My child refuses to go to bed

At some point, many children will go through a phase of not wanting to go to bed. After all, they are developing their own personality and sometimes refusing to go to bed is a way to get extra attention. The following tips can help.

Tips for children who refuse to go to bed

Tell your child it is time to go to sleep well in advance.

Why? That will give them the chance to calmly finish what they were doing in preparation for bed.
Example: you could say, “Wesley, it’ s almost time for bed. Finish colouring the star and then we’re going upstairs”.

Use a set bed time ritual every day.

Why? A bed time ritual helps your child wrap up the day and prepare for the night. A clear and predictable bed time ritual allows your child to fall asleep more easily and enjoy a better night’s sleep.
Example: An example of a bed time ritual is: brush your teeth, wash your hands, put on your pyjamas, read a book, say goodnight and go to bed.

Try to make bed time fun. Take your time and create an enjoyable routine.

Why? That will turn bed time into a fun moment to spend together. Your child won’t need to beg for attention anymore right before bed.
Example: fun ways to give your child attention before bed:
– Discuss what you did during the day.
– Read a book together in bed.
– Have a nice hug.

Did your child put on their pyjamas by themselves? Or did they go to bed without whining? That deserves a compliment!

Why? Children love compliments. If you give your child a compliment, chances are next time they will do their best to listen to you. Find out more about how to compliment your child here.
Example: you could say, “I think it’s great you are going upstairs with me without complaining. Now we have even more time to read a story together.”

Encourage your child to show you what they can do by themselves. Just make sure it is you’re not asking too much of your child.

Why? That makes bed time fun for your child.
Example: you could say, “Can you put on your pyjamas all  by yourself?”. Once they have put on their pyjamas, tell them “Well done!”.


Don’t pay attention to your child’s negative behaviour but clearly tell them what you want them to do. If they keep whining, ignore this behaviour.

Why? Your child will learn that whining or crying is pointless, so eventually they will stop.
Example: you could say, “It’s time for bed. Now all the animals and children are going to sleep. I want you to go upstairs with me.”
If your child keeps whining, ignore that. If they follow you, give them extra attention or compliment them.

Sjors, father of Delano (4 years old):

Every night, when it was time for bed, it was the same old story. As soon as I even mentioned sleeping, Delano would start crying, whining or coming up with excuses, even though he really did need his sleep. Then we came up with a fun bed time ritual. We read a book together. Delano loves reading with us. Now he goes to bed without whining more and more often. He sometimes still refuses to go to sleep after reading a book, but we’re working on it.

Of course it’s not always as easy as we’ve described it here. This video is a good example of how difficult it can be not to give up. You might need to take your child back to their bed over and over again. Your child may get upset. If they’re scared, try leaving a nightlight on. You could also offer them a sip of water as part of their bed time ritual.