Bedtime struggles are not new. In fact, there are more than enough memes, jokes, and Facebook statuses pertaining to the horror that is bedtime, especially if you have a toddler. You may not know what to do when your toddler refuses to go to bed, but you do know what you want — for everyone in the house to stop screaming. Bedtime is like brushing your teeth or sitting in a car seat — it's not negotiable. It has to happen, no matter how much your child hates it, and it benefits not only your little one's health, but your sanity, too. (OK, and their sanity. Nobody likes being exhausted.)
But it's no secret that toddlers are the ultimate negotiators. They also have a serious case of FOMO, and when you combine those two characteristics, what you get is a toddler who will come up with any reason to avoid their bed and will wear you down until it's 10 p.m. and you're still refilling water cups to quench their thirst and answering questions about what Daddy's watching on TV. (Nothing. Nobody is watching anything because you won't go to sleep.)
Never fear — your Netflix binge isn't too far out of reach. Try to do these nine things when your toddler refuses to go to bed and hopefully you'll all be getting some rest soon. (Or at least saving a ton of money on toilet paper when you cut down those nighttime bathroom breaks.)
1. Indulge Them A Little
Remember when I said toddlers will negotiate until you're 85 and still trying to convince them they can't have ice cream for dinner? Sometimes, you have to indulge a bit. If you've been ignoring their requests or simply shutting them down, you may be doing more harm than good. According to Parenting, some of their first requests may be legitimate, like wanting a glass of water or an extra hug. If you assume they're just battling for the sake of battling, there's no where to lay your ground rules or limits. Give them the extra snuggle, let them get one more stuffed animal for the bed, and then call it done.
2. Set Limits & Stick To Them
This is hard, I know. But there's no point in trying to establish bedtime rules if you aren't going to stick to them or follow them. What to Expect noted that you have to keep your cool and stay on course during bedtime. Toddlers can smell weakness and they will be all over you if you let your guard down. When you say only one more book, stick to it. If you tell them this is the last glass of water they can have, follow through. They'll realize that their pleas and begs no longer work soon.
3. Pay Attention To How Much Sleep They Need
It can vary depending on ages, but be sure to find out from your child's pediatrician how much sleep they should actually be getting each night. Psychology Today noted that some major bedtime struggles may be because your little one just isn't sleepy enough yet. If your child needs at least 11 hours of sleep to function, figure out what that means between bedtime and a wake-up call and then push it back 30 more minutes. This way, your child's sleepy cues will be ramped up and they can associate bedtime with sleep.
4. Have One-On-One Time Before Bedtime
If you feel like your child is really just wanting to be with you at night, it might help to have some one-on-one time with them before bedtime. Parents suggested that quality time can come in the form of a pajama walk before bed. Not only do you get some time to talk to your children without all of the fuss and hassle going around, but you can also calm them down before bed and make it part of your routine.
5. Make Their Requests Part Of The Bedtime Routine
Look, they're still going to ask for a glass of water no matter how big of a deal you make your bedtime routine, so Baby Center suggested that you just put that request in the action. If you know your kid will complain about needing to pee, make them go to the bathroom before you tuck them in. If you know they think monsters are under the bed, go ahead and do a sweep with the flashlight so they can't come at you with the request again.
6. Let Them Have Choices
The Baby Sleep Site noted that toddlers are all about asserting their independence, so play along with it. Let them pick out their own pajamas (even if it means wearing a tutu), put the toothpaste on their toothbrush, and help you read the story (you had no idea Goodnight, Moon could last so long). Does that mean bedtime could last longer than you want it to? Sure. But if it means they'll also keep their adorable selves in bed, it's worth it.
7. Have Both Parents Be Part Of The Bedtime Routine
There is strength in numbers, my friends. Positive Parenting suggested that not only does it relieve a burden on you to have your partner's help, but it's also more fun for your kiddo. Bonus — when your toddler sees both of you laying down the law on bedtime, they may be less likely to get out of bed for a glass of water or ask for another story.
8. Pick Your Battles
Honestly, does it matter that your toddler wants to wear a t-shirt to bed instead of their pajamas? Will that toy in bed do any harm? I'm not saying you have to give in to every request, but some of them are not really a big issue. According to Positive Parenting, it's often a lack of control that makes toddlers hate bedtime, so why not let them exercise a bit of power to make them feel better about the situation?
9. Break Any Sleep Habits
I had to save the hard one for last, right? Sleep associations are huge and can be a big problem for all kids according to The Baby Sleep Site. If your toddler always needs you to rock them to sleep, you're going to become weary and resentful. If your toddler needs you to stay in the bed with them, what happens on the nights you aren't there or you have another sibling to take care of? Break those sleep habits now so your child will learn to fall asleep on their own.