Are you dealing with toddlers and bedtime battles. Is your toddler stalling at bedtime? Does your child have a million reasons to keep you in their bedroom or do they come to find you multiple times after you said your goodnights?
Does this sound familiar?
“Mommy I have to go potty again”
“Daddy I need another kiss”
“Mommy I need a drink of water”
“Daddy can you lay down with me until I fall asleep”
“I need a snack”
“My blanket isn’t right”
“Mommy, I want Daddy”
“Daddy, I want Mommy”
“Mommy, I want other Mommy”
“Daddy, I want other Daddy”
If so, you are not alone! This list could go on for pages!!! I would love to hear some of your child’s excuses to stay up later!
Your child is learning that they can control things around them and will want to test the boundaries of this newfound control. Not to mention, it is much more fun to hang out with their favorite person instead of sleep!
Ok, now that we have established that you are dealing with a bedtime battle situation, what can you do about it? The good news is there are solutions.
Tips on overcoming your toddler bedtime battle
Start with an age-appropriate bedtime
Make sure your toddler is going to bed at an appropriate time. Often parents think that if their child goes to bed later, it will help, but the opposite will actually happen. It will result in night wakings and early morning wake-ups. If bedtime is too late your child can go into an overtired state and get a 2nd wind. A second wind is actually a biological response to being overtired. When we are in an overtired state our body will produce cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that will put the body into overdrive and make the bedtime battle even worse.
Take back control of bedtime
Toddlers are so smart and they know how to push our buttons and test boundaries. A toddler will push you as far as you let them. They are just wired to try new things and push the limits. Your toddler is just doing what toddlers do. That is their job. Our job as parents is to provide boundaries and guidance. A toddler will find security and assurance in knowing what to expect.
How do we take back control over the toddler bedtime battles?
- Set up sleep rules. Hold a family meeting and talk to your child about the importance of sleep. Keep the rules simple. Let them know how getting a good night’s sleep will help them grow big and strong. Talk to your toddler about how good everyone will feel if everyone is getting the sleep they need.
- Prepare your child. This is the time when you go over what is going to happen when it is time for bed. Being told ahead of time will let them know what to expect. Let them know how you will respond if they do not follow the sleep rules. Now, I don’t want to get your hopes too high yet, this family meeting will probably not be the final solution. However, will be a great place to set up the rules and discuss them at a neutral time. You don’t want to wait until bedtime when the disruption is happening to have this family meeting.
- Make the rules come to life with pictures. This is often a great tool for toddlers and parents. You can make a poster showing the steps of the bedtime routine. After each step, you can look at the poster and point out the next step or put a checkmark next to it. Then when you get to the last step. Lights out, night over. Not another glass of water, the poster shows we did that. Not another hug goodnight, you already had the three hugs that were on the poster. Here is some other tips on how to stop your child from stalling.
- Give them an incentive. It is hard to stay in bed when there is so much going on right outside that door. So, besides setting up the sleep rules, it might also be a great idea to give some incentive to keep them in bed. Setting up a reward system where they can get prizes for a job well done! You can get some great prizes at the dollar store.
- Are you sure? Now, this is where your toddler may want to find out if the rules that were set up during the family meeting are hard rules or soft rules. If they find out the rules are negotiable, then, well a toddler will do his/her job, they will run with it! When this happens, they will push even harder the next night. Like I said before, they are smart!! Remember, these are new rules and new responses to the rules. So, time, patience and consistency are key. Change is hard for everyone even when it will be a healthy change.
How do you respond to toddler bedtime battles
Set up a plan-How are you going to respond to the bedtime protests. Here you will want to choose a response when your little one calls out to you or gets out of bed. There are a number of different methods that you can choose from. You should pick the one that you can be the most consistent with and that best suits your child’s temperament.
If your child is in a crib: Make sure the crib area is safe. Since your child will be trying to call you back into the room, they will find some creative ways to get your attention. Make sure there is nothing close by that they can pull down. Also, if your little one is attempting to climb out of the crib, check if the crib is at the lowest setting. Often, if toddlers have a stuffed animal or a toy in their crib, they will use it for an extra boost to assist in the escape. So you may have to remove any accomplices.
If your child is in a bed: Make sure that their bedroom is safe. Look at their bedroom like a giant crib. Here are some suggestions on keeping the room safe: Make sure all dressers are bolted to the wall. Make sure all plugs are covered. Make sure all hanging cords are out of reach.
If your child comes out of the room: I recommend a silent return to their bedroom. A silent return is turning your little one right around and bringing back to their bed. No talking, no extra explanation. You may have to do this many, many, many, many times at first, but if you are consistent, they will get it.
Another tip to help your toddler follow the sleep rules if your child insists on coming out of the room is to put up a gate at the bedroom door. This will also help in keeping them safe and help with follow through on the sleep rules.
Give your child choices
Although the bedtime rules are not negotiable and your response will need to consistent, there are parts of the sleep routine where you can give them the opportunity to make some choices. For example, let your toddler pick out what PJ’s they will wear and let your little one pick out the book for that night. This will allow them to have some independence in the areas that are acceptable and give them the feeling they still have some control.
Give lots of praise
When your child does a good job let them know it! Celebration time! Children love to be praised by their parents. Help them be aware of how much better everyone feels from the good night’s sleep!
Your child can do it! There is a path to end bedtime battles!
Your child is amazing and your family can get past the bedtime battles. It doesn’t happen in one day, it takes time. If you are consistent and patient, instead of dreading bedtime you will look forward to it. That time at the end of the day when you are doing your soothing routine is a very special time of day. It gives you the opportunity to have some one on one time and help your child relax and unwind from their busy day.