There’s so much to love about having a toddler. They are smart, funny, amazing and you marvel daily at the new things they are able to do and say. But, they can also be stubborn, defiant and strong-willed. It’s all part of the growing process but sometimes it can surely be enough to drive you mad.
We’ve all been there…the 50 questions, the quick trip to the bathroom for the 300th time, the sudden overwhelming thirst that must be quenched right now this minute. Bedtime used to be a time to unwind and get ready to sleep. That is, until your toddler became an expert in bedtime stalling.
In this article, we’ll go over why toddlers feel the need to stall as well as offer some tips for how keep the stalling to a minimum.
Why Does Toddler Bedtime Stalling Happen?
Toddlerhood is a time when they are exploring and discovering their independence. They want to be a part of everything and more and more they want to do it themselves. Of course, it makes sense that they don’t want to go to bed. They’ll miss out on something! Bedtime and sleeping means dark and quiet and no one to play with. They may be tired and sleep but that doesn’t mean they don’t start reaching into their stalling bag of tricks to try for a just a few more minutes of awake time.
5 Tips to Managing Your Toddler’s Bedtime Stalling
Managing your toddler’s bedtime stalling can be frustrating especially when you and your toddler have reached the end of the day and ultimately have the same goal – to rest (even if your toddler doesn’t realize it!) As frustrating as it can be, keeping your toddler on track without upsetting her too much is key because we all know it’s much harder to get a sobbing, upset toddler to settle down and go to sleep easily.
Here are five gentle techniques you can try to help your toddler ease into bedtime without an epic battle of wills:
1. Countdown to bedtime. Give your toddler a head’s up that bedtime is coming. This often works much better than springing it on them without warning. About 30 minutes before it’s time to start the bedtime routine, give your toddler some little reminders that bedtime will be soon. You may even want to set a timer so your toddler can visually see the time counting down. Keep activities quiet and short as it can be harder to pull your toddler away from an long, engrossing activity.
2. Tell everything ‘goodnight.’ Go around the house or your toddler’s room and tell everything goodnight. This can include people, stuffed friends, toys and other objects like her toothbrush and even the potty. This activity helps to reinforce that everything is going to sleep and that she should go to sleep too. Another benefit of this activity is that it can help reduce requests for books or trips to the potty by reminding your toddler that the books and potty have already gone night-night.
3. Be flexible and offer choices. Toddlers love to have choices. It helps them to feel like they have some control and independence over what they do. Give your toddler the option to a few more books or a few more minutes of play if he promises to stay in bed or not call out to you. Other options might include putting on pajamas first or brushing his teeth. Keep in mind that your child’s temperament will play a part in whether or not this works so use your best judgment on using this option. The age of your toddler is also another consideration since this is a technique that will work better with older, more verbal toddlers.
4. Set up a bedtime sticker chart. Sticker charts can be motivating for toddlers and helps them to feel a sense of accomplishment. Get your toddler involved in creating the sticker chart, picking out the stickers and coming up with the different bedtime routine steps to add to the chart. This helps give them a sense of ownership of the chart by putting them in charge of adding new stickers for each step they complete. This gives them an immediate sense of accomplishment and reinforces positive bedtime behavior.
5. Keep interactions boring. If your find your toddler is still stalling or getting out of bed repeatedly, keep all interactions after that point as boring as possible. Re–tuck them in with little to no conversation and keep your voice low with little to no eye contact. Make interactions with you as unexciting as possible to give your toddler less incentive to get up or call out to you.
Most times your toddler is truly tired at bedtime but they are stalling because they don’t want to miss out on whatever fun might be happening while they are sleeping. However, there are some instances where your toddler might not be tired at all and this can be an indication of a scheduling problem such as not enough awake time during the day or between the last nap and bedtime.
Bedtime stalling is ultimately a discipline issue. Your toddler needs your help to understand when it’s time to go to bed and in obeying your direction to go to bed when it’s time. When you enforce limits and set expectations, you are helping your toddler to understand better about bedtime and sleep.
About The Baby Sleep Site®
The Baby Sleep Site® (http://babysleepsite.com) is owned and operated by Nicole Johnson, a baby and toddler sleep coach, and the mother of two young boys. More than 750,000 parents visit The Baby Sleep Site each month to find solutions for their children’s sleep problems, including personalized, one-on-one sleep consultations, comprehensive e-books on sleeping through the night, schedules and taking better naps, free articles and blogs on timely topics and strong community.
Whether a family is struggling with a baby who won’t fall asleep at night or a toddler who just doesn’t want to nap, The Baby Sleep Site tailors every approach with individuality in mind. They don’t offer one-size-fits-all advice or pass judgment on individual parenting philosophies. Their thoughtful, thorough and firm approach makes them a savior for sleep deprived families everywhere.
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