11 Top Tips for Handling Bedtime Struggles with Toddlers
Bedtime can be a time of huge stress for parents, especially when they have toddlers.
Tired and overstimulated children are more prone to tantrums and fights which then threaten to take over their sleep schedule and your evening. However, there are ways to make bedtime easier on both you and your child.
Here are some tips that will help your toddler get through bedtime without it turning into WW3:
1. Create a bedtime routine
A simple routine which you follow daily can reduce anxiety in both your toddler and yourself.
A set order of events will let your little one know what is coming next, even if they are too young to understand the words themselves.
Creating a routine is not just about following the same steps every night; it's about giving your child time to "wind down".
This is helped by introducing a calming 'pre-bedtime' phase where you read a story or sing them a song, which lets them know what is coming next and allows them to ease themselves into sleep mode.
Don't forget to read our When Is Your Child Too Big for a Toddler Bed? article.
2. Prepare your toddler for sleep by reading books and singing songs
Toddlers need to be taught that sleep is something which will happen every night and therefore it's important to prepare them for it.
A great way of doing this is by creating a little routine with them before getting into bed; this could mean choosing their pajamas together, reading stories or having conversations with your child about what they are most looking forward to doing the following day.
This will help them associate bedtime with positive things, and they will be more likely to relax and fall asleep quickly.
3. Keep the bedroom dark and quiet to reduce distractions
Once your child is in bed, try to keep the bedroom as dark and quiet as possible; this will encourage them to relax and fall asleep more easily.
If they are used to sleeping with a nightlight or having a fan on, you may need to wean them off of this slowly over time so that their bedroom becomes a place for sleep only.
4. Let your child know what will happen at bedtime
If your child has a fear of monsters under the bed, for example, you may need to reassure them before getting into bed that there are no monsters in their room.
Should you need to leave the room during their bedtime routine (maybe you forgot the book that you've been reading to/with them in another room, it's important to be clear with them about what will happen so that they know there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of.
This will go a long way to reduce bedtime fears and make the whole process much less stressful for everyone involved.
Create a sense of security with night-lights
If your little one is afraid of the dark, there are several ways you can help them to feel more secure.
A great way of doing this is to install a nightlight in their bedroom; something that's not very bright. Allowing them to see what is happening around them and feel more relaxed will go a long way in settling them down for the night.
You could also try tucking them in with a special blanket or toy which they know makes them feel safe.
5. Avoid giving them drinks or snacks before bedtime
This may be common sense to most but try to avoid giving your toddler any drinks or snacks before bedtime as this can disrupt their sleep cycle.
A full tummy/bladder can make it difficult for your toddler to get comfortable enough to fall asleep and could end up in multiple visits to the toilet before they can settle down properly for the night.
5. Put on pajamas or a favorite outfit to help prepare them for sleep time
Another suggestion to help your child feel like it's time for bed is to put them in their pajamas or their favorite sleep outfit - it let's them know that bedtime is coming and will help them to relax into the process.
7. Stay calm and consistent when enforcing bedtime rules
When it comes to bedtime, it's crucial to stay calm and consistent, even when things get a little fraught.
You should always enforce the same rules every night and try to avoid giving in to tantrums or attempts to negotiate with your child - this will only serve to confuse them and make it that much more difficult for them to fall asleep.
It's also important not to discuss any other topics while you are getting your child ready for bed, so they don't become over-excited and struggle to fall asleep.
8. Avoid letting your toddler sleep in your bed or with you in the daytime
It's important not to let your toddler sleep in your bed or with you during the daytime - this can make it difficult for them to learn how to fall asleep on their own and may also lead to problems with bedwetting.
If you need to comfort your child, try doing so in a chair next to their bed instead of in the bed itself, it helps them to learn how to relax and fall asleep on their own.
9. Reward good behavior with praise and positive attention
One way to encourage good sleep habits in your child is to reward them with praise and positive attention for behaving well at bedtime - It lets them know that you are happy with their behavior and will motivate them to continue behaving in the right way.
10. Be both patient and consistent
It's important to be patient with your little one as they learn how to sleep through the night.
The process can be a difficult for both of you, but with time and patience, it will eventually become a regular part of their bedtime routine.
It's also important to be consistent in your approach, so that your child knows what is expected of them every night.
If you vary the rules from night to night, they may become confused and struggle to fall asleep.
11. Don't be afraid to ask for help
As much as you want your child to be self-sufficient, sometimes there is just no other option than to let people know that you need their help with getting them through bedtime.
Getting your child into a regular sleep schedule can sometimes be a team sport rather than an individual pursuit and it is absolutely OK to ask for help, be that from your significant other or family/friends.
There's no need to go through the bedtime routine alone if there is someone available who can help you with it, and doing so will make things easier both for you and your little one.
The important thing to remember is that this is for the good of your child's welfare and what works for one might not work for another... Getting help and advice from others should always be secondary to the knowledge you have gained, parenting YOUR child.
As a parent, you may be feeling overwhelmed with the bedtime struggles of your toddler. However, there are many ways to help them get ready for sleep and enjoy it as well.
The 11 tips we have provided should not only make bedtime easier but also more enjoyable.
We hope this article has been helpful in giving you some great parenting advice that can lead to healthier habits for both you and your child!