6 Year Old Bedtime Behavior Wears Me Out

Updated on December 14, 2013
K.B. asks from Detroit, MI
13 answers

My 6 year old daughter gets plenty of sleep nightly and is sent to bed at a reasonable hour, so it's rare that I can chalk it up to being overtired, but almost every night she has way more energy at bedtime than I have patience for. I am worn out at the end of the day, but she finds all kinds of ways to drag out the bedtime routine and seems to have a hard time settling down. There's always something she has to start telling me when it's time for her to be brushing her teeth or getting jammies on. There's always the one more request for a drink of water. There's when she can't make up her mind about a bedtime story or insists on reading it herself, but keeps dropping the book, losing which page she was on or some other such thing. Or when I am trying to read to her, she's bouncing around or building a fort with her stuffed animals in bed. Then with all her bouncing around, she gets thirsty and says she needs more water. Or she wants the blanket on her, then is popping up for something else. I get her tucked in and have some cuddles with her, but she's still chatting up a storm instead of trying to relax. Then it's, "Don't leave Mommy! Cuddle with me some more! " God, I would love to if it was actual cuddling, but it's not relaxing for me at all, it's exhausting!

I feel horrible for feeling this way, but I just don't have as much energy at the end of the day for all that, and she always seems more wound up than anything. Tonight after I left the room and had shut the lights off and had told her to settle down and go to sleep, she managed to bang her head into the wall next to her bed TWICE because she goofing around instead. She was fine, but I felt like, really? Any advice here on how to make bedtime feel like less of an ordeal?

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answers from Cleveland on

Just wondering if you can think of the bedtime routine starting at around 5:30 pm soft lights, quiet music, calm mommy voice. NO TV, and lots of activity and attention at 4 pm so that by 5:30 she is settling down to eat dinner and calmly help clean up, calmly picking out her clothes for tomorrow, calmly getting a warm bath, blowdry, brush teeth, story bed.

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answers from Dallas on

6 is old enough to reason with. But don't try it at bedtime, wait until about supper time. I have zero patience at bedtime, and I mean ZERO. I have 4 kids and have put up with NO NONSENSE at bedtime. Consequently, they never gave me any nonsense. If I were in your place, I would set a timer for oh... 20 minutes and tell her that during that time, she has to brush, read and cuddle. When the timer goes off, you leave. Tell her at supper time that bedtime is bedtime, not playtime, and that since she is a big girl, bedtime will only take 20 minutes now. (or 30 - whatever number you choose). Then, you absolutely HAVE to follow through. There will probably be testing and tears, but you HAVE to leave. If you've prepared her calmly and explained the reasoning, then she knows why.

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answers from Chicago on

We bought my daughter a reading light. She gets 15-20 minutes. It's really helped her wind down. If she gets out of bed after it's "lights out," she loses her light the next night. After years of her always dragging out bedtime, she finally stays in bed and leaves me alone!!!!!!!

I don't know if your daughter loves books as much as mine, but maybe you can find something she can do to wind herself down?

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answers from Jacksonville on

The advice is less in what you need to change, other than your attitude. Resignation more or less. It will pass, eventually.

I think we all have those years where it feels more exhausting than we wish it did, less memory making and too much "work" oriented feelings about the whole thing. But it won't last forever. I had two, and they were (and are) great kiddos. But bedtime was something I usually dreaded. They weren't awful, it just was work for me... nice work in the scheme of things, but work at the end of the day when I was least able to cope because I was exhausted already.

It seems like it lasts forever, but it doesn't. Hang in there.
And stick to your guns when you say "I'm leaving the room now, good night."

ETA: oh, and at her age, it is ok to get a plastic cup and put 1/2 cup of water in it and set it on her nightstand. I did. Most of the time is was left undrunk. But sometimes even I wake up in the night and would like a sip of water. If you do it before bed, it alleviates the "I'm thirsty" call, though. :) Just make sure you warn that there are no refills when it's gone.

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answers from Washington DC on

Our routine starts about an hour before bedtime and usually involves a bath because DD finds it calming. If DD screws around, she will miss her "window of opportunity" and find herself in bed without her favorite bear or a book being read. Stalling gets her cranky mommy instead of extra cuddles or a song.

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answers from Saginaw on

My daughter is almost 16 years old now, and the days of asking to cuddle before bed time, and of having lots stories she wants to tell me, are long gone. I remember often feeling the frustration you describe, and I don't really have any helpful advice. I just want to say I'm a little jealous, and I now look on those days with a bit of nostalgia! Try to remember that "this, too, shall pass" and that soon enough she'll be disappearing off to her room immediately after dinner, not to be seen again until morning. And then, before you know it, she'll be old enough to move out, and you'll wish you could cuddle with your little girl again, and hear her little voice tell you a story from her day. Again, sorry my advice isn't more helpful in addressing your problem, but I do sympathize! :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

A consistent, unwavering routine. Give her 20 minutes to get all her chatter out, then go with your routine:
Bath at X time
Jammies at X time
Brush teeth at X time
Drink of water right at X time
Climb into bed at X time
Read a book, cuddle, then leave the room. What she does from there is up to her.

If she would rather chatter/wiggle away than follow the routine then skip right to tucking her in and leaving the room.

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answers from Grand Rapids on

Try giving her about 15 minutes before bedtime to get herself ready for bed.That includes water,snack or whatever else she usually tries to do in stalling. I do that with my son who is 17 years old and doing the stalling bit for years. He does have some issues that he has had for years. Not your typical teenager.



answers from Dallas on

I am also exhausted when putting my kids to bed and also have no tolerance for it, so I feel for you! Can you enroll her in an after school activity that would exert a lot of her energy, such as gymnastics, swim lessons, or a kid exercise class? Anything that will allow her to get rid of her energy. Or even taking her to a park and letting her run around would be good, too.

You can give her melatonin, which will make her sleepy and is all natural. However, too much melatonin can have the opposite effect, so only give her a very small amount (no more than 1.5 mg). I think the smallest tablet is 3 mg, and I cut them in half to give to my 10, 7, or 5 year old.

Can you start her bedtime routine earlier? This way, she will more time to goof off. Good luck!



answers from Honolulu on

Tell her: the time for bouncing around and horse-play is BEFORE bed. NOT at, bedtime.
And then, let her do that, WAY before her actual bedtime.
To get out her yah-yahs.

I have told my kids that, they are 7 and 11, and its fine.
Because I tell them.
So, they get out their yah-yahs before bed. NOT at bedtime or during the getting-ready-for-bed routine.

I TELL my kids, directly, that when they horse-play/bounce around at bedtime... it SABOTAGES them and their ability RELAX before bed and just makes them more 'hyper."
Common sense, I tell them. And its irritating for ALL.
And they go "oh, yeah Mom, that makes sense!.... " and they realize now.
So its not a problem, now.
Because, I tell them.

If your daughter wants 1 more drink of water. Tell her to get it herself.
OR learn how, to PREPARE things BEFORE bedtime. ie: SHE can get a cup of water herself, and then put it by her bed. BEFOREHAND.
If she wants a cuddle, tell you beforehand, ONCE she has calmed down and is IN bed ready.
I tell my kids that... to do and get anything they want BEFORE bed... not AT bedtime or when they are already IN bed.
And its fine.
I tell my kids to THINK AHEAD... not once its too late and they are already in bed. And I will not entertain any requests, UNTIL THEY are already ready, IN bed and have gotten out their yah-yahs. And got prepped. And are settled down.
I tell my kids the parameters of it.
And they do it.
I tell them THEY have to get ready/get prepped/get settled down, FIRST.
NOT at, bedtime.
And bedtime has never really been a pain in the rear with them, at all, even when they were younger.
Bedtime is actually a pleasant routine in our house.

Just so you know, my kids are both real active and their heads.
But so, as I said above, that works for me, per bedtime.
I just tell them, exactly what I said above, and they get it.
And if a blanket or book keeps falling down, let them get it.
Mommy is not a wind up toy on-call.
Or if my kids are still too wound up, just before bed... I tell them "look, you aren't ready, get out your yah-yahs, Mommy has things to do, call me when you are done. This is taking too much time. You can be peaceful and calmed down, or not, that is up to you. But Mommy can't wait..." and then, I walk away. I tell them this in my usual voice, but they know I am being honest. But that I mean it.
I tell them they are only making things harder for themselves. And they are wasting time and it is only getting later and they are more tired.

A funny story: so once my kids got ready for bed. And then they called me. I go to their rooms... and their beds had pillows under their sheets to look like them. And I hear giggling in the hallway in another room.
It was so funny.
But so, at that point, I knew they were still getting their yah-yahs out. It was still before their actual bedtime. So I told them, they have 10 more minutes... and that's it. Kids need to be given a time-frame and limit to wasting time, before bed.



answers from Sacramento on

Welcome to my bed time issues. However I had to give my son tough love three separate times n since then its been easier. I tell my son what his routine will be. Not him! He can choose his bed time story n one glass of water, thats it. About 90% of the time I lay with my son, talk n cuddle. 5 min warning and then I give him a kiss, turn his light n mudic on then say good night. If he fuses, I usually stay 5mins more.

the 3 times of tough love was locking him in his room. Hr hated thr doot shut. By the third time of screams, hitting the door n crying, he settled immediately n went to bed. Not a peep out of him, after 5 mins of quiet I went in n opened his door and thank him for settling down. Gave him another kiss and told him I loved him. I even got an apology for his behavior.

After that here n there lil incidents but he would apologize then go to bed. Stop meeting her demands n excuses. U tell her enough. Time for bed, tuck her in, say ur good nights n give her a kiss. Immediately walk out. If she gets out of bed, politely walk her back, not saying a word, tuck her back in bed and kiss her, again walk out. If she continues, do not engage with her, only kisses. If she realizes her tactics are not working it will get less n less. These kids have our numbers and have us dialed in on how to play us like puppets n we fall for it all the time. Myself included.

ur the mom n she listens to you. Now her talking, as I hate cutting off my son, so I politely give my son a 5 min warning during our talks, then I tell him we can finish in the morning. If he wants to.

be consistent n follow through....



answers from Portland on

I've dealt with a few similar moments with my son. The other night he was bouncing next to me on the bed and I suggested "you can get under the covers and settle in now, or I'll be all done". I am not in the mood to 'play' either by that time, so I have pretty clear "either/or" choices at that point.

He knows that I will do what I say I'm going to do, and that helps a lot. It's not easy. We've had to deal with "I need a vitamin C" to "I'm hungry" to "I'm scared of dying", etc. Lots of reasons to need mommy.

What we have started doing recently is to tell him that if-- and ONLY if-- he lies quietly for some time (30-45 minutes) after we put him to bed, if he's still awake at that point he can have a book. But that means NO calling us, no 'needing' anything etc.

What you might do is put a small water bottle in her room for nighttime. Before bedtime, go through the short list of What She Might Need, and tell her "this is the time....". (Our son went through a growth spurt where he was hungry again an hour after dinner, so we told him that he could have a banana--but only before we started stories.)

Before I even go into his room, while he's getting his pjs on, I will tell him "go pick out your book for tonight".

And then, the rest, I am just a very matter-of-fact mom about. There have been times when I've told him "if you need me to come in, I will, but there will be no tv time tomorrow. I've done my job of reading stories and helping you get ready for bed, and I have other things to do now. You are old enough to know how to go to sleep." If he bumps around and hurts himself 'Oh, that's too bad, isn't it?" no sympathy. "you are old enough to put a blanket on yourself" (or ask preemptively before leaving the room and give one warning "If you don't want it on now, you will need to do it yourself later on". You could even do a 'preemptive cuddle' for five minutes after stories, so it's when you are mentally aware that you are going to do this with her instead of it feeling like her intruding on your time and asking for yet one.more.thing.

You have my empathy. Most nights go pretty well these days because he really wants that extra time to read, and a few nights-- well, I've had to get pretty stern and tell him off. "You don't have the right to keep asking me for things when you know the time for asking was earlier. There will be NO tv/media time tomorrow because you are not being respectful and not allowing me to have my evening." Everyone works hard during the day and is entitled to enjoy their 'down time'..... so unless you are bleeding or throwing up or dying, you stay quietly in bed. He can talk to his animals or himself, but asking mom and dad to keep doing things for you is out of the question.



answers from Detroit on

I don't have energy for a bedtime routine.
There are 5 kids under 7.
It's pretty simple. They go upstairs, brush their teeth, and go to bed. Good night. That's it.

The 2 YO stays up late though since she won't actually stay in bed. And she is never tired. Usually no nap, but sometimes she does, then it's up until 10pm.

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