How to Handle Bedtime Battles with your Child

3 years+

Jun 15, 2024

Are you dealing with bedtime battles every night with your child? Do you dread bedtime routine with your child because every night is a fight?

Navigating bedtime battles with your child can be challenging and exhausting! If you feel like every night is a fight and no one is looking forward to bedtime, this podcast episode and blog are for you!

Below we’ll discuss practical strategies and insights to help parents address common sleep issues in preschoolers. 

From understanding the importance of control and phases to implementing effective rewards and consequences, these strategies offer valuable advice to make bedtime smoother for both you and your child. Additionally, discover how tools like the toddler clock and sleep training plans can support your child’s independent sleep habits!


Erin’s Question: Bedtime Battles

Erin’s question is one I hear often: “How do I convince my almost four-year-old to get in his bed at bedtime? He fights laying down nearly every night and often prefers to sleep on the floor. Once he lays down, he’s able to fall asleep within 10 to 15 minutes, which makes his fighting so frustrating.”

I get it, Erin. It’s exhausting to repeat “get in your bed” endlessly. Here’s what I suggest:


Understanding Control and Phases

If your preschooler is showing major bedtime battle behavior, please first know that this is totally normal! Preschoolers often assert control in the few ways they can, and bedtime can be one of them.

If, like Erin, your child is refusing to sleep in bed, but instead falling asleep on the floor and then later moving to their bed on their own, it might just be a phase. 

While saying “it’s just a phase” may not sound helpful right now, know that if your child is falling asleep on the floor, moving themselves to their bed at some point later in the night and sleeping well throughout the remainder of the night…I wouldn’t change a thing!

If you sense your child is trying to assert control during bedtime routine, it’s a good idea to use my free Toddler Clock Tutorial that will help you teach them to have freedom within the boundaries of time per the clock’s colors!


Evaluate Sleep Quality and Behavior

However, your child is not sleeping well, waking up frequently, or is grouchy during the day, it’s time to implement some changes. 

Preschoolers can understand and participate in conversations about their sleep. 

Talk to your child about how they feel when they sleep on the floor versus in their bed.

Ask questions during the day like, 

“Can you explain how your body feels sleeping on the floor? What about on the bed?”

Another idea is to create an expression chart with faces and ask them to point to the face that most feels like do after sleeping on the floor, and sleeping on their bed.


Implement Rewards and Consequences

Another way to handle bedtime battles with your child is to create a system of rewards and consequences. 

Here’s a simple method:

  • Rewards: When he stays in his bed, offer small rewards like stickers, a small toy or a picnic style breakfast in the living room.
  • Consequences: If he continues to sleep on the floor and it impacts his mood and energy, explain the natural consequences.

As you talk about rewards and consequences with your child a good way to phrase this is using WHEN and IF statements: 

When you sleep in your bed all night you can have this sticker sheet as soon as the clock turns blue for morning! 

If you don’t sleep in your bed all night then you cannot have the sticker sheet.

rewards and consequences for bedtime battles

Want to go deeper on this strategy? See this podcast and blog all about implementing rewards and consequences with a toddler clock.


Consistency is Key

Bedtime battles with your child won’t be solved in just one or two nights. As with any parenting strategy, being consistent will always be the best path! 

Continue to remind your child that WHEN they stay in bed they will get ____, talk about how their body feels, use expression charts and discuss the impacts of sleep with your child.

It might take a few nights, but consistency will help your child understand and adapt to the new expectations.

If you’re looking for more tools that will help reduce bedtime battles, check out my guide: Bedtime Routine Chart & Sleep Cue Cards for your family!


The Role of Sleep Training

Have these bedtime battles gone on for so long that you know you need more of a plan of action? 

If your child struggles with independent sleep, consider our Preschool Sleep Training Course. 

preschool sleep training course

This plan is designed for big kids who struggle to fall asleep independently and sleep 10-12 hours all night long. 

Inside the course I’ll teach you everything from how to support your child as they fall asleep independently to how you will motivate them to stay asleep through the night.



Thank you, Erin, for your question. Remember, every child is different, and what works for one might not work for another. 

If your child is happy, well-rested, and thriving, minor bedtime quirks are usually not a big issue. 

But if bedtime battles are disrupting sleep and daytime behavior, try implementing these strategies:

  • Offer control within limits using a toddler sleep training clock
  • Implement a system of rewards and consequences
  • Discuss during the day how your child feels after a bad night of sleep
  • Be consistent with your sleep expectations

For more tips and resources, check out our Preschool Sleep Training Course and the free Toddler Clock Tutorial.


tips on handling bedtime battles with children

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