There’s nothing charming about bedtime curtain calls.

Not for parents. Not for caregivers.

When bedtime curtain calls begin, they’re not an opportunity for a parent to applaud a child for a job well done, or for some spontaneous expression of that child’s unique creativity. Bedtime curtain calls are about something else altogether.

And these bedtime curtain calls can derail a peaceful evening. What’s worse is by not managing them correctly, a parent can derail a consistent bedtime routine for years.

What is a bedtime curtain call?

These are the evenings when you’ve tucked your child in for the night, closed the door, sat down for some peaceful “me” or partner time only to look up and see your beloved child in the proscenium of the doorway saying…

“I need a drink of water.”
“Just one more hug/story/song.”
“I need to go to the bathroom just one more time.”

Or any other excuse to delay going to sleep.

Why do curtain calls happen?


This study from researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, indicates that based on melatonin levels, your toddler may just not be physiologically ready to sleep. And there may be serious long-term negative results when parents don’t adjust the bedtime according to their children’s biorhythms:

For these toddlers, laying in bed awake for such a long time can lead to the association of bed with arousal, not sleep,” she said. “This type of response may increase children’s lifelong risk for insomnia over time.

Solution: Adjust

Parents don’t have to be scientists to adjust their children’s bedtimes. Just “gentle detectives” and compassionate observers.  Adapting the family evening routine by just 20 minutes is well worth the new habit.


When it comes to parenting, it always comes down to consistency. It’s as important to set up bedtime boundaries as it is to set up boundaries about other life essentials.  It may be one of the most important habits to teach our children because sleep is not optional for a healthy, happy, and balanced life.

Solution: Consistency

The simplicity of this solution will make for a happier child and family. No one likes a cranky kid – not even the cranky kid! Set up a consistent family bedtime routine with bedtime boundaries such as eliminating all screen time from TVs and electronics at least 3 hours before bedtime, eating well, and other tips that can be found on the National Sleep Foundation site here and Web M.D. here.

Curtain Calls: The Bedtime Pass

The bedtime pass is a tried-and-true way to get those curtain calls down to just once and eventually to zero. You can read about the background here.

What the bedtime pass does is give children control over when they get out of bed for a curtain call. And what toddler doesn’t resonate with being in control?

Here’s how the bedtime pass works:

The bedtime pass is a simple card or piece of paper that goes next to the bed at lights out. Parents explain that the bedtime pass can be exchanged just once a night. And the child can choose whether it’s for an extra hug, a trip to the bathroom, or one glass of water.

And that’s it. Parents set up bedtime boundaries by honoring the child’s need (or test) of our bond. They agree that if the child calls out again, they won’t answer. A critical part of this discussion between parents and children is if it really is an emergency, the caregiver will be there to care. If a child truly has to go to the bathroom and has used up his bedtime pass by asking for a hug, parents will use their discernment.

The foundation of the bedtime pass is that it puts children in control and gets caregivers out of the role of “boss”. We are there to care, not nag.

To add some juice to the bedtime pass, you can reward the child the next day if it’s never used the night before.

Families can create their own special bedtime passes or you can download a pdf with some colorful choices by filling out the form below.

How about the children in your care? Have you ever endured curtain calls? What was your solution?