CHICAGO — Toddlers. We love them. They are active, sweet and special, and they amaze us and melt our hearts on an hourly basis. But, wow, some of them love to test us and fight sleep.
While there are many toddlers out there who go to sleep happily and you don’t hear from them until morning, there are many other toddlers who try to negotiate, stall or delay (like the best lawyer in town).
There are many parents who are struggling with their toddler’s bedtime process, so certified child sleep consultant and founder of Sleep Baby Love, Susie Parker, shares some helpful information to create a solid bedtime process to help your toddlers go to bed and stay in bed.
Tip No. 1: Teach your child what is expected: As parents we sometimes expect a lot from our children. So much, that we forget that a few short years ago, they were just a tiny little newborn. We have to realize as much as we would like for our kids to oblige everything we do and say, they are just young kids whose minds run a mile a minute. By understanding that going through a bedtime routine isn’t always fun, we can help make it easier and more fun by thinking about things from a child’s perspective.
Tip No. 2: Make your bedtime routine fun: Be careful not to rile your toddler up before bedtime, but do things that will help them enjoy the bedtime process.
Try having fun throughout the bedtime process:
• Sing silly songs while brushing teeth.
• Have a race to get into pajamas.
Tip No. 3: Eliminate the power struggle: You are the parent and you set the rules, and the time your toddler goes to sleep. But, giving options and picking your battles you eliminate a full on power struggle and will make your bedtime routine much more enjoyable (for both you). Provide options throughout the bedtime process to help empower your child:
• Would you like to wear these pajamas or these?
• Would you like to brush your teeth before or after bath?
Tip No. 4: Set sleep rules: Does your toddler really know what it means to go to sleep? Ask them. It would be great to hear the different responses. Assuming your toddler is out of a crib and transitioned to a big bed, your child’s big room allows them a lot of freedom, and of course, some would choose to play rather than go to sleep. If you are struggling on a nightly basis to get your child to sleep, get back to basics. Have a family meeting and explain the rules of sleep and how sleep works.
“You lay in your bed, shut your eyes and go to sleep.” (Yes that simply)
Explain in your child’s language the benefits of sleep and how it helps them grow big and strong.
Tip No. 5: Offer rewards for following the sleep rules: Use a sticker chart to help reward your toddler for following the sleep rules. Have they stayed in their bed the whole night? Could they earn a shiny sticker? Get your child invested in the process by having them help make the chart (or pick out an online printable). Include them in shopping and picking out the stickers.
Tip No. 6: Blame somebody else: “Going to sleep is not always your toddler’s favorite subject, and if your child is still resistant to the act of going to sleep, I give you permission from this point on to blame me, Sleep Susie,” said Susie Parker. Tell them that you have a friend that is going to help you follow your sleep rules. This will help you not look like the bad guy and hopefully your child wants to do what Sleep Susie says.