Toddlers are fascinating creatures, aren’t they? Watching them develop into thinking, creative little people is such a fascinating time, and one that parents often wish would last a little longer. Of course, they usually wish that after baby’s 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 a frustrating experience.
Have you ever negotiated with your toddler at bedtime?
When I have my consultations with the parents of a toddler, there’s usually some kind of amusing story surrounding bedtime. They tell me, sometimes a little embarrassed, about how their sweet little one gets 3 or 4 stories a night, changes PJs twice, then asks for a glass of milk that they’ll only drink a few sips of, then say goodnight in a very specific, drawn-out way, the endless night wake ups and the back and forth to get them asleep again…and finally, the parents looking at each other wondering how on earth they got to this point.
And it always happens the same way... a little bit at a time.
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 the parents 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, and three hugs and two goodnight kisses. Little by little, these crazy bedtime routines get established, all according to what the toddler wants.
So there’s a simple solution to this issue:
Establish a 30 minute bedtime routine.
Do things the same way, in the same order, at the same time every single night.
If your child asks for an additional ‘thing’, tell them it’s time for bed and don’t give in.
That’s it. It’s that simple. I won’t kid you, sticking to the rules can be a challenge, because they’re going to ask, test and complain, but if you stick to your guns, they’ll understand sooner rather than later that the bedtime routine is not up for negotiation.
Despite the fact that your child might not agree, toddlers 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 start to feel like they’re in charge, and it becomes a slippery slope of request after request, and the next thing you know it’s been 2 hours to get your child to bed.
Additionally, a predictable, repetitive bedtime routine actually helps you all sleep better. It signals the brain to start secreting melatonin and signals the body to start relaxing muscles in preparation for a restful, relaxing snooze.
And, finally, you’ll never have to explain to your friends how you have to have to make your little guy pancakes at 10pm in order for him to go to bed.
So if your toddler or child is constantly pushing bedtime, running through the house and you have to spend hours getting them to bed or back to sleep in the middle of the night, give me a call. I’ll show you how to end bedtime battles and give you your evenings back. Schedule a Free Sleep Evaluation and let's chat about your situation. I'm happy to help in any way I can to get you and your child sleeping all night!
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