Updated: Nov 6
As you go through your child's bedtime routine, they are likely to test some of your boundaries and expectations at this time of evening. This is normal behavior for a young child.
Make sure you say what you mean and mean what you say during the day so that your child understands your words hold clout at bedtime too. You can't expect compliance at bedtime if you aren't consistent with your words during the day.
Your child needs to feel loved and in control of their life. These strategies allow for you to fill them up at night, preparing their body for bed and to sleep all night long.
Bedtime Strategy 1: Give Choices
Remember that control thing?? Giving two preferred choices works great for toddlers. For example, "Would you like to use the striped towel or the blue towel tonight?" Not getting out of the bathtub isn't an option AND they have control over their choice. Giving choices can help move your routine along and fill your child's need to feel in control. Other favorites: "Would you like to read 3 books or 4 books tonight?" and "Dinosaur pajamas or puppy pajamas tonight?"
Bedtime Strategy 2: Set Limits During the Day AND the Night
This goes back to saying what you mean and meaning what you say. If you say "It's time to clean up your blocks," during the day and then let your child continue playing with them it's going to be hard for them to comply when you say, "We can read 3 books tonight," at bedtime when you really do mean only 3 books. Following through will strengthen your child's trust in you, and consequently, their attachment to you as their caregiver!
Pro-tip: If you have a child who all-of-the-sudden becomes a philosopher at bedtime, set a limit - "I will answer only 2 questions tonight."
Bedtime Strategy 3: Fill Your Child's Love and Control Buckets
You know the idea of cups being filled or not filled based on your emotional needs, right? Well, your child has cups, or buckets, too! We need to fill them up, especially during bedtime. Offer physical touch - cuddling, snuggling, hugging, etc. and tell your child how much you love and cherish them and how proud you are of them throughout their bedtime routine. Speak these truths to them and they will fall asleep with a smile on their face and their buckets overflowing with love.
Giving choices (from strategy 2) helps to fill their control bucket.
Now that they're all filled up, you can say goodnight and tell your child you'll see them in the morning. They're ready to sleep all night long!
Need more help with bedtime? Grab our free Bedtime Guide here.