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What Should I Do if the Negative Consequences I Give My Kids for Not Going to Bed on Time Don’t Work?

Getting your kids to go to bed can be a maddening battle, especially if you’re fighting it night after night. So what do you do if you’ve given several negative consequences and they still won’t go to bed?

If a negative consequence isn’t working, it’s because something is still reinforcing the child’s bad behavior. As a parent, you need to figure out what this is and take it away. If you’ve taken away TV or video games, and your child says, “Fine; I’ll just sit here and read my book,” take away the book. Or maybe your child is getting pleasure out of having your attention, even though you are angry. In that case, it’s time to take away that gratification by not giving him or her your attention.

Another approach would be to avoid giving negative consequences and instead provide more positive reinforcement for your child’s good behavior. For example, you might try developing a rewards system in order to head off bedtime problems. This can involve giving little rewards each night your child does what you ask, and then giving a larger reward when your child does this for a set number of nights. For example, you could give your kids an extra 15 minutes of TV or video game time for their good bedtime behaviors the night before. When they’ve earned those consequences for 10 nights, they get to stay up an extra hour on a weekend night. Eventually, their good behavior will become routine and you can fade away the rewards as your kids mature.

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