Are You An Exhausted Parent Looking For Tips On Parenting Without Power Struggles At Bedtime?

Each night it is the same thing — a bedtime battle with children, every step of your bedtime routines.

Are You An Exhausted Parent Looking For Tips On Parenting Without Power Struggles At Bedtime?First, your child refuses to put on pajamas, then doesn’t want to brush teeth.

The more you remind and push, the firmer your child refuses to cooperate.

You end up raising your voices at each other and feel like you are going in circles.

Ultimately, you both go to bed angry.

Like most parents, you probably have a busy life.  You rush to pick up your child, then go home to make dinner. After taking care of the household chore list, your evening is full of many other activities. 

By the time bedtime arrives, you are an exhausted parent, wanting bedtime routines to go smoothly, without bedtime battles with children, or handling temper tantrums.

Unfortunately, bedtime rarely seems to go smoothly.

A bedtime battle with children is often caused by a desire for power that leads to resistance or tantrums, to get what they want. The bargaining can seem endless, with children wanting to stay up later, have you read an extra story (or two or three), or to skip bath time. Even pre-verbal children can use nonverbal cues and behavior to resist your efforts.

If this is the case, your child’s behavior will seem deliberate and you will feel like he is challenging your authority. If you argue or push for control, it will escalate the situation. If you give in to the demands, it will give the child a payoff and the drama is sure to occur again because it worked!  This puts you further away from parenting without power struggles.

What are some tips for parenting without power struggles?

If you are an exhausted parent due to power struggles, apply the following suggestions based on The Parent’s Toolshop® Universal Blueprint® problem-solving system and “PASRR response formula.”

Prevent power struggles from starting or escalating to the point you are handling temper tantrums.

Acknowledge feelings to de-escalate bedtime tantrums or identify that the root cause of the problem is power.

Set limits, so children have guidelines and learn appropriate bedtime behavior.

Redirect misbehavior so children learn how to request what they want without getting into power struggles and how to handle it if they do not get what they want.

Reveal discipline so children understand the consequences of their behavior at bedtime.

Prevent the problem: It is a universal human trait to want to have some control over what happens to you. If children feel completely powerless, or their positive attempts to express their desires are squashed, they can get discouraged and start resisting or rebelling. So try doing the following:

  • Channel the child’s desire for independence by offering choices about what your child can have or do, within your “bottom line” limits. These are the absolute minimum that has to happen or what you are unwilling to negotiate.
    • For example, instead of saying “You have to take a bath,” say “Your body needs to get clean.  Do you want to take a bath or shower?” Not getting clean is non-negotiable. If they want to have some control, they can choose how they get clean.
    • There are choices you can allow at every step of bedtime routines, such as which step they do first, next, etc.
    • Instead of nagging and pressuring children, teach them skills for remembering and doing tasks independently. Involve them in creating a reminder poster with photos of them doing each step.

If/when the child resists:

Acknowledge feelings:

  • Tell children what you think they are feeling or what they want.

Set limits:

  • Keep your cool and state the bottom line limits (one last time). Then focus on the choice(s) they do have.

Redirect behavior:

  • Say, “I’m not willing to argue about this. You can ____ or ____ (give 2 acceptable choices). Let me know what you decide.”
  • If you find yourself arguing about the choices, you can try allowing the child to think of options within your bottom line, instead of telling them the choices they have.
  • Once you’ve done one of the above, disengage and don’t remind or nag.

Reveal discipline: If they continue to push…

  • Let your child know that their bedtime experience is up to them — how long it takes and how pleasant it is. Let them know that you will follow through with the following plan:
    • If your child delays during one part of the routine, your child will be choosing to cut short a later part of the routine like reading books.
    • If your child throws a fit or otherwise delays the routine so that bedtime is delayed, your child is choosing to start the bedtime routines and end in bed that much earlier the next night.
      • It’s important to say it’s their choice.  Do not say you (the parent) will make this happen or the power struggle will escalate.
    • Disengage and simply follow through.
      • When starting bedtime earlier the following night, be sure to say they chose to go to bed early and they “now have another chance to show” you that they can get to bed quickly and happily.

If the power struggle leads to a tantrum, follow the suggestions outlined in the article “Handling Temper Tantrums At Bedtime Even Though You Follow Bedtime Routines?”

Use this process as part of your bedtime routines and discover how it can eliminate your bedtime battle with children. You can use a similar plan for other issues that start power struggles.

Be aware that your child will likely test the new plan for a couple of days to a week.  If you’ve laid the foundation by doing everything listed above and follow through consistently, the plan will usually work — permanently. 

Soon, you will find you are parenting without power struggles and that your bedtime routines are quick and smooth without a bedtime battle with children.

If you want additional insights, information and practical tools and tips about other bedtime problems, read the other articles in this series: “Looking for Bedtime Routines to Make Bedtime Peaceful?”, “How Can I Help My Child Through Bedtime Tantrums Caused By Fear?” and “What Is The Best Way Of Handling Temper Tantrums At Bedtime That Are Caused By Toddler Separation Anxiety?”. You can also get the Halting Bedtime Hassles Teleseminar package.  It provides step-by-step solutions to the Top Ten Bedtime hassles, so you can get your children in bed and how to keep them there through the entire night. 


Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is president of Parent’s Toolshop® Consulting, where she oversees an international network of Toolshop® trainers. She has 30+ years of experience as a top-rated speaker and parenting expert to the media worldwide, including serving as the Co-Producer and Parenting Expert for the Emmy-nominated Ident-a-Kid television series. She is the author of the award-winning book, The Parent’s Toolshop® and countless multimedia resources that support and educate parents from diverse backgrounds and needs, and other adults who live or work with children. You can find them at her award-winning website,

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2 thoughts on “Are You An Exhausted Parent Looking For Tips On Parenting Without Power Struggles At Bedtime?”

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