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#AskAlyson: Bedtime Struggles

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Hello Alyson,

My dilemma is this (been going on for over 2 years):
My daughter insists on having mom do everything from car seats, putting on clothes, sitting by her at dinner, etc.  I have read about this clinginess subject often but I still have this one question.

When putting her to bed, my wife and I take turns, both with the same routine.  When it’s my wife’s turn, things typically go smoothly.

When it’s my turn, its nearly always a tantrum.  Although I am calm and patient, our daughter will scream and cry until my wife finally comes in to save her.  I view this as undermining any authority that I may have (which I know is damaging to kids), dividing between my wife and I (also harmful) and reinforcing to the idea that Dad=Bad and Mom=Good.

In all clinginess articles it seems like the author gives kids an “out” by feeling unsafe, insecure, a new situation, etc.  I believe none of those apply in this scenario.  I sincerely believe that I am a loving and engaged father.

What should we do?  Should I no longer put my daughter to sleep?  Should we keep taking turns and allowing my wife to “save” my daughter?  Should Mom be unavailable during bedtime (this is what I would like to do)?  How does the harm caused by not being with Mom compare to the harm of Dad not having authority/notable division between parents?

Now, what I have described has been the median bedtime situation.  This also spills over into many other scenarios but bedtime is the most common.  Occasionally I get frustrated and I have to tap myself out but this has never been due to my daughter, but pressure from my wife.  I could calmly handle tantrums all day.

What are your thoughts?

Thank you


Dear Dad,

Thanks for the question, you are not alone! When looking at these situations, we ask ourselves “what are the roles and responsibilities of each person?”  Is it the child’s job to decide who will help put on her coat, cut her toast, or put her to bed?  The answer is no.  Division of labour between parents is your job. If she demands mommy, you can say “it’s not mommy’s night – its mine.  Your choices are me or no tuck in at all.”  (which I am sure you have said).  Sure, she will protest this arrangement with the screams and tantrums.  That is okay.  It’s okay for her not to be pleased with the reality of the social order in the family. The reality is, you don’t always get what you want.  That is a lesson kids need to learn and learn early.  She, unfortunately, has learned if she protests enough she can get her way and mommy will do her tuck in (and coat zipping and toast cutting).  She demands and you cave to her wishes.  Your wife’s compliance interferes with your ability to build a relationship with daughter.  That is worrisome.  Your child needs to see that both parents can care for her.


The emotional protest of a child does not break the primary attachment or hurt them psychically.  We can help them emotionally regulate when they get dysregulated, but we don’t have to acquiesce to their demands to do so.   You can rub her back till she cries herself to sleep.  You may find that sending mom out to read at a coffee shop during tuck in so she is not even an option can help.


But also, when it comes to division of labour, feel free to split duties differently other than just alternating.  You could arrange that mom does all the tucks ins so things go more smoothly, but you are in charge of all the bath and bedtime reading.  If that brings peace and harmony, and solves the issue, that is okay too.


Happy Parenting,


About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

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