My 7 year old thinks bedtime is a personal sleight - Jennifer

What do I do with a stroppy 7-year-old girl who truly believes bedtime is a personal sleight? I let her stay up until 9:30 last night and when I came to tuck her in she said "I wish I knew what I'd done wrong so I know why I have to go to bed." Upon telling her it was just late, she said that wasn't her fault! - Jennifer 

Imagine you're at your best friend's wedding, the whole day has been a wonderful, joyful experience; you're drunk on life and then just before the cake is cut the bride approaches you and asks you to leave. You protest of course, 'I'm just getting started', you say, 'I still plan to do shots and teach all the twenty something's the moves to Saturday Night!' The bride continues to insist that you've had enough and you're forced to go home - you'd be confused, you'd be hurt and you'd be really, really pissed off. This is what children experience every night at bedtime. For a child the world is still an amazing place and every day another adventure and you are the centre of that world. She may never admit it but you are her best friend and so bedtime feels like a loss no matter how you dress it up. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs in my Care Bear pyjamas listening to the sound of my parents laughing and Babycham bottles popping and thinking, how could they leave me out! During the day I was the main attraction and then the sun would go down and I became irrelevant.

I want you to approach this issue from this headspace, it might not change much but it could help you experience the situation with a little more understanding. She's right, it's not her fault that day turns to night and humans need sleep to regenerate. If she fusses a little this is a good thing, it means she loves her life. Just give her a cuddle, keep it light and reassure her you love her. If you really want to try and reduce the sense of injustice why not try these tips.

Focus on tomorrow: Make the main goal of sleep to get to tomorrow faster. Remind your daughter of all your fab plans; promise her a fancy hairstyle upon waking. Think of Christmas when kids want to fall asleep as fast as humanly possible, bring a little bit of Christmas to every day.

Make bedtime boring: Your child needs to get the sense that at bedtime the day ends for everyone. You might want to go the whole hog for a week or two and get ready for bed yourself - let's face it you could probably do with a few early nights. If you don't want to do the pantomime make sure the house is quiet and activities are kept low key until later on in the night. If your kid gets out of bed she needs to find you listening to a podcast on war crimes not watching TV and mainlining chocolate hobnobs.

Say it with stickers: I'm always amazed by how much can be achieved with stickers. It's not the sticker themselves, it's what they represent - acceptance, approval and tangible evidence of how well you've done. Your girl might be a bit old for stickers (although I am of the view that one is never too old for stickers) but I'm sure you can come up with an incentive for a fuss free bedtime and don't forget to reward yourself, can I recommend cake. 

photo credit: Daddy-David After a long weekend of camping... via photopin (license)


  1. Thank you! She does love stickers! And I never thought of her not wanting to go to bed as her just loving her life x

    1. No problem. Now I know this question is from you I realise you ARE a twenty something. Now let me ask you - do you know the moves to Saturday Night?