5 ways to help with your toddler’s bedtime stalling tactics!
Has it been a long day and you just can’t wait till the kids are in bed so you can cozy up in front of netflix and have a breather? But your toddler makes yet another request or needs to ask you just one more thing or demands one more kiss?! Do they need a re-tuck and fluff of their duvet, or another sip of water (no one is more thirsty than a kid who has just been told it’s bedtime), or perhaps for you to check the cupboard for monsters?
Kids are SO good at bedtime stalling tactics! In fact my own four kids are specialists at this.
So what can we do to help prevent lengthy bedtime battles? Sometimes we need to tighten up boundaries and help manage expectations. If they are pleading for one more book and we do that, then the next night it's likely to be one more book and one more cuddle… a week later they are asking for three extra books, more cuddles, more kisses and then a few lullabies! It can be dangerous territory! Our kids truly understand more than we give them credit so here’s some tips on how to help with bedtime stalling:
1. Offer limited choices to your little ones around bedtime. Toddlers especially love the feeling of being empowered and in control. Sometimes we can nag and tell them what to do ALL day long and it’s not often we present them with the opportunity to have some control over their decisions. Whilst going to bed definitely isn’t optional, if you can go about giving them choices around their bedtime routine, it truly goes a long way! You may like to ask them what pjs they want to wear “do you want the dinosaur pjs tonight or the fire truck ones?” “Would you like daddy to give you a horsey ride off to bed? Or mummy to give you a rocket ship ride?”. Even a simple, “which book would you like to choose tonight?” truly gives them back some control and they love the opportunity to feel in charge of things. At the end of the day when everyone’s tired it can be hard to remember and not just dictate how things roll. I encourage you to empower them with lots of choices around their bedtime routine and see them rise to the occasion.
2. Have a predictable bedtime routine that you stick to each night. One of the kindest things we can do for our toddlers is to let them know that the same rules of yesterday still apply today. They thrive on routine and consistency. Click the link below for the Just Love Sleep free bedtime toddler flashcards. These are a great tool to use as a visual reminder and cue your little ones on what comes next. You can stick them up in their room or perhaps they can stick one up each time another part of their bedtime routine has been completed.
3. Go around the house and say goodnight to everything as you head them off to bed. This helps them feel a sense of finality to the night. I know it can feel silly saying goodnight to their stuffed toys, or the dog, or even to the neighbours house but they’ll soon grasp that everyone is off to sleep, the day is coming to an end and everyone’s heading off to sleep with no more fun to be had today! It can also help to reiterate how everyone’s off to sleep now or mummy’s going to be folding the washing (not watching tv and sitting down with her chocolate longing for you to be in bed asleep!)
4. Make sure you try to minimise those opportunities for stalling and pre-empt these. If they often ask for a drink, make sure there's a sippy cup of water handy, ensure they have a final toilet stop before bed, give them that big squeeze, cuddle and kiss and then that's it! Show is over, no more curtain raising!
5. If your little ones are stalling because they are far too wide awake to settle, then you may need to evaluate awake times before bed. This can be hard to navigate if the nap is too long, or too late in the day. We also want them to have had plenty of physical activity to wear them out in the late afternoon. These are the age-appropriate awake times I recommend for toddlers from when their nap ends until bedtime:
12 - 15 months - 3.5 to 4 hours
15 - 24 months - 4 to 6 hours
Ideally we want them awake by 2.30/3pm after their lunch nap.
Remember our little ones LOVE to test boundaries - they will push and push to see how far you bend! Try not to negotiate and stick to the above each night. We can’t lose to our toddlers - we have to out wit, out play and out smart them just like in the game show Survivor to gain this immunity idol of sleep! You’ll find they take comfort knowing you are in charge and are confident in your decisions - this provides a great deal of security and certainty for them.
If things seem overwhelming and frustrating when it comes to your toddler or pre-schoolers' sleep then reach out for 1:1 support and you’ll all be getting the sleep you need in no time at all. Do yourselves a favor and download the free bedtime toddler flash cards - they may be just the visual solution your little one needs!