Toddler Bedtime Battles

Why in the world do toddlers resist bedtime so much? The extra energy, the manic running around, the long list of bedtime demands and procrastination of pajamas and brushing of teeth. All the while parents are at their most depleted energy level, desperate for some alone time after a long day. You are not alone! Toddler bedtime battles are so common, and I have great news!! We can change all of these things!

Why does my toddler resist bedtime?

1. Overtired.

If your child is going to bed too late, they are past their wake window into overtiredness. An overtired child will most of time look almost manic, hyperactive, have trouble listening, and definitely have trouble settling down. It can also be called a second wind. When a child gets past their sleep window it is incredibly hard for them (and the parents) to settle themselves for sleep.

2. Testing boundaries.

We all know toddlers love to test boundaries, push buttons, and are the cutest, most infuriating little humans out there. If you allow them to demand a list of things ie; food, water, extra kisses, hugs, books, television, whatever it might be, they will do this FOREVER. Because they can!

3. Inconsistent routine.

A consistent routine during the day and night is very important for children. They thrive off of predictability and structure. If you aren’t being consistent with your bedtime routine they are missing the cue that it’s time to go to sleep. 

These are the most common problems with bedtime battles involving toddlers. How do we fix them? Let’s find out!

Bedtime battle solutions.

Bedtime solutions involve your whole day. Whatever time your child wakes up, to when they eat and nap. All of these things are very important!! We are going to focus solely on the bedtime routine today so you can get started right away.

1. Move bedtime earlier.

Toddlers need 12-14 hours of sleep per day (including a nap). If your child has extra energy at bedtime they are “overtired”. 7pm is a great bedtime for children ages 2-4 years old. Don’t be afraid to move it even earlier if your child missed a nap, or is visibly showing you that they are exhausted.

2. Set your family boundaries.

Set your boundaries and talk to your child about them. For example: You can have one glass of water, I will read 2 books, and give you 3 kisses and hugs, then the light will go off. Then actually do it, EVERY single night. Do not give in, do not change your boundary, and trust me they will test you! Once they know you are rock solid with your decision they will move on.

3. Consistency.

Staying consistent is the most important thing you can do with your child, especially while you are implementing these boundaries and routines. Of course life happens, travel, illness, and events. Stay strict for at least 2-3 weeks during these changes, and after that if there is one night where the child gets to bed later they will be fine. Always go through your bedtime routine though, even if it is shortened a little, remember this is their cue to go to sleep.

Helpful tips to implement into your routine.

  • Start putting these tips to practice! A couple of other things that are helpful throughout toddlerhood. A child should be sleeping in their crib until 3 years old if possible. 
  • Make their bedtime a pleasant place to be in for bedtime. They should be excited about bedtime, not dread going into their room for sleep. 
  • Play a quiet game, read their favorite books, sing a song. Limit toys in the crib or bed. There should be a blanket, (pillow if age appropriate), and one stuffie or lovie. That’s it! No other toys on the bed. This will indicate it is not a time for play but a time for rest. 
  • The room should be REALLY dark, Blackout curtains are great! Night lights are fine, but I recommend using red or amber lights (no blue light). 
  • Dimming the lights a half hour before bedtime also helps the child’s melatonin release kick in. 
  • An OK to wake clock. These clocks light up green when the child is allowed to wake up. It gives them a nice visual and fun way to look forward to the morning.

Toddler Bedtime Battle Takeaways

Remember you are the parent, you are in charge. Your child does not know what is best for them no matter how convincing, and talented they are at negotiating with you. Sleep is crucial for children for their growth, development and behavior. Check out all the information here. Prioritize naps, an early bedtime, and consistency. Boundaries have to happen, our children look to us for security, we must provide them with structured routines and cues to help them out. Sleep is a biological need they HAVE to have, setting up the correct behavior for the child to succeed is the parents job.

Quick story: My daughter and I were trying to pick out sneakers for her online. After looking at hundreds of sparkly slip ons, tie sneakers, and velcro options. Weighing the pros of convenience over the cons of learning to tie her shoes, she looked at me and said; “Mom I’m just a kid, and you have known me my whole life, please just make this decision for me.”

They are just children. They don’t know what’s best for them, we have to guide them to their knowing. You’ve got this!


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