Does any of this sound familiar? Your toddler is fighting bedtime and tells you that they don’t want to go to bed. Your child needs to go to the potty every-single-night after lights out. She is calling out for more water, a snack, to have her blanket fixed. He is in his room, playing with toys, jumping on the bed – anything but sleep. He needs you to lay with him until he falls asleep and / or any time he wakes in the night.
If any of those sound familiar, your child is battling bedtime. I have good news for you though, it does not have to be this way. It can be easy and dare I say, blissful. OK maybe not blissful like sitting on the beach in Hawaii, but it can be SO much easier.
Put a few things in place and you will reach the bedtime Shangri-la. Let’s pull it all together:
A set bedtime
Yup, I know, you’ve heard me say that before. Well, that’s because it’s important. Really important. Having an age appropriate bedtime, at a set time of the day, everyday (well most days) is important to help your child get the rest that they need. With this your child’s body will be ready for bed and just by making this change you might see a lot less pushback.
Who is running the bedtime show?
I know, this may be tough to think about. But, stop for a minute and think as you move through your bedtime routine: “Who is in control here?” Is it you or your child? If the answer is them, something needs to change.
Now when I say control, I mean it in a loving sense of the word. Think of it this way: who is driving the ship and guiding your way through the routine? This should be you right? But toddlers are smart, super smart and they can quickly turn the table on this control thing. It’s not that they are being mischievous, they are truly looking for guidance and learning about life. It is our job as parents to guide them for what is most healthy for them. I think we can all agree that sleep is healthy for them, right?
But how do you regain control? This is easier than you think, it all lies in communication. Set some simple rules for sleep and stick to them. Let them know how you’ll respond if they are not following the rules and respond in that way every time. After showing consistency, you will be back in the driver’s seat again.
Believe in the power of choices
One of the best ways to guide a child towards a desired outcome is through choices. I love choices, my kids love choices. Because through choices they gain confidence and agreement. Yup, we want agreement. We want them to want to go to bed. So, you can find lots of opportunity in the bedtime routine for choices.
- “What pjs do you want to wear? The pink or the purple ones?”
- Lay a few books out: “Which two books do you want to read?”
- “Do you want to face the mirror to brush your teeth or face me?”
Giving our kids choices will help you maneuver through the bedtime routine. It will help them to get to bed with little to no struggle.
Talk to them
Honoring our kids as growing and learning human beings has a lot of power. Also, sometimes our kids just want to know why. I suggest a family meeting. Sit down with your child before making any changes and talk to them. Tell them about why sleep is important for their bodies. Now there are some kids that would truly resonate with reasons like: “Sleep helps you grow and heals your body when you are sick.” For some, these reasons may not be the way to helping them understand. For these kids, you might talk about things that they care about: “Sleep will help you run faster” or “sleep will help you build a taller Lego tower.”
Whatever your intentions may be for your child’s bedtime, lay out your intentions clearly. Then stick to it. Don’t stray or you will risk sending a confusing message. One of the kindest things we can do for our kids is to be predictable. In that, we are giving them comfort in knowing where their boundaries lie.
Praise, Praise, Praise
I love hearing when I have done a good job. Don’t you? Our kiddos do too. While working with them on their sleep is a process and it will not be as you wish it to be in one day, it is important to celebrate the little victories. Take the time to praise your child for a job well done. Or if they did a portion of what you have asked of them, give them kudos for that piece. Surrounding bedtime with positive reinforcement will soon have your child waking up in the morning (at a reasonable hour) and happily saying: “Mom / Dad, I did it!!!” All with a great look of pride in their eyes. THIS is the goal, right?
It is possible to have a special bedtime routine, one which both parents and kids enjoy. It is possible to end bedtime battles. Each situation can be very different and if these tips don’t help you reach your long-term goals and you continue to struggle, please reach out. The Good Night Sleep Site team is here to support you and help you reach your sleep goals.
Certified Sleep Consultant
Good Night Sleep Site Florida