Most kids are challenging in one way or another to put to sleep. My daughter has generally been pretty easy to put to bed, but more recently she has started dragging the process out. Do her excuses sound similar to your childs? “I need a glass of water” , “One more book”, “I can’t find Mickey”, “Can you look under the bed for monsters?”, “I need to show you the picture I drew at school, and I can’t find it”, “I’m not tired”. The list could go on, and she is getting more creative.
Then, there is my 3-year-old, who has always been more challenging to put to bed. I’ve had nights when I had to wrestle him into his pajamas, and bribe him to get in bed and stay! Yes, I said bribe. These are things you do when you are losing the bedtime battle! So, as a mother of two toddlers, I can tell you that we still have our battles, but these are my 5 top tips for keeping the sanity at the end of the night. If you stick to them, they work, most of the time!
1. Set Expectations – An hour before bedtime, start talking about bedtime. Setting expectations applies to all sorts of scenarios for toddlers, such as leaving the park, or ending a playdate, but it’s extremely important for bedtime. As soon as we finish dinner, I mention that we need to start getting ready for bed. My kids know this means we aren’t going to bed yet, but soon.
2. Stop liquids 1-2 hours before bed – Okay, I’m not saying to deprive your child of water if they are thirsty, but if you focus on hydration earlier in the day, then they won’t require as much water before bedtime. It’s very easy to have a day full of activities, which can distract us from drinking enough water. If this happens, your child will be drinking much more water at night. Let me set the scenario –> Have you ever just finished each child’s bedtime routine only to have child 1 yell from his/her bed, “I have to pee!” So, child 1 gets out of bed, goes to the bathroom then does some other procrastinating and annoying thing, you take a deep breath because you might lose it, and then tuck child 1 in bed AGAIN. Oh wait, child 2 heard child 1, and yells, “I have to pee too!” You repeat the same thing, and next thing you know you have just spent another 30 minutes tucking them BACK in bed. This scenario might happen again, or your child may be more likely to get up during the night. My tip–> front load the first half of the day with water, and keep it plentiful up to the last two hours of the day. Then just supply as needed.
3. No technology 30 minutes before – I just recently embraced this rule. Sometimes I like to fall asleep to TV, so I assumed a little educational TV would help my children wind down too. They often watch one show, and then we’d read for 10 minutes before bed. Well..I started to pay attention to what those smart doctors were preaching, and noticed the closer to bedtime we allowed TV, the more stimulated and challenging they were to put to sleep. Ding ding, they were right! So, if you haven’t embraced this one, give it a try.
4. Routine – Most parents know this, but having a set bedtime routine is one of the best things you can do for your kids. They like knowing what to expect and what to do next. When I set the expectation of bedtime an hour before actual bedtime, my kids know this means, bath, pajamas, brush teeth, pick up toys, and reading time. It also encourages confidence and responsibility because they can do part of the routine on their own.
5. Consistency – Now that you have a routine down, stay the course. If you aren’t consistent, your kids won’t care about a routine. They go hand in hand. Obviously, sometimes you have off nights, friends are visiting, you are traveling, but you can still incorporate some of the routine. Set the expectation of bedtime, and then start the steps of the routine you can do!
Please feel free to comment and share any other suggestions that might work for you and your family! I love hearing what works for other parents!