Its’ the end of the day and you just want your kid to. Go. to. Bed. but you are stressing about the bedtime battles that come before that.
You are tapped out, tired, ready for a break. And then the bedtime battles start. There’s stalling, crying, screaming, hitting, kicking, running around the house laughing like a little maniac. It can be infuriating, confusing and exhausting.
Here are 6 things to start doing tonight to help you beat the bedtime battles and make bedtime a more enjoyable, peaceful time at your house.
Add Special 1-on-1 time to your evening or bedtime routine
This is an easy one, it just takes making it a priority every day to have it help. I’ve seen it turn around bedtime battles and improve things significantly in just a few days.
Bedtime is the biggest separation of the day, it can feel intimidating, scary or anxiety producing for kids. The cure for this separation is connection.
Give your toddler or kiddo some quality 1-on-1 time for about 10-20 minutes each day. It is especially helpful when it is done in the evening or right before bedtime. You may be thinking ‘I spend all day with my child, they are getting enough time’, but think about it, during that time are you present and focused on them?
With this special time you can give it a special name. It can be “special mommy and Ellie time” or just special time, or something more creative. Then you want to be in a ‘yes’ area. This means somewhere that is safe and the majority, if not all, items are ok to play with or touch.
Next, make sure you are physically, mentally, and emotionally present with your child. (This part can be HARD. Give yourself grace and practice each night. You will get better at it! P.S. Leave your phone out of it!)
Lastly, watch with curiosity to see with what and how your child plays. Children process what is going on in their worlds through play. This can give you an idea if there are other issues going on that may be contributing to bedtime battles. Of course, play along with them in whatever capacity they invite you to play in, without judgement.
Play it out
Encourage your child to put their favorite toys to bed. Pick a ‘bed’ and blanket out and let them say goodnight to their toy and tuck it in.
As mentioned above, play allows kids to process things happening in their lives, so let them play out bedtime to help them feel calmer and more in control over what will be happening.
Give age appropriate control to your toddler or preschooler
This one is huge. Again, bedtime is the biggest separation of the day and allowing kids to feel in control of their worlds as it is approaching helps them feel confident and comfortable going to bed.
Here are some examples of age appropriate things that help your child feel in control.
Put on their own pajamas
Allow your child to put on their own pajamas. Or if they aren’t able to do it on their own yet, help them but help as little as possible to allow them to learn and feel in control.
Oftentimes it can take longer for kids to pick out and put on their pajamas on their own, than it would if we do it for them or help them do it. Allowing them this extra time to do it on their own gives them appropriate ownership and control over the situation.
Same thing applies for allowing them to help or have a turn brushing their teeth, hair or getting undressed.
Let them tell you which step is next
Toddlers and preschoolers thrive on routine. They learn what to expect and like to know what comes next. A great way to let your child feel in control is asking them which step is next. Have a bedtime routine chart in their room or on their door, down at their level that goes through each step of their routine.
As you move through each step of their routine, bring their attention to their chart and ask them which step comes next.
Where not to give your child control
The important piece of this is the ‘age-appropriate” choices. You should NOT let your child have control over you and what you do. You decide what you do and then stick with it.
Giving your child control over you and what you do, while they may be pushing for it and trying to get it, actually causes them to feel more uncomfortable. Why? Because being in control of the person they depend on to keep them safe and meet their needs, is A LOT of power. Too much power for little ones.
While they are going to push back about whether mom or dad is doing bedtime and whether or not you read more stories, they truly want to know that what you said is what you mean. This helps them feel more secure within those boundaries, which leads to calmer bedtimes. It may not be immediate, but once you push through lovingly and firmly holding those boundaries, your child can feel more confident within those boundaries.
Kids can sense our emotions and feelings. If you are feeling upset, stressed out, nervous, irritated or mad, your child is unfortunately going to play off of this energy, giving you back what you are giving out.
Calming yourself is very important in helping your child go to bed easily and happily.
Movement and mindful breathing are great ways to calm yourself even in the moment. When you feel that irritation rising up (we all get there sometimes!) take some long, loud, calming deep breaths. Or stretch, go do a few jumping jacks in another room or run up and down the stairs a few times. Once you are feeling calmer, come back and continue with bedtime.
Acknowledge and validate feelings
When you and your child are in the midst of bedtime battles, acknowledging their feelings goes a long way. Remember that the reason they are fighting bedtime is likely due to anxiety or fear around the separation that sleep brings.
Acknowledging that they are feeling upset, frustrating, sad or angry about a particular step, or about going to bed in general and that validating that feeling is ok goes a long way. When kids feel seen and validated in their feelings, it can help them focus on the task at hand.
Patience is a big one but one of the hardest for parents because we just want to get to that point in the day when we aren’t parenting and we can be ourselves for a bit. However, not rushing through steps, allowing your child time to do things on their own (that age appropriate control piece discussed above) is going to help your child feel calmer and at peace with going to bed.
Stay patient, calm and connected. Allow things to take longer than they “should.” It’s going to be worth it in the long run. One bedtime may take 5 times as long as it could the first night. But then the next night may only take 3 times as long as it could and so on.
Still struggling with bedtime battles?
If your bedtime battles drag on longer than just the bedtime routine and include laying with your child for an hour until they fall asleep, returning them to their room a gazillion times, more requests, demands and tantrums or more, reach out so we can chat more about what is going on and how I can help. I work for families every day to take them hours-long bedtime fights, not falling asleep and night wake ups, to peaceful bedtimes and full nights of sleep. You can schedule a free evaluation call today to learn more!
Cheers to healthy, happy sleep,