Toddlers are marvellous beings, aren’t they? Watching them grow and develop into thoughtful, creative little people is such a wonderful time that parents often wish would last longer than it does.
Of course, they usually wish this once their child has already outgrown the toddler stage and they’ve forgotten all about the strong will and boundary pushing that comes along with that thoughtfulness and creativity!
When I have my initial consultations with parents of a toddler there is usually some kind of amusing story about the bedtime routine (or rather, the ‘bedtime battle). They’ll tell me with a little reluctance how their toddler gets three stories before bed …. Or four, or five, actually maybe even 6 depending on how persistent they are. Oh and then they usually ask for a glass of water but they’ll only have a few sips, and then the want an extra cuddle, or they’ve just remembered something they forgot to tell you about the day …. And before they know it the parents are looking at each other shaking their heads wondering how it’s 9:00pm already and their toddler still isn’t asleep.
I can tell all parents reading this, how. It always happens the same way … a little bit at a time.
Toddlers LOVE to test boundaries, and the know that the one thing you want from them is to go to sleep so they will use that to their advantage. It sounds quite manipulative, but it’s really their way of figuring out where your boundaries begin and end and how much authority they have within themselves.
So – one night your toddler asks for a glass of water and you think, “Sure, she’s thirsty. Why not?”. The next night she asks for a glass of water and an extra story. Then a week later she wants a glass of water, an extra story, three extra hugs, and another goodnight kiss. Bit by bit, little by little, this crazy bedtime routine comes to develop and it’s all according to what your toddler wants.
There is a simple, two step solution to this issue:
1. Establish a short bedtime routine.
2. NEVER deviate from it.
Yep. That’s it, it’s that simple. I’m not going to pretend that sticking to routine and rules around bedtime is easy – it’s a challenge and your toddler will most definitely complain and test your boundaries. However, I am 100% confident that if you stick to your guns they will soon learn that bedtime routine is not up for debate.
Trust me, sticking to the routine without negotiation benefits both you and your toddler even though they protest. While it may not seem like it, toddlers actually take a great amount of comfort in knowing that you as the parent are firmly in charge and confident in your decisions. If you allow the roles to shift and let your toddler call the shots, the feeling that Mum and Dad know what they’re doing starts to fade.
Aside from that, implementing a consistent and predictable bedtime routine is proven to support good quality night time sleep. It acts as a cue for the brain to release melatonin and signal to the body that it’s time to relax and prepare for sleep.
Finally … you’ll never have to explain to your friends how last night you had to give your little one back scratches and hum a lullaby for 15, 20, 30 minutes before they would fall asleep!