Toddler Bedtime Battles
Toddlers are fascinating, aren’t they? Watching them develop into thinking, creative, independent little people is such an intriguing time, and one that parents often wish would last a little longer.
Of course, they usually wish that after their little one has grown out of the toddler stage, because along with that creativity and new-found intelligence, we usually see a lot of boundary-testing, which can be endlessly frustrating.
When I have my initial consultation with the parents of a toddler, there’s usually some kind of amusing story surrounding bedtime. They’ll tell me, sometimes a bit self-consciously, about how their little one gets three or four stories a night (sometimes five); then they usually ask for a glass of milk that they’ll only drink a few sips of; then they want to say goodnight in a very specific, drawn-out way to everything in the house… At this point, parents are usually looking at each other thinking, “It’s almost 9 p.m. How on Earth did we get here?” It reminds me of the story: When You Give a Mouse a Cookie, because they’re always asking for just one more thing.
And this evolution always happens the same way… a little bit at a time.
No One is Thirstier Than A Kid Who’s Just Been Told It’s Bedtime
Toddlers love to test boundaries, and they know that the one thing you want from them at bedtime is for them to go to sleep so they’ll use that to their advantage. I know it sounds a little diabolical, but it’s their way of seeing where your boundaries lie and how much authority they actually have.
So, one night they ask for a glass of milk, and you may think, “What’s the harm?” The next night, they ask for a glass of milk and an extra story. A week later, they want a glass of milk, an extra story, four songs, three hugs, and twelve goodnight kisses. Little by little, these crazy bedtime routines get established, all according to what the toddler wants.
I’m here to tell you that there’s a simple, two step solution to this issue.
Solving Your Toddler’s Bedtime Battles
- Establish a short bedtime routine.
- Never deviate from it.
That’s it. It’s that simple. I won’t lie, sticking to the rules can be a challenge. Toddlers are going to ask, test and certainly complain, but if you stick to your guns, they’ll understand sooner rather than later that the bedtime routine is not up for debate. If your little one is really struggling, you can create a routine chart that they can follow or create a social story to read to help them get excited about the rules at bedtime.
A social story is a book that you create featuring your child that takes him through his bedtime routine in a step by step fashion. If your child struggles in other areas of sleep, you can also include pages on the expectations around bedtime, what to do if he wakes in the middle of the night, and when he is allowed to get up in the morning. This can be a very positive and non-threatening way to help your child understand the boundaries around sleep
Consistency is Key
Firm, consistent routines benefit both of you in spite of the fact that your little one might not agree. Toddlers actually take a great amount of comfort in knowing that you, the parent, are firmly in charge and are confident in your decisions; it gives them a sense of security. If you start allowing them to make the decisions, they actually begin to feel like they’re in charge which to toddlers can feel very alarming.
Additionally, a predictable, repetitive bedtime routine is greatly conducive to a good night’s sleep. It signals the brain to start secreting melatonin and signals the body to start relaxing in preparation for a restful, restorative night of sleep.
But above all, you’ll never have to sheepishly admit to the babysitter or grandma that they have to perform seven circus actus in order for your toddler to go to bed. And I promise, everyone will be thankful for that!
Toddlers are tricky; they are fiercely independent, are very opinionated, and have a ton of stamina. It can get exhausting and frustrating to engage in bedtime battles night after night with your little one. If things seem too overwhelming and you would like some support to get your family back on track, my toddler sleep package will help bring peace back to your evenings.
If you’re exhausted, totally overwhelmed by your child’s sleep habits, or looking for answers to the sleep questions that keep you up at night (literally), then you’ve come to the right place. I’m Jamie, founder of Oh Baby Consulting, and my goal is to help your family get the sleep you need to not just survive, but thrive!