Toddlers and their amazing need for things at bedtime
Toddlers are awesome, aren’t they! Suddenly, they’re walking, talking little people who have a mind of their own but are still completely reliant on you (which never hurts the Mummy/Daddy ego). However, the flip side of that is…they’re walking talking little people who have a mind of their own but are still completely reliant on you… For those of you who have had a toddler, I’m pretty sure you know exactly what I mean!
If we get chance to sit down and reflect, we can wonder at just how amazing these little people are. At how their little personalities and quirks are starting to evolve.
Toddlers say the funniest things
When I initially talk to parents about their toddler, they usually have an amusing anecdote or two to do with bedtime. About how their bundle of joy has a really sweet way of fluttering their eyelashes to get just one more book. Or maybe some water because they’re REALLY thirsty (but will only actually take a couple of sips!). Then they want to say goodnight in a very specific, drawn-out way, and the parents end up looking at each other wondering how on earth they got to this point.
But, that’s how it always happens. A little at a time, until that becomes the new normal.
The top thing on a Toddlers job description (if they were to have one) is to test boundaries. And bedtime is no different, especially when they know that the most important thing to you at that moment is for them to go to sleep without any fuss. But actually, that’s the crux of it.
So one night they ask for a glass of water, and the parents think, “What’s the harm, maybe they’re thirsty?”. The next night, they ask for a glass of water and an extra story. A week later, they want a glass of water, an extra story, and three hugs and two goodnight kisses and so on and so on. Before we realise what’s happening, these crazy bedtime routines get established (and expected!), all according to the whims of our toddler.
What if I were to tell you there is an alternative?
This may rock your world, but there is a straightforward way of dealing with this.
- Establish a short bedtime routine (no more than about 30 minutes).
- And stick to it, every night – the same steps in the same order.
Then you’re good to go! It’s that simple. I’m not going to lie, the first few days will be tough, and managing to remain consistent and sticking to the rules can be a real challenge because (at least initially) they’re going to keep up with the behaviour, and maybe even ramp it up a little to see how you react. BUT, stay strong! Stick to your guns and sooner rather than later they’ll understand that the bedtime routine isn’t up for debate.
Shouting and screaming at bedtime isn’t good for anyone (regardless of who’s doing the shouting), and isn’t going to help your little one relax ready for sleep. I know, it’s frustrating when this little person is ruling the roost and dictating their demands. But responding in a calm and loving fashion really will help curb the tantrums! Try to put yourself in their shoes. Someone shouting at us as grown-ups to stop crying isn’t going to wash, so why would it work for a toddler? They need to feel physically and emotionally secure. So if they’ll let you, a cuddle while they (and you!) calm down can work wonders.
Children push boundaries because they want to check them. If each time they push a boundary they get a different result, they’re just going to keep pushing it because they’re curious. But also, because it leaves them feeling a little unsure of where they stand in the family dynamic. Also, if they push and push and you eventually give in (which I know, is SO easy to do) all they’re learning is that they just have to really bug you or shout louder before they get what they want in a stamina competition. Children want (and need) for you to be the parent. They feel more secure knowing the rules and boundaries as well as knowing that you’re confident in the decisions you’ve made. Sometimes it’s worth thinking about boundaries during other times of the day, not just at bedtime. Are you consistent then too?
I know, it’s sometimes easier said than done to remain calm when they are kicking off. I get that, I really do. But, by remaining consistent, kiddos soon learn what’s expected of them and the battles will soon lessen. Deep breaths and reminding yourself that this won’t last forever are good tactics when you’re in the moment.
Winding down in the lead up to bedtime helps too. Let’s pretend bedtime is at 7pm (which is a really good time for toddlers and pre-schoolers allowing them the opportunity of a good 11-12 hours uninterrupted sleep). Working backwards, you want to be starting your bedtime routine at 6.30pm. So, after 6pm, calm down the activities and turn off any bright lights. About 6.20pm, remind them that it’s going to be bedtime soon and they’ve got 10 minutes to finish what they’re doing. Gently reminding them that now is not the time to start to get the paints out etc is also perfectly reasonable! Depending on their age, you could even encourage them to help tidy up their toys at this point.
Having a predictable bedtime routine also promotes a good night’s sleep too. It helps our brains to start producing our sleepy hormone and tells the body to start relaxing ready for a wonderful night of slumber. This applies to adults as well as little ones!
Obviously, if you try these suggestions but still feel like you need more help, you know where I am! There’s still plenty of other tactics we can try!