In households with young children, bedtime is often the most stressful and least satisfying time of day. Toddlers (and parents) are often over-tired and the little ones tend to do whatever they can to extend their day as long as possible. Here are 4 tried and true methods parents can use to make the bedtime routine as routine and drama-free as possible,
Create a ritual and stick to it. Whatever your nightly routine is – reading a book, saying prayers, taking a bath, etc, make sure it becomes predictable for your child. Do it in the same order each night, so that he or she knows what is coming next. When your collective behavior is truly routine, it becomes easier for your child to follow.
Create night time choices. As toddlers get older and become more self-aware, they like to begin to test their boundaries. By giving your child options, like which PJs to wear, which book to read or what animal to take to bed, you allow her or him to begin to feel like they have some control over the bedtime routine.
Don’t negotiate. It’s not uncommon for children to want to delay the inevitable as much as possible. The key is to control the playing field. As noted previously, allow children a say in the process of getting ready for bed, but only within the parameters of the nightly routine. Once they’ve selected their stuffed animal or brushed their teeth, they need to understand that sleep time is the logical next step. Give your child a hug and a sense of security, but don’t fall into the habit of making each night a negotiating session.
Be firm. When your child acts up or throws a tantrum, resist the temptation to rise to their volume level. Toddlers can worry about dark rooms and monsters. It’s okay to acknowledge their fears, but do so in a calm, confident way. Check under beds, use nightlights, but don’t fall into the trap of climbing into bed or agreeing to stay in the room. Toddlers need to begin learning boundaries and expectations. When children feel safe, but understand they can’t manipulate their parents, they wind up giving themselves and you a better night’s sleep.