Bedtime battles: Parents spend nine days a year trying to get kids to bed

Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto 

It's 7.30pm. I pull myself out my chair with the enthusiasm of a slug. I take a deep breath and brace myself for battle. The bedtime war's begun. 

Like millions of parents the world over, bedtime's possibly one of the MOST tedious and lengthy parts of the day. A recent survey highlighted just how much. 

According to the survey, British parents spend 34 minutes getting their child ready for bed (almost four hours a week) and nearly nine days a year trying to put them to bed and get them to sleep.

Photo: Jo Hartley and her two boys. Supplied
Photo: Jo Hartley and her two boys. Supplied 

Some 83 per cent of respondents then go back to check if their child has gone to sleep after they've left the room. 

More than half of those asked said they'd found their child playing with toys when they should be asleep, compared to 28 per cent of children who've been caught playing on a tablet.

You're nodding in agreement, right? I was too. 

This is an average bedtime at mine. 

I announce that it's bedtime, but it falls on deaf ears. The first few times I'm pretty calm. However, when I've announced it 55 times, I'm breathing fire. The boys jump into action when I threaten to take away ALL the things. 

So starts the painful task of getting into pyjamas and cleaning teeth. 


I gave up with nighttime showers a long time ago. Their insistence on scrubbing their toes 25 times quickly wore thin. Of course, it's not the only thing that can drag bedtime out. 

According to the poll, children make up an average of three excuses every night to avoid going to bed, including claiming they're scared of the dark, feel ill or need the toilet. My boys laugh in the face of only three. 

Mr four's particularly curious about the world at 730 at night. When did dinosaurs die? How deep is the ocean? What will happen if a meteor hit my penis? – Yes, he really did ask that. 

Then it's choosing a story. This involves taking out EVERY.SINGLE.BOOK to make a choice, which takes approximately 55 hours or thereabouts. 

If I dare to skip a page, the book must be started again.  

Meanwhile, Mr nine's building a Lego city. That's nice. It's been unopened for four months and it's 1000 pieces. He's keen to start it now. He asks if I'd like to help. 

He's also a little bit hungry. What is there he can eat? Mr four chimes in. He's ravenous too. A drink would also be nice. 

By the time Mr four's settled, I've lost almost 40 minutes of my life. Mr nine is not yet undressed. His toothbrush remains dry. His Lego's going well though – would I like to take a look?

Through gritted teeth, I warn him to get ready for bed. I return 10 minutes later. He's reading his book. I tell him reading time is over. He responds, 'Don't you always encourage me to read?'

Finally returning to the lounge, I collapse into the sofa, but the door opens and Mr four appears. He's scared. He can hear a weird noise. Mr nine joins him to confirm that, yes, there's definitely a stranger in the house. 

I glower at my husband who marches them back to bed. It's not long before we get another visit. Mr Nine's wrist is a little bit sore. 

Did he tell me he fell over in rugby? In fact, he can hardly move it, look. Does he need a sling? He just can't get to sleep. 

What are we having for dinner? It looks really nice. Perhaps if he has some, it might help his wrist. 

By 9.20 he's finally asleep and I'm exhausted. In ten minutes, I'll be asleep too. 

I reassure myself that this phase will soon be over. Soon enough they might take themselves off to bed. At least I live in hope. 

In the meantime, I find solace with parents going through the same. We nod in frustration as we share bedtime woes. But, there's always that (weird) friend who disagrees. 

"As my girls have got older and more independent, I miss that bedtime routine," she tells me. "I sometimes want it back."

I pull a face and ask if she's feeling ok. I suggest perhaps it's time for her bed. I think perhaps it's her that needs more sleep.