Bed Time – Scurge of the Toddler World

A question for the ages. How do you get your toddler to go to sleep?

To be honest, if I had THE answer, I’d be a millionaire by now. As most, if not all parents out there will know, getting your little one to bed can be quite a task. They can be a manipulative bunch, and will try anything to stall, or avoid going to bed at any cost. At least ours does.

Can you blame him though? He does not want to miss all the fun of dishwashing and bad TV, if only I could explain that is what we really do when he sleeps. Nothing too exciting.

We have been battling with this issue for a long, long time. Our Google search history is dominated by it. We had just about given up on tricks and tips for bed time, and moved to the more generally accepted method of, just fucking deal with it.

This was working for a while, to be honest, he was only up out of bed two or three times before finally crashing out. I think at that point, he had worked out that we had an answer for every excuse in his playbook. Then it all changed, something new, that we couldn’t really deny him had become a reason to get out of bed.

He is now potty trained.

I was so happy when he was finally potty trained, what an ordeal. Denis the Menace had other ideas, a bed time plot ticking over in his three year old brain. It would rely on our meagre understanding of his bladder control, and our empathy for him and his decision not to wet the bed. A perfect idea. And it worked.gotosleep

For the last few months he has been in and out of bed every ten minutes for three to four hours. GO THE FUCK TO SLEEP.

This change in toddler bed time strategy required action. We had had enough. But really, what could be done?

Here is the checklist we started running through

1. Go to the toilet before bed.
2. Go to the toilet before bed. (he always needs to go twice)
3. While he is on the toilet, get his drink (water) for bed.
4. Move the plastic blanket of toys accumulated on his bed from the previous night.
5. Allow him to choose ONE toy for bed. Ok, sometimes two, if he has been good.
6. Offer a bedtime story. (we take turns)
7. Put him to bed.
8. Sit on the couch, wait for five minutes until the first toilet break.
9. Sit on the couch, wait for the second toilet break.
10. Try to enjoy some adult time while constantly looking at the dog to make a move, indicating he was up, again…

Suffice to say, I have never been a fan of ten step programs, and this one was not working. At all.

Back to Google….

Once again, we turned to the internet. We spent our time trolling through different approaches that we hadn’t already tried. Keeping in mind you have to take these with a grain of salt, and try to apply bits and pieces that fit for you. Well, that is our approach anyway.

She found it!

My partner’s love affair with Pinterest had paid off, again. I got home from work one day and she proposed an idea, we both agreed it just may work. He is at a stage where he will understand the concept, fingers crossed he sticks by the new rule.

That Saturday morning, we began phase one of our scheme. We would have some art and craft time. With a twist.

We all worked on a card, a very special card which is now known as ‘The Bed Time Pass’. We all took turns adorning it with colourful pictures, stickers and whatever else we could find in the box. It was really great family time to boot.

He loved it, albeit still not fully aware of its purpose. We both sat with him after it was finished and explained how it worked.

‘This is your bedtime pass, if you jump out of bed you need to hand it over to us. It can only be used once a night.’

To be honest, the first night was a fucking nightmare.

He was in shock. He was allowed out once, then he came out again. Met with no contact, just a held hand and a directive back to his bed. Every time, for about three hours. ‘Stick with it, we have to give it time’ we kept telling ourselves.

Then, the magic started to happen.

The second night, there was a little drama, but nothing major. From there on in, it has been working a treat.

He now saves it, holds on to it, ‘in case’ he needs to come out. The game has been flipped on its head. He no longer comes out of bed every ten minutes, he understands he is ALLOWED to come out of bed, ONCE. So, that is indeed what he does. No requirement to tell him it needs to be a good reason, he worked that out for himself.

Back to quiet nights, for now. Maybe we can get some reading done. I haven’t finished a book in months.

No doubt this will not last forever. But for now at least, i owe my sanity to ‘The Bed Time Pass’.

How do you get your kids to bed? I am sure we would all love to hear some ideas, please feel free to share. 🙂



  1. My husband has a bedtime routine with our son, and he is more of a pushover than I am, so it takes longer than it should, but I don’t complain b/c that’s their daddy/son time. And up until the past handful of months, Bryce would wake up in the night to go potty and then come straight to our bed. At first we let him sleep with us out of convenience, but that got old fast when Bryce figured out he could end up in bed with us every night. So we started the process of taking him back to his bed every time he came in, which was exhausting for both of us because we took turns. Sometimes he came in 2-3 times a night. It was like waking up with an infant again! But now that he knows he can’t sleep with us, he only gets out of bed one or two nights a week, and if we’re lucky, he will go potty and then go right back to his own bed.

    But I don’t think they ever fully stop working the angles. Even my ten year old will wait until bed time to remember to tell me about something important that happened at school, or she has to get up to refill her water bottle, or she just can’t get comfortable and needs to come tell me about it. And she knows I know she is full of shit, b/c when she comes in she has this smile on her face as she’s telling me her back hurts.

    But the potty pass idea is brilliant. Wish we had known about that two years ago. LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lol, we are pretty strict with the sleeping in our bed thing. That is NEVER going to happen. He knows those rules are pretty crystal clear.

      I am hoping the bedtime pass works long enough to get me through the next season of Game of Thrones. 🙂

      I am sure soon enough we will have to come up with something else, but for now at least it is working well.

      Serenity now, insanity later! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. At only 9 months I wake some nights head perched against her cot like a prisoner looking through the bars, I have started ensuring I tire her out as much as possible and it seems to be working.. good luck bud..

    Liked by 2 people

  3. SO feel you here! our girl is pretty good by now (almost 5), but i remember those days. (ugh!) we found it helped to set expectations like it sounds like you’re doing. even tonight, though, daddy is away and i let her splurge with iPad in bed for a few minutes. the deal always is that if she chooses that, it means no story/no snuggle. somehow, she always negotiates it into the 20 min of watching on her own + song, story and snuggle . . . and a bedtime an hour later than it should be. ugh. but once she’s out, she’s out. good luck with it! also, every cycle seems to change up every couple months 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know lots of people that do this kind of thing. It is actually something we try to avoid, sure, he can have a cuddle etc for comfort, but that is it. He also has a seahorse plushie that plays lullaby’s, drives me crazy, but it helps. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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