You established a great bedtime routine when your child was a baby and it was working so beautifully. Then little by little the bedtime routine is getting tougher. You are seeing more resistance, more movement and it may even be getting frustrating for both you and your child.
There’s a reason for this. Developmentally, around 18 months of age our kids learn that they have a bit of power and control in their lives. They test waters and want to see just how much power they have. This stage lasts for a while, and it is normal and it is ok. This, however, does not mean that while they want control, we need to lose control. It just may mean that we need to speak to them a bit differently to get more buy in into doing what we need them to do when it comes to bedtime.
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Understanding this is half the battle. Here’s the other half:
Develop the routine
Put together a bedtime routine that is calming and soothing and in an environment that has the same qualities. You can include anything you would like in the routine. Suggestions might include a bath, potty, brush teeth, books, prayers, a song and bed. It is best if you can keep the same order, as a bedtime routine is communication to your child and their body that sleep it coming.
Create a visual aid
Visuals can be a wonderful tool to help provide a clear communication with your child to describe what is coming next in the bedtime routine. Use pictures to help your child walk through the bedtime routine.
This can be as simple as putting together a poster with sticker chard, flashcards or a door hanger with a clip or clothes hanger to help your child walk through through the routine.
Involve your child in the creation of the poster, flash cards or door hanger. Make it a fun event.
If you choose to create a poster, make some space for a chart, so that your child can put sticker on for each step. Let them put the sticker on and give a quick “great job” for each step they make it through. If you choose to use flash cards, allow your child to flip to the next card. Again praise for completion of each task helps a lot. If you use a door hanger, let them move the clothes hanger to the next step.
To help maintain buy in and keep the bedtime moving along, choices can be a powerful tool. Your toddler, as we’ve already talked about is looking for control. There are certainly pieces of the routine that can be in their control. For example, which pajamas they want to wear to bed or which stuffed animal to bring to bed can make a big difference.
You might get some pushback, but don’t let that deter you. Try to remember that at this age it is normal for them to pushback a little. Keep going and stay consistent. It will be through the repetition that your child will find comfort in it and it will become a habit.
Full of praise
A little bit of praise goes a long way. Celebrate the little victories. Perhaps they brushed their teeth when you asked and without a battle, let them know you are proud! Here’s a fantastic article from Parent’s Magazine on praise.
While the toddler bedtime routine has the same basic steps as the baby bedtime routine it can feel more complicated. Breathe, remember that they are little and are learning their way in life and testing their boundaries. With your guidance and praise, the toddler bedtime routine can be peaceful also. You’ve got this!