Mazzy has been perfecting the art of bedtime stalling for quite some time so I could think of no one better to teach a course for beginners. Please excuse me while I turn this post over to my 2yo daughter...
Bedtime Stalling is something every toddler should master by age two. If you use my personally-tested strategies, by the end of this post, you should be able to push your bedtime a full forty-five minutes. With a little practice, you'll be eating midnight snacks, watching horrible skits on Saturday Night Live and ordering Slankets off late night infomercials in no time.
LESSON ONE: PAJAMA WRANGLING & DIAPER CHANGING DEFLECTION
What has to happen before you go to bed? You must change into your pajamas. Make this change as difficult as possible by running around the house at full speed. If a parent catches you, keep your arms and legs moving. If he/she succeeds in getting your clothes off, do not let that deter you from making a quick getaway and running around fully naked.
LESSON TWO: A SUDDEN APPRECIATION FOR DINNER
This tactic is best carried out if you have a long established behavior of "not eating" like myself. I have spent a full year making a "big show" of turning down every dinner option offered. This way, when I show a sudden interest in nourishment at exactly the same time that my parents start the bedtime process, they are genuinely torn between their desire to get me into bed and their fear that I might starve to death.
LESSON THREE: YOUR TEETH CAN NEVER BE TOO CLEAN
Do you like brushing your teeth? If not, LEARN. Spending time on proper tooth hygiene is important for both a healthy mouth and serious bedtime deflection. Brush your heart out. Ask for more toothpaste. Ask to use the Dora toothbrush and then change your mind and ask for the Thomas one. Run your brush under the water for an inordinate amount of time. Decide your teeth aren't quite clean enough and start over. You get the idea. When your mother finally decides enough is enough, employ my patented tactic— "THE IRON GRIP".
LESSON FOUR: SECURITY ITEM(S) SEARCH PARTY
The more security items you have, the longer it will take your parents to locate them. I have established the need for two blankies and one (possibly two) sippy cups of water. About an hour leading up to bedtime, I suggest hiding these items around the house. Precious minutes will be awarded to you when your parents are forced to go on their nightly security item search.
Once they find them, it is helpful to pretend they did not get the right ones. If they bring a blue sippy cup, request an orange one. If they bring your blankie(s), say something simple like "the other blankie(s)". This is particularly effective if there are actually no other blankies as it can lead to a wonderfully lengthy back-and-forth.
LESSON FIVE: BOOK SELECTION DIFFICULTY
Book selection is the crux of all bedtime stalling tactics so I will break it into three parts.
1. Time to select books: Take as much time as possible by not being able to make up your mind, asking your parent's opinion and then dismissing it, not being able to find your "favorite" book, being distracted by a nearby toy, etc.
2. Length of books: Smart toddlers know that longer books equal longer bedtime routines. Which books are longer? The heavier, fatter ones. If you have trouble lifting the book and you catch your parent doing a quick eyeroll, chances are, you are on the right track.
3. Begging for more books: If your parent says that you can have two books, ask for three. If they say three, ask for four. The important thing is to never be satisfied. And just because you and your parent finally agree on a number, doesn't mean you can't beg for more later after all the books have been read. In my experience, after-reading begging works about 50% of time.
LESSON SIX: ENGAGE & AMAZE
The books are now finished and there is not much time between you and your bed. Perhaps a quick lullaby if you're lucky. If your parent sings you a lullaby, always remember to say the word "AGAIN" when he/she is finished. If not— you must act quickly before the light is switched off.
It is at this point, you should employ extraordinary measures. All day, your parents have been trying in vain to talk to you, to get you to smile for the camera, to count to twenty, etc. Now is your time. Put on your most devoted smile. Conjure up every word in your vocabulary and try to start an actual conversation. Sing a song. Say "I love you". Look he/she in the eye for a prolonged period of time. Your goal is to make it as tough as possible for your parent to walk away.
LESSON SEVEN: THE LAST CHANCE HURRAH
If your parent picks you up to place you in your crib, your stalling minutes are numbered. You can try to make a break for it— arch your back, kick your legs, protest, etc. But the way I see it, you've got two options— lie down and accept the inevitable or scream their name as they walk out the door.
My suggestion is not to fight it. You've done excellent work and there's always room for improvement tomorrow. Slankets will be yours to purchase for quite some time.
Sleep tight, class!
Does your kid have any strategies Mazzy missed?
You might also like Fatherhood 101 (As Taught By My Husband).