How do you persuade a 2yo to co-operate more? Specifically I'd like my daughter to get dressed calmly into her pyjamas with my help.

Currently our bedtime routine involves:

  • Read story while drinking milk (she does this calmly)
  • Brush teeth (most of the time she allows us to brush her teeth well)
  • Change nappy and get into pyjamas. At this point she runs into the adjacent rooms giggling and saying "I'm running away!" or hides under her bed. Or she lies on her bed right at the top right against the wall where it's harder to reach her. The problem here is it drags out bed time at the end of the day when everyone is tired.

I've tried asking her "do you want me to help you get dressed or do you want to get dressed?" but she just ignores this. She is capable of putting on most of her clothes given enough time.

The only way to get her dressed is to first catch her. This feels sub-optimal and as she gets bigger I don't think my back will support picking her up all the time. All the chasing feels like setting a bad precedent as well.

Threatening to take favourite toys away wins co-operation but I think there may be better techniques out there.

Once she's on her changing mat she behaves well if we talk to her and ask her questions. ("What was your favourite thing today?", etc).

My wife and I are glad she isn't completely subservient and we'll probably miss this phase when she grows out of it, but calmer bedtimes would be nice.

Any recommendations please?


6 Answers 6


It's hard to give a general answer for this sort of thing because every child is different. What works for us is to read the stories (usually two of them) as the last thing before getting into bed. If there are too many delays during the rest of it (pyjamas, brushing teeth, etc) then the stories are the first to go, and she knows it. So sometimes we only do one story and on occasion, none at all. That way it's an immediate penalty, rather than delayed. (If you take a toy away today, she's not likely to remember why it's gone tomorrow.)

She will probably grow out of this phase before she grows much bigger, you're not likely to have to run around catching a 7 year old for example. By that time, there will be a whole new set of challenges.

  • Also, I suspect you brush with some kind of toothpaste... is there any mint in it? Mint can actually make you more awake!
    – Layna
    Oct 31, 2016 at 9:07

Sounds like she wants to play and has lots of energy left. How about you play along and get all that unused energy out. Sooner than later she'll want to go to bed.

My cousin does this with his daughter and it works like a charm. What they usually do is jump around on the bed until she is really tired.


If it were me, I'd try offering something she would hurry to get her bedtime chores done to receive. Do you read a book to her at night? Or something else fun? Once you establish something she is willing to put effort into receiving, you make it clear that the treat comes only if there is enough time before scheduled bedtime. If possible it should be something she doesn't get at any other time. And absolutely positively stick to it. Do not let her wheedle you into giving her the treat if she gets to bed too late.


I would first try to see if she has any reason to be uncomfortable with the pjs (like, maybe its a bit tight?).

if that possibility is ruled out, then , it might just be a phase, my 1.5 year old does this pretty much everytime I try to change the dipeys. Its just a game she enjoys. I try to hold her by the hand before I take her to change :)

Greg gave a very good suggestion: saving the stories for the last.

  • It's a good suggestion, but I don't think this is the issue. Her pjs are relatively loose. I think she just likes evading mum and dad :) Taking her hand so she can't run away is a good idea.
    – James T
    Oct 31, 2016 at 11:40

Its sounds awful, but this works. I told my child that Robins are Santa's helpers and that I usually see ours on the way to work. It helped that as I was telling her this, one fluttered onto the fence next to us. I gave it a thumbs up and it fluttered off a moment later. She is careful not to be too naughty these days, but is still a child.


How about doing pajamas before reading?

(At some point you may want to phase out the bedtime milk. I'm not sure when or how to do that because our children never had milk in bottles, just breastmilk.)

If your daughter craves a giggly chase-me-chase-me type game, you could incorporate some variants into playtime (with some clear demarcation between playtime and bedtime, such as bundling up to go outside to look at the moon and stars, dinner, bath, etc.) Some variants can involve stuffed animals acting things out. I bet there's a lot of deep psychological stuff going on in those games!

I agree with you that bedtime isn't the right time to play them, though.

Here are a couple of games that worked well for us:

  1. Hide and seek

  2. Moon Launch (lie transverse on a low bed, hug the child, roll back and forth to get some momentum, and then do one and a half rotations and gently fall on the rug -- off the edge of the bed. Thrilling!)

  3. Can't find Johnny (Child hides in bed under covers, parent looks loudly throughout the house -- "Where can Johnny be? I can't find Johnny anywhere!" and then sits down on the bed in discouragement, lamenting theatrically not being able to find Johnny; actually parent has gently sat on top of child -- without putting full weight on; child starts to giggle, parent ignores and continues laments; parent acts confused about the lumpy bed; eventually child pops up to huge surprise on the part of parent)

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