 12 and she has started the stalling game

Jesi Reed 7 months ago

My son loves books he will bring them to us all day long and he will hit you with it if you aren’t fast enough in responding and reading it lol (he’s 16 mos)

Shana O’Grady Caturano 7 months ago

“1 more” book 4 times. I am such a sucker.

Sarah VanTine 7 months ago

This couldn’t be more true.

Angela Vasiloff 7 months ago

Oh my goodness, I’m crying from laughing. Nailed it!

A’Leigh Hamner 7 months ago

It’s awful and exhausting!!

Trudy Sussek Loomis 7 months ago

That is just to funny.

Kait May 7 months ago

My daughter thinks that she should have THREE books because she is 3. Haha

Pamela Travis 7 months ago

My six year old does the, hey you asked me before bed to eat I said I wasn’t hungry but now I am because you’re turning the lights out. He does the book thing, one more song mamma your voice is so pretty.

Allison Glennon Benedetti 7 months ago

We read books during the day and never at bedtime to avoid this whole dilemma. But she now says she’s hungry or needs to go to the bathroom. We do those quickly. I feel lucky.

Megan Crick Posey 7 months ago


Shaye Boucher 7 months ago

One goes to bed no problem. The other is a future congresswoman (stalling…stalling…stalling).

Rebecca Marie Kondrich 7 months ago

Seriously can this start as early as 11 mo!? Cause my daughter obviously took this course

Jen Tate Smith 7 months ago

I just went through this with my son about 30 minutes ago!

Katherine Carol 7 months ago

Omg! I LOVE this!!!! Will share

Janice Gardner 7 months ago

There should be a 101 for teens. Looking forward to it. LOL Oh wait…never mind…… ☺️☕️

Sarah Koebler 7 months ago

I got so lucky with my first. I am a straight up Sgt. Bitch about bedtime, lol. But my oldest is 12, and my 2nd born is 8 months, and I have this nagging feeling he will be my problem child.

Lorrie Krome 7 months ago

When GMA watched him we read 6 or 7. Be glad he likes them just wait till about 3rd grade, when you have to threaten them to read a book.

Kristina Rollins 7 months ago

holy crap. we are doing this right now!!! gaaahhh!!

Beth ‘Donohue’ Jacques 7 months ago

PJs.. And running their little naked butts around like miniature crazy people! They have the most energy when I have the least!!

Kelly Beninghove 7 months ago


Jennifer Maxwell Tolbert 7 months ago

Peeeeez jussst ONE morrrre Mommy!!! (After the 12th book)

Heather Lennox 7 months ago

Haha just went through this. Mommy I have to potty, mommy I’m hungry, mommy I need a drink, one more story, another drink, I have to potty again, can I sleep in your bed??? From my 2 year old…geez

Christine Haven 7 months ago


Marika Schwartzman Bruell 7 months ago

So true!!

Courtney Bedard 7 months ago

there are so many more.

Jesse Leckie 7 months ago


Margie Langley Gold 7 months ago


Tabatha Davis 7 months ago

NO is an amazing word as a parent. Works wonders to keep those little ones in bed 😉

Amanda Wenisch 7 months ago

Two books. No, five books mom. Ok three books. No, five books. The kids a master negotiator. Doesn’t budge!

Marci Schaub 7 months ago

Mindy Sziede. Lol.

Amy M 8 months ago

I don’t know why but they seem faster while naked, as soon as the last piece comes off vroom

Jennifer Hoover Bodenhorn 7 months ago

Omg!!! Every night with twins!!!

Holly Rust 7 months ago


Danielle Camastra 7 months ago

Ha! My son has mastered most of these

Kristen Riordan Long 7 months ago

Bill Long looks like it’s not just our kids!

Melissa Roeder 7 months ago

My 6 year old still does this!!

Amy Barta 7 months ago

SO TRUE!!!!!!! Every book after the last book is, “last book, ok mommy?”

Jessica McClellan 7 months ago

Every night with the books.

Jinny Jinny-Jinny 7 months ago

Lesson 2, completely!

Angela Burgess Larke 7 months ago

I think my kid wrote this. “My body’s telling me I’m hungry.” Yeah, because you ate like two bites at dinner!

Nicole Margret 7 months ago

I have to go pee! You just went! I have to go again!

Kaitlyn Rosa 7 months ago

Every. Freaking. Night.

Holly Fisher Register 7 months ago

LESSON SEVEN: Sudden dehydration, and need for drink.

William Charlotte Hierholzer 7 months ago

We pick 3 books for him, then his choice is limited to which order we read them. He is 3, works for now!

Brandy Davis 7 months ago

My daughter wants me to make up stories each night. I have no imagination

Katrina Jameson 7 months ago

We just had this fun tonight with the book! Just pick one already!

Lauren Stanevicz Adams 7 months ago

Every. Night.

Cassie Crabtree Fromson 7 months ago

I JUST fought this battle!

Michelle Pereira Cravo 7 months ago

LOL…exactly how I feel…why is it so difficult

Cryssy Carte 7 months ago

My daughter definitely does this one mommy no no this one mommy waif wait what about this one! Lol she is 2 1/2

Cristy Kopec-Frantz 7 months ago

The book thing was my daughter this evening!

Joseph 8 months ago

are the high quality on-site auto repair services you can schedule by calling a mobile mechanic.

When I returned to get some feedback, I was surprised to hear that the JUJU wash
soap was one of his favourites. Since cold weather makes engine problems only worse,
now is the time to figure out why it is difficult to start the car,
why the idle seems too rough, and why there are times when acceleration seems to take forever.

Noob Dad 11 months ago

“How do we get to Heaven?” “By going to bed on time.”

Kelly 11 months ago

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!

Rhonda 1 year ago

My son’s favourite stall is picking up 4 books when I say 2. He cant count yet. Needless to say we do always read them

L.A. Say 2 years ago

Kids are very creative and this post proves it all

carol 2 years ago

Lol! This is a cute and funny post but so true!

Angela 2 years ago

NO!!!!!! I thought we were the only ones! You win and I bow to you – we are barely making it over here. Ours just turned 8 and she is so damn crafty!!!

Maura 2 years ago

Children usually are more cooperative for caregivers then they are for their own parents in that regard. I think when the time comes to have your own you will find this out.

Jeanne Castiglia 2 years ago


Libby Chapman 2 years ago

oh yeah

Amanda 2 years ago

Aww! I miss the times when my little ones couldn’t get to bed without help. Now when they’re told it’s bedtime, they ask to finish their game or their book or whatever they’re working on before they go. They do come ask to be tucked in still :)

games 2 years ago

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Pocket 2 years ago

Yup, sums up my night. My DD is really good at the last one and the book negotiation. Now she has to ‘read’ each story first (she is only two so reading consists of describing everything on the page that she knows the name to) or she chooses the longest books on her shelf (I keep forgetting to ‘lose’ them).

DeDe 2 years ago

Omg! My 2.5 yr old son has mastered all of the lessons! He even invented an new one ! He goes to his all day working father and tells him that he misses him which first we thought is cute but then it jst turned out to be a way of stalling! As soon as hes out of the crib he doesnt give his father any attention

Jeff 2 years ago

I had to quit that one… too often found me asleep and the granddaughter channel surfing with the remote.

tejeme mucho 3 years ago

My, almost, 2 year old loves bedtime books. But she never gets enough books to bed. If she got 5, then she looks for 3 or 4 more. Is like the neverending story, haha.

Amanda 3 years ago

Great post! my 4 year old has endless excusses to why he cant go to bed… my fav, “mommy i need to tell you something very important” so ill say ok, what is it? then i get “uhhh, uhhhh, ummmm, so, how… do, ummm trains stay on the track?” he’s obviously thinking up his ‘very important question’ as hes asking it!!!

Gabriella @ Our Life In Action 3 years ago

LMAO!!! Love this! My little man is 4 and is doing the whole scared of monsters thing. So I made up a cute monster spray ( which seems to work durning day light hours. He is now telling me that the monsters are moving out of the way so the spray doesn’t hit them….yet another stalling method. Lord help me. 😉

Leigh 3 years ago

omg this was hilarious this is exactly how it goes down with my six year old

Charlene 3 years ago

Ohhhh, my oldest went through the Richard Scary book phase. Made me want to claw my own eyes out. I got wise with little brother and haven’t read those to him yet, but now they both want “Where’s Waldo”. It’s still entertaining to hear him squeal “I found (insert name here)!”

Sandy 3 years ago

I generally find humor in most of the crazy-things-toddlers-do blogs, but not when they deal with letting the toddler win the power struggle. I try to be flexible with the kid and do all the fun engaging bedtime routines, but I am completely unwilling to be a slave to random whims. I’m not an anal retentive/OCD mom… We eat at wierd times, sometimes we do bath or not, sometimes we watch TV on a school night. However, bedtime is not a negotiation. I decide when it is, and all stalling does is cut down on the time you get to read, pow pow about your day, pick out an outfit, etc. After a few uncomfortable nights of going to bed fully dressed, with dirty teeth and unbrushed hair, not to mention missing TinkerMini. She learned that when mom says lights out at 8:30, that’s exactly what she means.

HouseTalkN 3 years ago

Hilarious! Do all children have a secret “Bedtime Stalling” manual?
My kiddos pull the “I’m staaaaaaaaaaarving” routine every.single.night.
I’ve started offering a snack 20 minutes before and refusing the fridge raid panic.

barbara 3 years ago

When they reach the inevitable bed stage, my kids suddenly feign the need to use the potty. They know that we secretly fear they will never be potty trained and will jump at the chance to work on the potty skillset. After swearing there’s a poop that is forthcoming, they put on a show similar to childbirth. It’s good for at least 15 minutes. Too bad mom and dad know what’s up, but can’t resist the chance to reinforce positive potty behavior.

Anna 3 years ago

I still remember being a kid and thinking I was so awesomely smart to chose a Richard Scary book at bedtime. Every.Single.Night.

Aemi 3 years ago

I don’t have any kids of my own yet but the young ones ive babysat I never had issues getting them to bed. I found the trick is pure simple exhaustion.
A few hours before bed, I take them to the park or just outside in general and let them run and scream themselves to the point where they can barely move let alone stay awake. It’s amazing what 2 hours of hard playtime will do to a child’s seemingly endless internal battery. As soon as the head hits the pillow, they’re gone and I get all night in peaceful silence. It has never failed me yet. 😀

MILF Runner 3 years ago

Ha! My three-year old is a master at this point. At this point, she is honing her skills on the even number ones.

Caroline 3 years ago

I think they may take lessons from the cat. 10lbs to 1000lbs as soon as you pick one up.

Caroline 3 years ago

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.

Vanessa 3 years ago

god I hated that phase!

Beverley 3 years ago

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.

Kathy at kissing the frog 3 years ago

Get out of my house – seriously. Try this times four. Yeah, that’s what’s going on here. You captured this perfectly!!

Meredith 3 years ago

The Winnie the Pooh Anthology! We have that. We read that. Every. single. night. Good times, such good, good times…

Keesha 3 years ago

My 2 year old knows this manual by heart! Why don’t you just tell them no?! As if. Honestly. They have us by the (for some of us metaphorical) balls.

My Half Assed Life 3 years ago

Not. Even. Close. To. Funny. Why don’t you tell them no? Because I prefer to spend every evening of the next five years being driven insane by a tiny little troll in a cute baby costume, that’s why.

Arwen 3 years ago

Mine is four and has recently added “I need the toilet” to his repertoire. It’s one of the few tactics he knows I probably won’t refuse and on the odd occasions I do he can punish me by waking me up at 2am demanding to go for a wee.

Ninja Mom 3 years ago

I’m spitballing, but maybe because this is a humor piece and “My toddler tries to prolong bed time and I say ‘no'” is not remotely funny.

Ninja Mom 3 years ago

Today I claimed that “Babies are jerks.” Thanks fr reminding me that toddlers are just jerks in bigger clothes.

Excellent, Ilana!

Melinda 3 years ago

My 21 month old twin girls have mastered a number of these. I had no idea they could learn these things so early. Tonight, Thing 2 tried the “poopy” delay. But I won that one because it really only works if you’re actually wearing a poopy diaper.

My Half Assed Life 3 years ago

You do know none of this ends until they move out right? Well except for maybe the magically transforming into a 1000 pound toddler part.

All of the other stalls just take on new manifestations. Every single one of them carefully targeted at your “you are driving me insane” nerve.

Allison Rosevelt 3 years ago

The bedtime stories are insane. I started telling my daughter the truth. “Look munchkin that ones too long and mommy will asleep reading it.” Or even better and I know you all do this too. Read through really fast skipping words and don’t ask any thought-provoking questions… how terrible right but shes been quizzed on those books tons of times. Need some mommy time. Where’s my bedtime story “50 shades”? I totally got my husband to read a couple of pages to me one night. It was hysterical and he got lucky afterwards. Lol…

Ruth 3 years ago

Andi: HA! Funny.

You forgot when they come into your room begging for more hugs and kisses. How do you say no to that!

stephanie 3 years ago

Ha! One of mine was double-jointed EVERYWHERE! When she went limp she had no armpits to pick her up by because her shoulders were double-jointed. Fine when she was tiny, but when she got heavy we were screwed. Because she was autistic the two-year-old phase of her life never ended. The other one stalled by deciding to get very thirsty at bedtime and drink a lot of water thereby needing to get back up and go pee a few times, for real. And every time she got up to pee she’d sneak past somehow and grab another glass of water. Did it for YEARS and peed all damn night long!!!

Andi 3 years ago

Why don’t you just tell them no?

Kristin 3 years ago

My hubby is upstairs watching one more episode of My Little Pony because our daughter has conned him with the I’m not tired bit. That’s the latest tactic if all the others on this list don’t work for her (except she fights brushing her teeth EVERY night for 10th minutes to stall).

hilljean 3 years ago

My daughter really capitalizes on the sudden interest in dinner. She has this certain cry routine where you would think she hasn’t eaten in days.

What gets me is when they do the quiet crying as you walk away. Guh. The key is to not make eye contact.

sara 3 years ago

OMG!! LMAO!! these couldn’t be more correct!!

Paige Kellerman 3 years ago

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.

Melissa 3 years ago

Oh my god! Do you stare in my window at night!? How do you know EXACTLY what my daughter does at bedtime? (I’ve hidden all the flap books)

Mama and the City 3 years ago

So true. My two year old is a good student obviously. She religiously follow all 7 steps.

Keli 3 years ago

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… <>

My Half Assed Life 3 years ago

Excellent tips for the toddler set. I am always amazed at how they can defy all laws of nature and gain 100 pounds at will.

Nicole(Whole Strides) 3 years ago

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?

Rebeccah 3 years ago

For real. I wish someone would insist I had to go have a nice hot bath every night. Sigh.

Rebeccah 3 years ago

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.

Nicole(Whole Strides) 3 years ago

Oh my god, YES! Every time!!!!! What is with that? I cannot fathom why it matters so much who is first and who is second.

Rebeccah 3 years ago

Do yours do the “I HAD A SHOWER FIRST LAST NIGHT” fight thing? Cause that makes me want to turn a fire hose on them.

Koren 3 years ago

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.

Denise 3 years ago

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.

Nicole(Whole Strides) 3 years ago

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.