If you have a toddler, I’m sure you’ve noticed that they are natural-born boundary pushers, ha.
Toddlers can be very strong-willed, independent and they quickly learn that what they say and do can often make a difference in how things will go. When toddlers begin having meltdowns, it can be pretty easy to “give in” just so it all will stop, but giving in will often lead to more and more meltdowns over time. While it’s great to see your toddler begin to talk more and make choices for himself, it is not the job of your toddler to alter the schedule and routine that you’ve worked so hard to put in place.
So what can you do to stop the bedtime battles with your toddler?
- Maintain Clear and SIMPLE Communication. It’s important to communicate with your toddler in a way that’s easily understood and on their level. Staying open and honest and keeping them “in the loop” on what’s coming up next can oftentimes help the meltdown be avoided. When toddlers have meltdowns sometimes parents try to distract them from the reality of what’s coming up next, but it’s often best to just be upfront and honest.
- Offer Choices Your Toddler Can Handle. Too many options can be overwhelming for a toddler! Make sure you’re offering simple choices where your toddler can pick one is often most effective! Be mindful of the questions you’re asking. Asking your child where to sleep or even what time they want to go to bed aren’t questions that a toddler should have control over. Instead of saying “Are you ready to go to bed?” You can say something like “It’s time for bed, do you want to pick out which pajamas you’ll wear tonight?” You can even ask what book they’d like to read or which song they’d like to sing. Providing “this or that” options works best when communicating with a toddler. When you take the approach of giving choices, it makes a toddler feel like they are the ones in control.
- Offer Choices BEFORE A Meltdown. If the meltdown has already started, it’s going to be tough to try to backtrack and start providing choices at that point. It’s always best to provide choices before the meltdown begins. Allowing your toddler to use their voice through offering choices often works great. If your toddler is already in the middle of a meltdown, sometimes offering hugs and kisses will help, but oftentimes it’s best to just move on to what’s next.
- Set Boundaries and Stick With Them. As I mentioned earlier in this post, it can be pretty easy to give in when toddlers begin having meltdowns, but what’s more important is holding firm to the boundaries you’ve set. The boundary is when your child doesn’t get to choose. It’s a line that cannot be crossed. Stick with the boundaries you’ve put in place even when things get difficult.
- Don’t Rush The Process. Don’t rush the bedtime routine and process. It’s important to set aside 20-30 minutes for bedtime just to prepare your child by helping him get ready for bed. The bedtime routine allows for you to connect with your child and can be an enjoyable process, lead to less bedtime battles and even settle behavioral issues. This can even be the time to talk to them about their day as they are preparing for bedtime.
- Praise The Child When They Do As They’re Told. This isn’t necessarily praising your child for sleep, but more so for following directions and making choices as they are preparing for bed. You should also show praise if your child is staying in their room through the night. Kids love making their parents proud, so when you let them know just how proud you are, it will encourage them to do it again!
Try to stay patient as you’re navigating bedtime with your toddler. Toddlers can be a true challenge sometimes, but kids often feed off of your energy and that’s why patience is so important. Check these things off in your mind one by one when preparing your toddler for bed:
- Communicate and be honest;
- Provide simple choices;
- Make sure the choices are offered before the meltdown;
- Set boundaries;
- Don’t rush;
- Give praise; and
- Remain patient.
If you keep these things in mind and stay consistent, I’m sure you’ll see true progress and less bedtime battles!