Top five children’s bedtime delaying tactics

Children are cunning creatures. They are particularly cunning when you are least capable of countering their cunning with craftiness of your own – at bedtime.

It’s been a long, hard day. You’re ready to collapse in a heap, but first you have various tedious jobs to do – stuff like washing up, sorting out washing, filling in umpteen forms to send back to school… Before that, however, there is the small matter of getting the kids to bed.

They know you want them to go to bed. You have told them several times already, in an increasingly loud and hysterical voice. It seems like they haven’t been listening, but they know.

Here’s the problem. They don’t want to go to bed. A battle of wills commences. They will get sudden urges to perform songs from their school play, reveal the forgotten homework, or choose this moment to tell you, in astounding detail, what they’ve been doing today – information previously forgotten or withheld.

Bedtime is the perfect time to wind you up. Tired, impatient and battle weary, you are no match for their devious bedtime delaying tactics. Here are the top five methods employed by my two children. I suspect parents across the land will recognise some, if not all, of these.

Another chapter

Ah, the bedtime story. A nice, cosy few minutes for you to share quality time with your little cherub. It’s also the perfect opportunity to catch you off guard with a delaying tactic. You’ve finished the chapter. “Right, time for bed,” you say, in a kindly yet determined fashion. “Can I have another chapter?” asks the cunning child, unleashing puppy-dog eyes. “Pleeeeeaaaaase?” And you find yourself thinking “Well, I did quite enjoy reading that and having a cuddle…” They sense this weakness and capitalise on it. You’re fair game for the expert bedtime delayer.


Kids never ask for a drink. Having a drink interferes with playing. Well, I say never, but that’s not quite true. They never ask for a drink EXCEPT at bedtime, when they a) realise they actually were thirsty all along and b) it buys them an extra few seconds of awake time.


Often a side effect of the evening drink, “I need the toilet” is perhaps the most compelling bedtime phrase. It will get you leaping out of your chair or bed, abandoning the washing up and legging it to your stricken child’s side in seconds. Why? Because of the possible consequences. A wet bed. A nappy to change, perhaps. And let’s not even bring the fear of poo clear-up into this. Kids know this is a winning trick. They can always force out a paltry trickle of a wee if it means delaying bedtime.


Aw, poor ickle bubba is scared. Hmm, really? Or have they remembered that this means bonus cuddles, some extra attention and – top prize – the possible necessity to sleep in mummy and daddy’s bed. A moving shadow, a ghost in the wardrobe, a lingering memory of an episode of Scooby Doo… Real or imagined, this state of terror needs nipping in the bud as soon as possible, because it will otherwise lead to wailing, screaming and possibly even thrashing about.


The best tactic of all, and a real speciality of my little angels, is to throw something completely unexpected into the mix. Two examples:


Daughter: Dad, can you help me?

Me: Why, what is it?

Daughter reveals she has tied her tights together. In a knot. While wearing them.


Me: Can you get ready for bed now, please?

Son: No. I’m dead.

If you liked this post you might also like Mummy, there’s a dwarf in the bath and Five unexpected ways children change your life.

12 Comments on “Top five children’s bedtime delaying tactics”

  1. Mhairi says:

    You’ve forgotten my favourite… Your son shouting “Emergancy!” down the stairs. It seems that when you’ve been told only to shout the babysitter in an emergancy, anything counts!

  2. Nickie Brook says:

    Wow, I am not looking forward to this part when my little one is older! Thanks of the tips though, I might be more prepared to handle it 😉

  3. Shawn says:

    great piece – its shocking how universal these tactics are. My middle child is the Queen of Random and both of my daughters like to use the occasion of bedtime to discuss theology and the meaning of existence – they’re 4 & 6 now but this has been going on for a few years.
    There’s also “the one last hug” tactic. How are you going to refuse your kid a hug?

  4. I have an 8 year old and he is just not tired. Midnight last night and up at 7am. Every night I hate bed time 😦

  5. Marianne says:

    My children all employ these tactics in different ways now they’re 17, 14 and 11 but they still do!
    My 14year old allways wants “just one more hug” but as she will still give me hugs I have to do it 🙂
    My 11yr old, we will still have cuddlies say night night, but I have to draw the line at all 3,000 of them indervidually…………again he’ll not want this soon so I want to keep this bit of childhood alive as long as possible.
    The 17yr old just says “OK” and “Just finishing” but still sits with laptop open in front of her…
    At least with Babies they stay where you put them and don’t argue/discuss the finer points of of all the Star Wars, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings ……………

  6. […] multi-disciplinary event, in which children must devise cunning ways of delaying bedtime, going to school, leaving playgrounds and finishing […]

  7. […] about getting some peace with your kids tucked up in bed, but they think it’s time to act up and muck about. Our children aren’t alone in this behaviour though. Jackdaws do it too. They tumble and circle […]

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