As a toddler, your child is more mobile, more active, and more of his or her own person than ever before. She is ‘finding her feet,’ both literally and metaphorically speaking. So it’s not too surprising to find that when 8:30 rolls around, your toddler rebels against bedtime.
You may find that your toddler makes request after request to stave off the inevitable lights-out — ‘one more book, Mommy,’ or ‘one more glass of milk, Daddy,’ or ‘there are monsters in my closet, can I watch TV for just a little longer?’ But of course, the more excuses he makes, the later he goes to bed and the grouchier he will be in the morning. So how can you avoid his sleepytime stubbornness? Here are some tried and true techniques:
Stick to a routine. Set a solid bedtime, be sure to stick to it, and don’t let your child forget that he has a deadline. Remind him what time ‘bedtime’ is after dinner, and keep gently reminding him as he brushes his teeth, takes a bath, and gets into his pajamas. By sticking to a routine bedtime each night, you give your toddler structure. He will know what to expect and will also recognize that there’s not a whole lot of wiggle room when it comes to bedtime.
Empower you child. She’s pushing for more independence – so yield when you can. Allow her to make as many bedtime choices as possible; like what book she wants to read before lights out, how many pillows she wants to sleep with, whether she wants to wear the Mickey Mouse pajamas or the Snow White ones, or if she’d like an extra blanket over her comforter. According to Parents magazine writer Allison Winn, the trick is to offer your child two alternatives which are both acceptable to you and give her some autonomy. Winn explains that you don’t want to ask your child, ‘do you want to go to bed now?’ After all, if your child says ‘no,’ then you have a potential dilemma on your hands. Instead, ask something like ‘do you want to go to bed now or in five minutes?’ No matter what decision she takes, you’ve got her cornered — whether it’s now or in five minutes, she’s going to bed at any rate.
A ‘big kid’ bed means you get a ‘big kid’ bedtime. After age three, your child has likely outgrown her crib and is setling into her new bed. Use this moment as an opportunity to tell her that a part of getting older is learning how to sleep on your own when bedtime rolls around. Encourage and praise her whenever she stays put in her bed. If she can’t resist the urge to go wandering after lights-out, gently take back to bed, tell her that it’s time to sleep, and leave – don’t linger. Above all, show your child that a big kid bed comes with a big kid responsibility – that is, going to bed at a reasonable hour and getting a good night’s sleep.