Based on my research, one of the most common problems parents face is that their toddler doesn’t want to go to bed. I’d like to explore this problem and discuss ways that you can solve it more or less permanently. I say “more or less” because patterns that you get your child into will always be in flux, but once you get the pattern installed, it’s just like driving. All you need to do is keep your eye on the road and adjust the steering wheel when needed.
When toddlers don’t want to go to bed it is usually for one of a few simple reasons. Either they think they are missing out on the fun that happens when they sleep, or they are somehow scared of their bedroom, or of the dark.
In this post, we’ll tackle only the first scenario. This is, in my experience, the most common. Kids are simply having too much fun and they don’t want it to end. If you were to ask (or give them the option), they’d tell you they want to stay up all night. They just don’t know any better, and it’s kinda cute if you ask me.
So how do you deal with this? You need to establish bedtime as something that is also fun. In fact, if you can make sure that bedtime is actually more fun than whatever else is going on, you’ll have even better success.
Here are 5 quick tips you can use to make bedtime more fun and less of a fight:
- Make the process of going to bed into a game. With my monkey-girl, we regularly get her to “go hide” under her sheets, and then we pretend we can’t find her for a minute or two. She lies there giggling, just waiting for us to find her. It is so cute and she loves it.
- Do an activity together. Reading books, telling stories, or playing make-believe are all great. My daughter loves french toast, and we’ll often lie in her bed together pretending to make french toast with an imaginary frying pan, imaginary toast, eggs, etc. Then she eats it up and we kiss goodnight.
- Talk about fun things. Get your toddler in the habit of looking forward to tomorrow. Talk about what will be fun to do tomorrow. Especially when the kindergarten years approach, looking forward to school will be important to establishing a pattern of really enjoying learning.
- Get good at using your soothing voice when you’re tucking your child into bed. For most parents this is already automatic, but if you are in the habit of tucking in your toddler using your normal daytime voice, change this immediately. You want your night time voice to condition a night-time response from your child.
- Recognize that patterns will change with time. Once you get your child into the habit of enjoying the bedtime ritual, you are in great shape. But the actual specifics of the ritual will (and should) change over time. Story books and activities change. What we talk about changes. The games we play to get into bed vary. Change is the only constant in life, and this is even more true with kids!
Next post we’ll talk about what you can do if your child is scared of bedtime for whatever reason. Until then, enjoy your children. If you enjoyed this post, then you’ll love my parenting audio book.