Overcoming The Toddler Bedtime Struggle
Any parent of a toddler knows the toddler bedtime struggle…
- I’m hungry
- Can we read another book? And another and another…
- What about one more song?
- I’m thirsty
- I’ve got to go potty
- Have I got a story for you!
Stalling tactics galore!
They know just how to push our buttons and drive us to the brink of insanity and then look at us all sweet and tell us how much they love us and we melt.
It’s not a good feeling to dread bedtime and the battle you know is coming. Here are some tips on how to work with your toddler to hopefully have a more peaceful bedtime routine.
The first step in overcoming the toddler bedtime struggle is consistency. You are probably so sick of hearing this advice from us, but it’s that important!
Consistency is vital for children. They crave it even though they don’t know it. Children like knowing what to expect – it makes them feel safe. A solid, consistent bedtime routine will help immensely with your toddler’s bedtime struggle because is predictable, although…
If your toddler is pushing for one more story or one more song, oftentimes we will say no and they keep pushing (or tantrum-ing) so we give in and do it just to speed the process up to get to the couch and Bravo! (been there!)
But when we do this, we have told our little ones that our words and actions don’t align so there is wiggle room! Wiggle room = “I’ll keep trying and I’m tenacious!”
If you stay consistent and do what you say you are going to do, your little one will know that boundaries are firm and you’ll stick to them. Then they can relax instead of continuing to push.
No Electronics After Dinner
No screens after dinner can 100% help with the toddler bedtime struggle.
Screens means no tv, computers, or tablets. The blue light is too stimulating and will interfere with melatonin production, delaying your child’s ability to fall asleep.
Instead, focus on some one-on-one time with your child. Give them the connection they are craving so they won’t be trying so hard at bedtime to get your attention. Child-led play like reading books, puzzles, getting down on the floor and talking about their day are all quality quiet time activities to do together.
No wrestling or running around the house playing monster, etc. I’m looking at you, dads! This is something our household struggles with especially. When my husband gets home from work, the kids get amped up because they are so excited to see him and it’s as though they’re genetically programmed to play rough.
Anticipate Their Wants
If you know your child is going to tell you he’s hungry right as he’s getting into bed, be sure to have a bedtime snack after connection time and before starting the routine. By making this a part of the routine, you’ve essentially checked off that box before they are asking for it so it is easier to say we aren’t eating anything else tonight. Plus it will put your mind at ease that you didn’t just say no to eating and your toddler is starving!
Aim for snacks that are low sugar and have a complex carb/protein combination. Think:
- Cheese and whole-grain crackers
- Nut butter and whole-grain crackers
- Low sugar Greek yogurt
- Cheese sticks and blueberries
- Banana and a handful of nuts
If you know your child is going to ask for more books, be sure to set the boundary at the beginning of the routine. “We will read 2 books and sing 2 songs and then bedtime.” Then the hard part – stick with it!
If your toddler’s favorite stalling tactic is the potty, bring them the last thing you do as a part of your routine.
An Early Bedtime Can Be Your BFF
If your little one is overtired or bedtime is too late (after 8 pm), the toddler bedtime struggle is inevitable. They’ve got a ton of cortisol running through their sweet little bodies to fight us!
So when your little one is overtired or had a rough day or they are going through a nap transition or sleep regression, an early bedtime is always the answer. A couple of nights of early bedtime can help our children catch up on much-needed sleep so they can go back to being their happy, rested selves.
An early bedtime is a tool you can use as you need it, but don’t get stuck there as it can cause an early morning wake up.
And Once Again…
I’m going to say it one more time for the people in the back…. CONSISTENCY.
If you give your child an inch, he’s going to try to take a mile. Stick to your guns and be confident. Be sure to follow through with what you said at the beginning of the routine. It is understandably confusing for a child when a parent gives in to demands one night and not the next.
Give Yourself Grace
Lastly, if you have a rough bedtime routine one night, don’t beat yourself up. We all have rough days (even child sleep consultants!) There’s always tomorrow! We just do the best we can.
I’m a mom of 3 toddlers and I can honestly say there are nights where the toddler bedtime struggle is real and the bedtime routine doesn’t go as smoothly as I would like, but I have learned to give myself some grace and try again the next night.
If you are reading this and saying “Sarah – we are beyond hope and need help!” I’m your girl! I’d love to help you figure it all out. You can reach out to me and we can figure out exactly what your family needs to develop healthy sleep habits. You are not hopeless – promise!
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