Denver Parenting Classes | Parent Coaching | Family Therapy

How Many Ways I Can Be Naughty at Bedtime?

Putting Toddler to Bed

Three year old Wes used to play his favorite game at bedtime. It was called, “See how many ways I can be naughty.”

He was the only one enjoying the game. His single, working dad certainly did not. Wes was very creative in how he played the game: he ran away when it was time to put on his pj’s. He clenched his jaw when it was time to brush his teeth. He screamed and threatened to wake up his baby brother. He jumped on the bed when it was time for tuck in. Sound familiar? It’s a very popular game amongst the little people. It’s a game though, that doesn’t usually end well for either the child or the parent.

Wes’s game ruled until Daddy came up with a better game called “Earn a Minute.” This game starts at the beginning of bedtime when Daddy whispers to Wes, “For every step of bedtime that you do cooperatively, you earn a minute of You-n-Me time. If you get enough, we might be able to read a whole extra book!” “Game on” for little Wes. He might as well wear a sign that says, “Will Cooperate For You-N-Me Time.”

Here’s how the scoring works
Brush teeth: earn a minute.
Go potty: earn a minute.
Wash hands: earn a minute.
Get undressed: earn a minute.
Get in the bath: earn a minute.
Cooperate with being washed: earn a minute.
Get out of the bath first time you’re told: earn a minute.
Hold still while being dried: earn a minute.
Put on PJs: earn a minute.
Climb into bed: earn a minute.

Wes has mastered this “game” and he savors his ten minutes of special Daddy-time before going to sleep. Dad is happy because the extra story time takes less time than all the hassling did, and father and son both get happy snuggle time instead of exasperation and negative attention.

Every now and then, Daddy mixes things up and says, “We’re not playing tonight, so you might as well be a rascal.” Well now, when Daddy invites Wes to misbehave, it’s not as much fun for Wes and the power struggle is over.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.


Leave a Comment


  • Erin

    We are having a ton of bedtime power struggles. I have 2 1/2 and 5 yr old girls. They currently have to share a room, and bedtime has become a nightmare. They are either driving each other crazy, or they are both coming out of their room asking for food, or back rubs or just sneaking around. In the middle of this my 5 yr old is totally defiant and uses “you are mean, you care more about everything else than you do me!” frequently after I have just spent half an hour reading to her and cuddling! I know this is a lot, but I am all hyped up! Now the 2 1/2 yr old is screaming “mommy” from her room while the 5 yr old is sleeping. 🙂

    • Kerry Stutzman

      You are not alone! I would suggest trying “choicing them to bed.” Do you remember that strategy from the class? You tuck them in and then ask how many times they’d like you to check in on them and after how many minutes. Then if they stay in bed for those 5-7 minutes, you go in and check and give hugs and kisses and then re-set the timer and leave them again. Kids seem to be able to stay in bed when they know you’ll be back soon. It’s better for the parents, too, because this keeps those little squirts horizontal in a dark room. Once they get up and come looking for you, they’re vertical, in bright light, and you’re starting over.

  • Comments for this post are closed.