The Stalling Toddler

Is there a more frustrating event with a toddler than bedtime? No matter how entrenched the routine is, The Girl is quickly becoming a master of “The Stall”. And oh, she’s getting veeeeery good at it.

For example, she is getting close to being potty trained, so she knows that if she says she has to go pee, that’ll be a few minutes more as we make our way down to the bathroom, stop on the stairs to pick up a wayward stuffy, linger at the bottom of the stairs to examine a dust particle, mosey on into the bathroom, with one quick pause to admire the collected stickers on her cooperation chart (which has been unused for the past few nights).

Once inside the bathroom, a few more moments are wasted while her pj’s and night-time diaper are removed. Then the big decision – potty or toilet. She examines the toilet, then moves over to the potty…then back to the toilet and continues moving indecisively between the two until my voice, lowering in frustration, growls “pick one.”

And so it goes, for the next 10 minutes, until we are back in bed …. and she declares that she is hungry. But we were prepared for this since she has tried this one before. We have been warning her in the evening, before bath, that if she is hungry to have the snack we are offering her now because there will be no more food until morning. So, we tell her this.

Let the wailing begin.

What was once a very pleasant part of our day – a time when we snuggled in warm towels after a hot bath and cuddled under blankets reading The Cat in The Hat – has become The Mother of All Toddler Battles, usually ending in tears, threats, warnings and toddler screams of “NO!”

What is even worse is the toll these night-time battles are taking on her Mom, myself and our relationship. We’re usually okay when we are in the heat of the moment staying relatively calm and working together (never let them see a crack is my motto), but once The Girl is down for the night and we do our post-tantrum analysis, I’ve noticed there seems to be a bit more of “well, if you wouldn’t have…” and “well, maybe you should have…”‘s entering into the discussion.

Fortunately, we are both good at recognizing this, usually the next day, after we are well rested and have had a night to think about what happened. But these past few weeks have been very tough, and I have a feeling it will only get tougher when the new baby arrives any day now.

In the meantime, I’m off to do more research on bedtime strategies and how best to cope with “The Stall”. And continue talking with Mom about our strategy and the importance of presenting a united front to The Girl.

2 responses to “The Stalling Toddler

  1. Wow, we have a 3 yr old who tries EVERYTHING not to fall asleep. The past few nights, he has been up sitting in bed at 9:30pm. It si VERY frustrating, especially because we also have a 17month old and sometimes the 3yr old will wake him up as well. If you find any good strategies, please post them. I have tried many, but none work for us.

    BTW, just found your blog and bookmarked it.

  2. My kids are 8 and 5… Most of the time they’re pretty good about going to bed and staying there. But sometimes, well maybe twice a week, my son gets it into his head that he’s not tired and will stay up until midnight if we don’t force the issue.

    When they were younger, we’ve laid with them, given them back massages, played quiet music. I think the best thing as they got a little older was to be very firm about it. No messing around. When they got out of bed, we marched them right back into their rooms, tucked them in, and said goodnight. No discussions or games.

    Lately, with my son’s semi-insomnia we tried a sound machine with gentle rain sounds… I think it’s helped give him something to focus his mind on instead of all the inventions and stories he wants to create.