What is a Logical Consequence for a Child Who Won’t Go to Bed? – Questions from the Parking Lot

With all of the activities to do during parenting classes, I can’t always answer questions. I ask parents to “park” their questions on the “parking lot”, a large piece of chart paper that hangs on the wall.

So a parent asked:

What is a logical consequence for a child who won’t go to bed?

First I want to say that there isn’t always a logical consequence that will work for every situation or misbehavior.

Do not use logical consequences if

  1. The child is too young to connect cause and effect (usually under the age of 3)
  2. The amount of time that passes between the behavior and the logical consequence is too long for the child to understand. (This will be different for different ages.)
  3. The logical consequence affects other people in a disrespectful way.
  4. You can’t think of any consequence that fits the 3 R’s of Logical Consequences: Related, Respectful, Reasonable
  5. The consequence seems to only focus on the child paying for the misbehavior as opposed to helpful solutions such as making up for misbehavior, replacing something that was lost or broken, having to do without something that was lost or broken (teaches the logical thing that happens).

The only logical consequence I can think of is that the child has to go to bed earlier the next night BUT I don’t think this consequence focuses on having the child take responsibility or learn to go to bed on time.

Instead of using logical consequences for not going to bed, focus on solutions. What will help the child learn to go to bed?Bedtime Routine Chart, Photo by Kelly Pfeiffer

For children ages 3-11, create a bedtime routine. I just wrote an article on Suite101.com about creating a picture bedtime routine chart. You can establish a bedtime routine without the chart, but a visual schedule helps children learn the bedtime routine faster and empowers children to be in charge of the bedtime routine. Even if you don’t use a chart, a routine that happens in the same order every night helps a child learn what to expect.

Bedtime Routine Chart with PJs, Photo by Kelly Pfeiffer

Many parents find that establishing a bedtime routine definitely helps, but then there will always be the type of child who will do fine with the bedtime routine and then keep coming out of their room after the bedtime routine is finished and it’s time for the child to go to sleep.

In several of her Positive Discipline books, Jane Nelsen advises parents to take a young child by the hand and walk them back to their bed without saying a word. Many children keep coming out of the bedrooms to get undue attention from their parents. So when parents nag, complain and yell at kids, often it’s exactly what kids want. Negative attention is sometimes better than no attention at all.

Here are some more general tips/ideas and links to Q and A’s about bedtime on the Positive Discipline website:

(Remember to choose what works for you and your family.)

  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings about bedtime. Example: “Yes, it’s hard to go to bed when you still want to play.” “You see shadows in your room and it scares you?”
  • Meet your child’s needs for comfort within reason. Put a small cup of water by the bed if needed. Play soft instrumental music if helpful. Leave on a night light if wanted.
  • Make timed visits to your child’s room. Instead of waiting for your child to come out and see you, tell your child that you will come see him/her every 15 minutes and that you will set a timer and offer one more hug and kiss. For kids who are simply lonely in the bed at night, this can be reassuring and eliminate their reason for getting out of bed.
  • Make sure you spend special time with kids. For young kids, this may be 15 minutes a day and the bedtime routine can include 5-10 minutes of reading/snuggle time. For older kids, spend a block of 45 minutes each week with kids. When parents spend individual time with kids, they are less likely to see undue attention at bedtime.
  • Overcoming Bedtime Hassles
  • Constant Demands and Bedtime Hassles
  • Make a Difference at Bedtime

Happy bedtime everyone.


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