When My Son Is The King Of Stalling Before Bedtime

When My Son Is The King Of Stalling Before Bedtime

My 2.5 year old son is the King of Stalling. I know what you are saying right now: Oh no, my child stalls more than yours! I hope you are right. This is not a contest I wish to win. On a regular basis, I think things about my son like:

“How is this kid smarter than me?!”

“How do toddlers learn the art of manipulation?!”

Ok so here is the reason I am writing about stalling: because these kids don’t come with manuals! (Hey God can you get on that one? Where is that life suggestion box anyway?)

Maybe my experience can help you. Or maybe you can let me know what works for you.

Stalling mainly happens at bedtime in our house but sometimes also when it is time to leave in the morning.

Some stalling I can see right through and I’m like teflon (moms, you know what I mean). Your sad eyes and sweet smile aren’t working tonight Mr. Staller! When he says,

“I need water” or “I’m ready to clean up my toys now” or “Wait we forgot to read two books, that was only one.”

No kid that was definitely two books I promise…now go to bed!

My big problem though is when he gets tricky with the stalling.

Here is one that pulls at me all the time and the internal conflict begins: “Mommy I’m hungry.” 

If he is not listening and playing with his food or worse – throws it – I simply take the food away. I can tell myself he won’t starve and I need to be consistent and set those limits he is trying to break. However, he is VERY skinny and especially after being sick he goes through a period where he doesn’t eat much and sometimes even loses weight. When he looks at me with those big eyes at bedtime and says “I’m hungry,” I’ll admit it: I cave. My rational head is saying he should have eaten at dinner time and he won’t starve. But sometimes I just can’t do it and we stay up a little later and eat something. (Side note: if after one bite or one sip he starts playing, then it is clear it is just a stall tactic. So I get firm again and we go to bed.)

It seems my toddler has my number with the hungry thing. Ok, pretty smart right?

Well, last night he seriously upped the ante.

His grandparents were there for dinner and leaving just as the bedtime routine was supposed to start. First he tries “I need to clean up my toys” (that he has been trying to get me to clean up for the last five minutes with no success.) We say ok no problem we will all help. It’s done in 30 seconds. Stall thwarted.


He has hugged and kissed grandparents goodbye and he sees that bedtime is fast approaching. So he runs after them,

“I need another hug and kiss.”

OMG this kid is a GENIUS!! You don’t need more hugs and kisses; You just don’t want to go to bed.  But how do we say no to more goodbye hugs and kisses for Grandma and Grandpa??

I’m frozen and I get that weird feeling in your stomach when you are not sure how to best parent this moment.

Here is what I did:

I let him give those hugs and kisses and let them all enjoy the important moment.

Then Grandma and Grandpa left. I looked him in the eye. I said “That was very nice that you gave Grandma and Grandpa extra love. But you are a very good staller and now I want you in that bathroom brushing teeth right now and no more stalling!” I gave him that I have your number look.  He gave me that mischievous you caught me grin and ran off to the bathroom.

I sighed a bit of relief. We finished bedtime routine without much whining or stalling and all felt good.

On this particular night, I had just returned the day before from a short business trip. So I told him how glad I was to be back home with him. I got to the door, was just about to shut it completely behind me, and I heard a quiet timid voice:

“Mommy?” I said “Yes, baby?” He said, “I want Mommy to snuggle me more.”

So I jumped right back into his bed…. Hey I’m only human!


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I grew up in Orange County then went to Los Angeles (with a short detour in Santa Barbara) for college and spent the next 12 years there thinking that was home until I met my amazing, now husband on Jdate.com and moved back here to start our life together. I have a young son and daughter that are two years apart. They are thick as thieves and keep us laughing. I worked in Hospice care for 15 years and now I take Working Mom to a whole new dimension with a private mental health practice www.melissafishergoldman.com. I worked hard with many jobs hustling for many years to grow my own business. I'm proud to say I'm helping people in my own office full time. The decision to quit my full time job working for some one else and to work towards creating much needed grief, trauma and self esteem support in Orange County fills my soul. I may not spend 24/7 with my kids but I plan to be role model to them and the time we have is all about quality not quantity. I'm working on a life/work balance but I find this is much easier when I love all aspects of my life and work and self.