Bedtime Resistance: Why is Bedtime Such a Struggle For Children?

Good ideas for Bedtime Resistance: Why is Bedtime Such a Struggle For Children?

Leave a Comment / Behavior / By milestonemom

If you are a parent, you could be met with extreme bedtime resistance from your young children at the end of the day. The battle of bedtime is something that may have always been there or maybe it is something brand new. Either way, it seems to last forever. I’m sure you know the struggle. That is why you are here! Let’s take a look at why this might be happening.

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Bedtime Resistance Solutions

If you are looking for bedtime resistance solutions, you are not alone. There are many of us trying to figure out how to meet the individual needs of our children while setting up routines and structures. Take the solutions below and try them out! Don’t forget to comment on what you are going to try or how these have helped your child.

Before you start looking at how to quickly solve bedtime resistance with your child though, remember that identifying the issues is sometimes one-in-the-same as identifying the solutions. your child may have a specific reason for bedtime resistance, or they may have a few reasons for bedtime resistance. Read below to see if any of these could apply to your child.

Creating Bedtime Routines

Routines are very helpful for anyone, but children thrive on routines more than we sometimes realize. If a child’s routine is off, it can throw their bedtime out of whack. Even something as little as changing the time frame of one of their normal activities can throw them for a loop. The rest of the day may go smoothly but, come bedtime, they may be out of sorts.

If your child does not have a routine, I highly suggest starting one as soon as possible. Sometimes having your child know the expectations is all it takes to solve bedtime resistance. Involve your child in creating the routine. If you do that, it will lead to less resistance, especially if you have a high-spirited child that likes to be part of the decision-making. Ask them what they should be doing before bed- they may surprise you.

Try not to make the routine too complicated. Make it something simple that you can write down and stick on your refrigerator or somewhere where your child can see it. Stick with that exact routine for two weeks. It takes two to three weeks to establish a routine, so make sure not to be too quick to change it up.

If you need some ideas on what to include in a consistent bedtime routine, here are a few examples: read a bedtime story, turn on a night light, sing a song, and tuck them into bed. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all for the whole bedtime routine. What works for another family may not work for yours, and that is just fine! But building a consistent routine, no matter what that looks like, is the first step to creating a safe place for sleep for your child that will lead to better sleep for them and fewer sleepless nights for you!

They May Be Hungry

I’m sure you have had your kids tell you they can’t go to bed because they are hungry. Sometimes, it is a ploy to stay up later but, other times they are legitimately hungry. If you offer your child something like an apple or crackers and they decline, you will know they aren’t truly hungry. If they take you up on it, they are hungry and will most likely go right to bed after their snack.

The best way to approach this is to think about your child as a mini-version of you. There are probably times when you wake up in the middle of the night in need of a late-night snack. Instead of waiting until the next morning, you may make your way to the kitchen and find something to eat. Children go through growth spurts at different ties throughout their life, and although there are some tell-tale signs that this is happening, it isn’t always obvious. It may be a good idea to offer a healthy snack and see if that solves their bedtime problems!

They May Be Thirsty

‘I’m thirsty’ is another common thing we hear when our kids are trying to stay up later. However, if they didn’t drink much water during the day, they may be very thirsty. Other liquids don’t give their bodies the hydration it needs so when it comes time to lay down, they may actually be as thirsty as they say they are. Once their thirst is quenched, bedtime should be much easier.

Once again, think about how you would feel if you didn’t have the ability to go get a drink of water when you woke up thirsty during the night. You may even keep a glass or bottle of water next to your bed so you can grab a quick drink if you wake up. Although a lot of potty training guides will insist that you do not offer your child water before bed, a small glass or a few sips may be all your child needs to quench their thirst and get a good night’s sleep.

Is Your Child Anxious?

Even if your child doesn’t outwardly show that they are anxious about something they may be. They may not know exactly how to describe what they are feeling but they just know they can’t sleep. Maybe they are worried about a friend, or school, or they overheard you talking about some of your worries. A child can be anxious just as easily as we can but we know what that feeling is called and they may not.

Another type of anxiety your child may be facing is separation anxiety. As children grow and go through developmental stages, they will also go through periods of needing to be close to you. Their temper tantrums may be the result of these big feelings and wanting to connect with you more.

There are a few different things you can try if these emotional problems are stopping your child from getting a good night’s sleep. Adding in some play time before bed is a great way to connect with your child. You can even incorporate this into their bedtime routine. If you don’t already have a bedtime routine in place, adding one may be a simple way to connect with your child more. Putting down your phone or turning off other electronic devices and being present with your child thirty minutes before bed may be all that it takes to calm them down.

You can also work on creating that connection during the day and letting your child know that they can always talk to you. Your child is still learning how to deal with strong emotions, and anxiety is a feeling that everyone deals with from time to time. Teaching them coping skills such as taking deep breaths or removing yourself from the situation to calm down can help with this. If you can pick up on what may be bothering them throughout the day or spend some time with them before bed talking about how their day was, you may be able to avoid some of the emotional outbursts that come from an anxious child.

Look at Their Activity Level

Come bedtime, it may seem that your child is either overwhelmingly full of energy or way overtired. The amount of activity a child has during the day will directly impact how well they fall and stay asleep. If there is too much or not enough activity during the day, bedtime may be a bit harder.

Make sure that your child has plenty of time to rest during the day. This doesn’t always have to look like a nap, but it could mean some quiet time playing or reading books. On days when you will be going out and very busy, carve out some time for your child to reset so they don’t get overstimulated or overtired.

On the opposite end, if your child is full of energy, you may need to look at what they are doing during the day. Make sure they have plenty of time to get that energy out before bedtime so they don’t continue to get themselves worked up right before bed. You could also try limiting screen time and other electronic activities. There has been a lot of research that shows that the blue light that comes from screens can actually be keeping your child up rather than allowing them to wind down.


They miss you. There are many times kids will come ask you to sit with them or snuggle with them or, even ask for another story. Even if it seemed like you spent all day together, they need more. Children crave closeness with their parents, and them wanting to be near you before they go to sleep is one way they show that.

This also can play into separation anxiety as mentioned above. If you are noticing your child is experiencing trouble with separation, try looking at this in a positive way rather than being annoyed that they won’t go to sleep. Enjoy the extra snuggle time with your children, they may not always want it!

Is Your Child Overtired?

When a child is overtired, their whole body goes into overdrive and it is hard for them to wind down for bed. They are cranky and obviously tired but it is their body and brain that aren’t letting them sleep. The easiest way to fix this may be to give your child an earlier bedtime. If you are noticing that your child’s tantrums are getting worse, it may be time for a change in bedtime. This may especially be the case if they are in the middle of a nap transition or trying to drop a nap altogether. Your child’s sleep needs will change as they get older, and even if you think they are getting enough sleep, they may still need an extra little bit of time.

If your child is frequently overtired when it comes to bedtime, Try moving their bedtime a half hour earlier and see if that helps fix the problem. Remember that although being more tired for us means that we fall asleep easier, kids can get more worked up the longer they are awake. Extending those naps and moving bedtime earlier may be what you need to stop your child’s tantrums.

Look at Their Nap Time

That nap at 4:00 or 5:00 pm that you just couldn’t wake them up from is sure to throw bedtime off. If a child has a nap before dinner they will most certainly be up later. Their body will not be ready to go back to sleep at their normal bedtime which, will make bedtime a huge struggle.

Younger children have to build up enough sleep pressure in order to fall asleep easily. If they haven’t had enough time to do so, it can lead to extra work in order to put them down for bed. If your child slept for longer than normal during their last nap of the day, try extending their bedtime a little bit that night. This could be a great opportunity for extra connections with your child. Then, the next night, you may be able to get them to go to sleep at their normal time.

This may mess up your schedule, but a night or two isn’t going to completely ruin your child’s bedtime routine. If your child is consistently extending their naps or staying awake longer in between naps, it may also be a good time to reevaluate their schedule as they may be going through a sleep transition and trying to drop a nap. The important thing is to try to read your child’s cues and see what they are trying to tell you about their sleep!

Tune Into Their Natural Body Clock

This is probably the most important thing to pay attention to when it comes to toddler tantrums at night. Kids’ body clocks are just like yours and mine. We all have times where we function the best and when we naturally wind down. Some children need to go to bed earlier and others are naturally up later. If you take the time to notice when your child naturally winds down, bedtime will go much smoother.

This isn’t something that you will automatically be able to fix, but in the long run, recognizing your child’s individual sleep needs can make bedtime much smoother. It can even differ between kids! Your child may have an older sibling that went through a totally different sleep experience, and that’s okay! Finding what works best for each child may take some extra hard work, but it is worth it.


There are many reasons why you could be dealing with bedtime resistance. While it is frustrating to say the least, it is important to remember that our little ones are people too. We as adults have a hard time going to bed when we should, so cut them a little slack and be open to listening to their needs. If you can do that, bedtime should be a bit smoother.

Which one of these ideas will you use with your child? Comment below!

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