We all have been there, from around 2 years or even before our toddlers all of a sudden rebel at bedtime. Your child ask you to do a million things for them and you do until you have had enough, and you become very angry. Then the feeling of guilt floods your heart and if you are like me you cry and you do it all over again the next day.
So, how can you help your toddler feel happier and calmer at bedtime?
The first thing will be making sure they are not over tired or under tired. An established age-appropriate routine will help immensely when we are trying to establish a good bedtime routine as the child is more relaxed and ready for bed.
Toddlers like to feel “in charge” of their reality, so make sure to empower them by giving a choice, from dinner (put few options on their plate) to choosing the book/s they would like to read at their bedtime routine. Help them choose within a reasonable time by counting to 10. If they didn’t choose within this time, you would choose instead (make sure to verbalise this to them). Give them the option to cuddle or listen to you sing and limit these so your nap or bedtime isn’t prolonged. A prolonged bedtime routine can throw children out of whack, be stimulating and might end up with them being overtired.
Toddlers’ nature is to explore and test their parents’ limits, “how many times can I call dad into the room?”, “how many books can I ask mum to read to me?” “what else I can say to bring them back to the room?” etc. This behaviour can sometime derive from fears toddlers develop at around 2 years of age.
As parents, especially at bedtime you want to draw the limits for them and stick by those limits, as well as helping them feel safe. During wind down routine make sure to cuddle, kiss and smile a lot with your child. This is the time when they need to feel your closeness the most, especially if your child is anxious. With toddlers in particularly it is important that the reading will be done on your lap or as close to you as possible.
How else can you help your toddler feel happier and calmer at bedtime?
Limit back and forth interaction by deciding on a maximum of 2 books, put their water bottle in the cot, keep things in the same order (for example: bottle, brushing teeth, book then bed) and keep the interaction the same (preferably calm soft voice). To minimise fear, you can put a small night light for them and/or open the door a bit to help them feel safe. You can also use an audio book to help them stay in their cot calmly while you check on them intermittently until they fall asleep. All of these will help lower the anxiety around sleep as your child will overtime learn what is expected of them and what is going to happen while they develop a sense of security around bedtime.
Toddlers are strong willed little people, but it is up to us to guide them in life. Just as you guide them when walking and crossing the road safely, this is another lesson they’ll benefit from for life.
Love and peace,
You might be interested to read the related blog post below
- Frequent night wakings
- Cat napping
- Early wakings
- Negative sleep associations (e.g feeding, rocking etc)
- Age appropriate routines
- Settling a newborn