Inside: Toddler fighting sleep? Toddler bedtime tantrums will turn your evenings upside down. Trust me, I’ve been there. But what if you could claim back your peaceful evenings and finally conquer those toddler tantrums at bedtime? This must-read strategy will get you there!
Can I tell you a secret? Last night’s bedtime only took five minutes.
Two kids, down for bed in five minutes. Listen, I’m not bragging. It hasn’t always been this way. I’ve had my share of hours of bedtime tantrums and battles.
But these days bedtime is a breeze.
I’m telling you this because you need to know one thing: There is hope.
Yes, even for your strong-willed child or your chronic bedtime-battler. There is hope!
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Tackle Toddler Bedtime Tantrums with this Simple Strategy
Get a jump start getting your toddler’s bedtime back on track! Download the free printable Bedtime Gameplan from our parenting resource library.
Step #1 Create a Positive Routine
A great bedtime routine should have three qualities:
- Each step should reinforce that the family is a team.
- It should be consistent from night to night.
- It should give your child confidence and peace.
Negative Bedtime Elements
Now, trust me. I know that avoiding all of these elements is impossible at times. There are late nights and bad days that will just mess up your bedtime routine.
But keep in mind that any of these elements may sabotage your toddler’s bedtime!
- Screen time right before bed.
- Rushing through dinner.
- Inconsistent bedtime and late nights.
- Rough and rowdy play right before bed.
- Tons of sugary treats or a poor diet.
- Lack of outdoor play during the day.
If you need help with your whole day, don’t worry. Here’s a guide to creating a kid’s schedule that works!
Positive Bedtime Elements
These positive bedtime elements help put you and your child on the same team and give your child feelings of confidence and love. Feeling like part of a team goes a long way toward limiting bedtime toddler tantrums!
- Reading a bedtime book.
- Doing a family devotional.
- Talking about the day.
- Say a prayer.
- Taking a warm bath.
- Singing a song.
- Telling a story.
- Turning on a night light or sound machine.
- Plenty of outdoor play during the day.
Say this: “We’re going to create our bedtime game plan. In this family, we are a team. But right now we aren’t working as a team at bedtime. Let’s write down our plan for bedtime tonight!”
If you need a specific plan for what do after lights-out, I highly recommend the Happy Sleeper book. One of the strategies in this books is the reverse sleep wave, which is a genius way to comfort kids when they have trouble at bedtime and still keep your boundaries. This book is full of tips for happy sleepers from birth to school age! It’s a must-read when bedtime is a battle.
Step #2 … But Enforce your Boundaries
Positive parenting is more than just making your child feel loved. It’s also about making sure your child can trust your word!
Think about this. Does your toddler trust you? Sure he may trust you to keep him fed and give him hugs every day.
But does he really believe your “yes” to be “yes?” Does he trust you that your “no” really means “no?”
Does his past experience tell him that he can trust your word?
With my strong-willed child, this was the biggest change that helped us finally conquer toddler bedtime tantrums! Every night he would throw a tantrum if one thing didn’t go as he hoped.
For a while, we would give in to his demands.
- One more song? I guess we can do one more song.
- One more book? Sure, let’s do one more book.
- Need to spend ten minutes looking for a toy to sleep with? Well…
But of course, as with most toddlers, one song turns into two, and one book turns into ten!
He figured out that my “no” really meant “yes.”
It had to stop, mama.
Finally, we took these steps send the message of firm bedtime boundaries and end toddler tantrums at bedtime.
Create firm boundaries in advance.
- Explain to your child what they can expect at bedtime. Start earlier in the day to avoid blindsiding them with new rules.
- Make it work for your routine. For example, one book, one song, a kiss, and goodnight. But make sure your child knows that this is a fair, yet firm boundary! We covered this in step one, but let your child help create the boundaries and routine elements with you.
- We taught (and are still teaching!) our child to say “If it doesn’t go my way, I’m still OK.” We’re teaching him how to manage disappointment with courage and class. This is a life skill that will be so useful far beyond bedtime struggles!
Enforce those boundaries!
- This is the sticky spot. It’s easy to create boundaries, but when the rubber meets the road you’ve got to enforce your boundaries.
- Lay out consequences if your toddler chooses to not keep the boundaries. The most effective consequences are related to the behavior. Throwing toys at bedtime? Those toys are taken away.
- Don’t be afraid of a meltdown. Every meltdown is an opportunity to teach the correct attitude and behavior. And I promise if you’re consistent those bedtime meltdowns will become less and less frequent!
- Be sure to lay out positive consequences for when your child succeeds at bedtime. Reinforce the idea that team players have more fun!
Say this: “Mommies have rules, too. If you choose to break our bedtime boundaries, my job is to give you consequences to help you do your part on our team. These consequences won’t be fun, so I’m going to help you stick to our routine instead.
Step #3 Evaluate your Trouble Spots
This is the secret ingredient you may be forgetting. Trust me, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in those emotionally-charged toddler bedtime tantrums. It’s easy to see the whole thing as lost.
But instead, try this. After bedtime. Replay the whole thing in your head. Write down what went wrong and what went right.
Be super specific!
- For example, instead of thinking, “He just wouldn’t listen to anything!” Write down, “He got upset when I said ‘no’ to more water.”
- or “I was worried that he’d melt down, so I gave in to his demands.”
Get really honest with yourself, mama.
When you overgeneralize it just creates frustration.
But when you get specific about those trouble spots, you actually free up space to make a plan for next time.
Write this: “Tonight I did ___ really well. Tomorrow night I will work on ___.”
Are you finally ready to end those toddler tantrums at bedtime? Ready for a glimmer of hope and your peaceful evenings back?
You can finally end those toddler bedtime tantrums!
Here’s your reminder of what to do when your toddler fights sleep.
How to stop toddler bedtime tantrums:
- Create a positive routine.
Choose bedtime rituals that create a sense of calm and place you and your child on the same team.
- Enforce your boundaries.
Explain bedtime boundaries beforehand, and use natural consequences to enforce the rules.
- Evaluate and adjust.
Get specific about what is and isn’t working. Make a plan to address those specific trouble spots!
Don’t forget to download your toddler bedtime gameplan printable! Access it here in our parenting resource library.
What’s your story? Share your struggles and wins with us when it comes to toddler bedtime tantrums!
Let’s connect in the comments below!