How to ditch the bedtime drama and get your kid to go to bed
As parents, many of us spend a decent amount of time waiting for our kids to go to bed. Once they are in bed, we can finally get some peace and quiet, some time to ourselves or time with our partners. At the end of a busy day, whether you are at home with the kids or at work, it is understandable that many parents may want to rush through the bedtime routine to get their kid to go to bed. It feels like this will help them more quickly get to that wonderful part of the day when they can relax or at least have some time sans the constant snack requests and never-ending chatter from our tiny humans.
It can be so tempting to rush bedtime, but having a loving bedtime routine chock-full of quality time with your child is an important step in a smooth bedtime. When bedtime goes smoothly, without the frustrating battles and drama, the sooner you can get to that much needed time to yourself.
Often bedtime battles are related to a child not wanting to be separated from their parent(s) or craving more quality time with their parent(s). The exact opposite of what we tend to want as parents at this point in the day. This opposition creates some intense battles, struggles, and frustration for everyone involved.
Toddlers aren’t being malicious or trying purposely to annoy us. They are really asking for our help, love, and attention. So how can we meet both their needs and our needs? Quality time over quantity of time!
Meeting this need for quality time and attention can get your kid to go to bed easier and make the process more pleasant for everyone involved!
5 Tips to get your kid to go to bed easier
Here are 5 things you need to make sure you are doing during bedtime with your child to help reduce bedtime battles and get you to that much deserved and needed blissful time you are looking forward to.
1. Be present
Don’t multitask. Put your phone away. Stop going to do laundry for a few minutes here or a few minutes there. Especially, if you are throwing up your hands in frustration from the boundary-pushing and then going to do laundry because this can cause more insecurity for your child.
If you are multitasking, your kids will feel that you are not focused on them and that there may be something else that is more of a priority. Then they are pushing back even more in an effort to get your time and attention, even if that time and attention are negative. This leads to longer, more frustrating, mentally, and emotionally exhausting bedtimes.
A bedtime routine should be about 30 minutes. Plan to be present, leave your phone in the other room, and focus on your child. They will feel loved and connected with you from this quality time. In turn, it will make it easier for them to separate from you when it is time to say goodnight.
2. Don’t let your kid have complete control
Toddlers and young children are testing and learning about their own independent will. We want to use this need for having a sense of control and ownership over the situation without overdoing it. Giving kids too much control without boundaries can cause them to feel insecure and out of control. This leads to more of the bedtime drama and situations that quickly spiral out of control. Our little kids simply aren’t ready for that much responsibility.
Offering choices within a step of the bedtime routine are a great way to let your little kid feel independent and in control. An example is your child’s pajamas. For a younger toddler, you can ask “Do you want to wear the mickey mouse pajamas or the dinosaur pajamas?” For an older toddler or young child who can dress themselves, let them pick a pair of pajamas out of their drawer and then ask if they want help putting their pajamas on or are they going to put them on themselves.
Don’t ask things like ‘do you want to read a story or not?’ because this strays away from the steps and routine of your child’s bedtime routine which in turn causes your child to question all the boundaries. They don’t know if they can count on knowing what to expect or if it is ever-changing (and ever-anxiety-producing). Little kids want to know what to expect in these situations.
Kids are going to test the boundaries and push our buttons in an effort to feel confident in those boundaries and our love for them staying firmly in place.
3. Don’t skip bedtime stories (or other steps of your child’s bedtime routine)
Bedtime stories are a great way to connect with your child. Sitting together and reading a story creates a wonderful opportunity to physically connect through cuddling. This physical connection causes oxytocin, AKA the love hormone, to be released to help your child feel relaxed and loved – two important factors that can help your child get to sleep.
Parents ask me how to make their toddlers sit and listen to the story because this can be a challenge sometimes. It is okay if they don’t want to sit and listen. Maybe they wander around their room a bit or be doing some weird form of toddler yoga, but they can find comfort in knowing what to expect in their routine and often will come to cuddle up after a bit.
4. Be positive
You want to remind your young child of the expectations and rules around bedtime, especially older toddlers and little kids in big kid beds (aka the ones that can get out of on their own.) However, you want to be cautious with your wording.
Use positive words and reminders to reinforce the expectations and rules around bedtime. Talk about the good and enjoyable things that happen instead of reminding your child about the consequences of not following the expectations. This can help kids be more cooperative. They can be excited about something good happening as opposed to getting out of bed just to test you and see if you follow through with the consequence you already warned about.
It also puts you in the position to assume they can and will follow expectations. This assumption can help set everyone up for success.
5. Change your own mindset about bedtime
This is easier said than done because putting a toddler or little kid who is fighting and testing at every turn to bed is an extremely frustrating endeavor. In this busy world we are living in, we are constantly connected to our phones, our social media, our email, and more. This often leads to a situation in which our kids often don’t get as much undivided attention as they want and need.
Research shows that distracted parenting (parents distracted with our devices and engaging in lower-quality interactions with our kids) is negatively impacting our children’s cognitive development.[i]
So put your phone away and end the day on a high note — with high-quality interaction and undivided attention for your child. Enjoy bedtime and that quality time with your kid. If they can tell you are enjoying the time together as opposed to just going through the motions, it will be beneficial for everyone involved. The end result can help your child feel loved and cared for, can lead to a smoother bedtime, and get you to your quiet-without-constant-requests-for-snacks time more quickly.
bedtime battles and drama with little kids are exhausting
When you start working on implementing these tips, keep in mind it may take a week or so of consistency for your child to start to feel comfort and security of knowing what to expect. And they start expecting to enjoy their new bedtime routine! Then you will start to see your kid going to bed more easily and happily.
If you’ve still got bedtime battles or other sleep struggles that continue on throughout the night, reach out and we can chat more about your specific situation and how we can take you from the battles, the multiple middle of the night wake-ups and the sleep deprivation to peaceful, easy full nights of sleep. You can schedule your free evaluation call here and start dreaming about peacefully, easy and happy bedtimes!
Cheers to healthy, happy sleep,