The bedtime trick for the strong willed child.


At about 4PM the countdown begins for: a minute to breathe, eat an actual meal, have a conversation, or maybe even sleep. Dream big! Bedtime can be so beautiful right? Full of cuddles and books and brushing your teeth songs. It can also be terrible.  Like – close the windows because you don’t want the neighbors to call the cops – terrible. I have experienced both extremes but I have to say lately it’s been great! I’m going to tell you the simple strategy that worked for us.  First let’s review some failures I tried that were often exhausting, confusing, and mostly just pretty useless and frustrating. This is just our personal experience of course and every tot is different!

Bedtime failures:
Warm bath and lavender lotion massage
Yoga (this does work for calming down when frustrated though!)
Predictable visual schedule a teacher made for me
Adorable Sticker chart I worked really hard on
Calming music (with lyrics and without)
Diet changes
Moving dinner time
Literally running out the energy
Comfort items…and no comfort items
Earlier bedtime and later bedtime
The list goes on and on really.

The magical random item that changed everything:

The Bedtime Board (It’s simply a blank whiteboard).

One night in a moment of inspiration (more like desperation) I grabbed a whiteboard and we drew silly pictures with check-boxes of everything she needed to do before bed. In the order she chose. She helped with the pictures and was excited to scribble in the boxes and erase the board when she was done. Then she calmly told everyone goodnight and walked up to her crib. Dreamy.
I thought maybe it was just a one hit wonder and would wear off. I was wrong. This routine has made a positive impact on bedtime for weeks now! She likes the control of choosing the order and the novelty and silliness of me drawing all the pictures. I guess the printed out predictable schedules where too arbitrary for this little princess president.
The bedtime board has become the most important part of the evening routine. I love sitting down together and collaborating on a plan. We even tried having my spouse take over and it still worked! In the last few weeks there have been two evenings where I skipped the board for various reasons. Bedtime was a mess. It’s such an easy thing to do and takes no prep so I will not be skipping it anytime in the near future! I prefer to drink my wine without screaming in the background thank you very much.
If you have a toddler or preschooler who likes to have control, requires explanations for everything, and manipulates every reward system you can think of, this trick might be for you!
Here is a great one pager on how and why giving kids choices can work. It explains that children need choices.
I would like some input from all the mommy experts reading this post: should I use the whiteboard trick for other routines like meal time? Or is it best to just keep it our special bedtime board?

Thanks for any advice you may share below!

– Rae


  1. Great idea! I think I would just stick to using it at bedtime. That way it’s specific and special to that time and doesn’t lose value. Things that are constantly around tend to become less important.


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