We often have clients come to us and say something like, “My toddler has always been a great sleeper, but ever since we transitioned to his big kid bed, he’s up all night long!” Or, parents come to us at their wit’s end because bedtime has become such a battle…tantrums, excuses, tears, begging, etc. It takes hours just to get their little ones settled!
First of all, we know this is so hard (and exhausting)! Similar to when our babies are waking multiple times a night, it’s much easier to give our busy toddlers what they want so everyone can go back to sleep. Well, that works for a while, but the majority of parents will eventually hit a wall and seek out the answers for change.
The main difference with toddlers is…they are SMART! And they catch on to every little thing — our weaknesses when we’re sleep deprived, the things we have a hard time saying “no” to, etc. Their little brains and very quick feet can make for extremely long nights.
So, what’s the answer? This might be tough to hear, but we’re here to help you, after all. If your toddler was once sleeping through the night and you’re now facing the obstacles mentioned above…it’s very likely we’re not looking at sleep issues here. We’re looking at behavior issues. (Ouch! That stings a little, huh?)
Just as you once committed to teaching your child he or she was capable of falling asleep independently, now is the time to commit to a solid bedtime routine, and make your expectations clear! Set boundaries, and follow through.
Yes, you’re technically sleep training again. But this is a totally different world! As a parent of a toddler, your reactions to our child’s behavior is significantly important here.
You’re taking bedtime back. Why? Because you’re the boss!
So, here are some tips to get started.
Take Control and Give Control
Give your toddler control over the things that don’t matter as much to you: pajamas, books, stuffed animals, etc. Make it clear which aspects of bedtime are not up for discussion and which aspects are totally up to them. It’s very important to make it clear that when your child goes to bed, where he sleeps and when it’s time to get out of bed are all up to you.
As for the little things you leave up to him…make it fun! Make it a big deal: “We’re reading two books tonight. Which books should we read? I’m so excited to see what you choose! Do you want to read on the bean bag or in the chair?”
Laugh, play and be intentional with your last moments before lights out.
Try a Bedtime Routine Chart
Sometimes, we ALL need to slow down at bedtime. That includes us, as parents. It’s very common to rush through each step when you know the long night that lies ahead.
Still, it’s so important to fill your child’s metaphorical cup at the end of the day. You might have a cup of tea or glass of wine and your favorite new Netflix show waiting for you outside that bedroom door, but for your child, this is it. This is their time. You are their world. Do your best to enjoy this time with your little one, and make sure they notice!
A bedtime routine chart is a wonderful way to help us all slow down a bit. Perhaps more importantly, it covers all your bases to prevent all those post-bedtime demands and excuses.
The chart can be so much fun for toddlers. Let your little one pick the stickers to use after each step is complete (brush teeth, use potty, have a sip of water, read books, hugs and kisses, etc).
Celebrate the next morning with a little reward for completing every step and not getting out of bed, if you’d like.
The chart is a wonderful way to very clearly illustrate when the bedtime routine begins and ends. This type of consistency is what your little one needs!
Get a Toddler Clock
While our toddlers are little geniuses, most of them can’t tell time. Plus, we always preach about making their bedrooms as dark as possible…so how are they to know it’s not time to get out of bed if they wake early?
For this reason, a toddler clock is a necessity!
This is another opportunity to get your little one involved and excited. Let them pick the color (the Hatch has endless colors to choose between) of the “time-to-rise” light, and firmly explain what it means. You could also have a special color for bedtime routine to signal it’s time to wind down.
In the morning, when your child comes out of her room, praise her for following instructions. “Wow! You waited for the green light! I’m so proud of you! Let’s celebrate with a yummy breakfast.”
A little praise goes a LONG way with our toddlers.
So, there’s your starting point! You will, of course, choose a sleep training method you are comfortable with and implement that method once you say “Goodnight!” This is where our certified sleep consultants come in — our team would love to work with you one-on-one to determine what method is best for your family. Click here to schedule a free 15-minute consultant to decide which of our packages would work best for your specific situation.