Sleep struggles are extremely common among 2 and 3 year olds. The reason behind these struggles is that of the significant developmental changes that their bodies are going through. At this age, kids start learning that they have a bit of power in the world, and for them, it is just about necessary to seize any opportunity to use this power. So if you find your kid saying things to stall his bedtime, don’t be surprised – he may put up a fight even if he is about to fall asleep mid-sentence.
If truth be told, putting an end to bedtime battles and ensuring that your toddler gets ample sleep at night is about far more than maintaining your own sanity. Not only will a good night’s sleep make your child more pleasant to be around, it will also assist him in staying focused as he goes about his day and he won’t have to deal with fatigue-induced trips and falls. However, getting your child to sleep can be one mighty challenge. On average, he should get 11 to 13 hours of sleep a day (including an afternoon nap). But with your child’s newly developed art of speech, a fairly longer attention span, and an iron will, he will do all that it takes to stall bedtime. So to get your child to sleep without stirring up a battle, here are a few tips that you should definitely try out:
7 Tip # : Be present
Your toddler maybe putting up all these bedtime delaying tactics to be able to spend some ‘present’ quality time with you. To figure out if this is the case, think about your day – have you spent enough one-on-one time with your child kid? Did you give him time where you were able to fully focus on him?
If this is not the case, add this into your daily routine. Give him 15 minutes of cuddle and chat time after work, or give him at least an hour of uninterrupted play during the day. During this time, leave your phone aside for a while, turn off the television and just spend a bit of quality time with your kid. Trust me, if you give him this bit of time during the day, you won’t have to worry about filling that gap at bedtime, thereby making things easier at night.
Is he missing you?
Right when you thought you’d nipped separation anxiety in the bud, it is back to haunt you. If your toddler is begging you to stay with him even after you’ve tucked him in, there is a good chance that he just wants to be with you. For this reason, make sure that you take out a bit of extra time to connect with him while tucking him in at night. Before turning out the light, talk to him about the day – however, don’t let him pull you into a long discussion of why he can’t stay up with you. Kids this age are amazing debaters so instead of starting a ‘dialogue’ with him, just say good night and reassure him that you’re in the next room so he can call out to you if he needs something.
6 Tip # : Don’t surprise your kid – let him know when bedtime is coming up
Your child may be extremely focused on playing with his toys and springing bedtime on him is not going to help at all with the transition. So how should you prepare your child to go to bed? Well, just let him know a few minute before you plan to take start with the process of getting him to sleep. For instance, tell him that you will run his bath water in about 10 minutes so he can keep on playing till the time that his bath water is ready. Also, explain the ‘concept’ of time to him even if you think he doesn’t understand it completely. This way, he will know that he needs to be in bed by 7pm, even if he is unable to tell the time.
Children love saying ‘NO’ to their parents. When mom says it’s time to go to bed, it just can’t be a good idea and they HAVE to say no to it. The trick here is for you to make it seem like ‘his’ idea. How is that possible? Well to begin with, it is vital for you to let your child have some say over the bedtime routine you follow. For instance, you could let him choose between two pairs of pajamas, the book he wants you to read out to him, and even let him pick out which stuffed friends will sleep with him. Trust me, this is going to help your kid accept the idea that the lights are going to go out at 7pm and he has to go to sleep by then.
An hour of quiet time
Before bedtime, make sure that you spend at least 1 hour with your child for calm activities. These include reading a book in dim light or listening to slow music etc. As long as the activity is fun, you can use it to create a ‘sense’ of bedtime coming up.
5 Tip #: Make sleep a family priority
It is highly recommended for you to set regular go-to-bed and wake-up times for your entire family – and make sure that you follow them, even if it is the weekend. It will be easily possible for you to tell that your children are getting enough sleep if they are falling asleep within 15 to 30 minutes of going to bed, waking up fresh in the morning and don’t fall asleep during the day. These are signs that suggest your child has a good sleeping pattern.
Additionally, you need to make sure that your child isn’t experiencing sleep struggles during the night. Signs of sleep struggles include things like:
- Waking up in the middle of the night
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Resisting going to bed
- Loud or heavy breathing while sleeping
- Trouble breathing during sleep
Sleep difficulties become rather apparent in a child’s daytime behavior too. In case your child appears to be sleepy, overtired or sleepy during the day, it is necessary for you to get in touch with his health care provider right away. There are many different causes of sleep difficulties including large tonsils and adenoids and should be checked by a doctor right away. These sleep difficulties may also be a reason as to why your child may put up a fight before bedtime.
Give him a security object
Bedtime equals separation, and your kid may not like that. To make things easier, it is highly recommended for you to give him a personal security object like a blanket, teddy bear or some other comfort item. This object is basically going to give him a sense of security and control that will reassure and comfort him before falling asleep.
4 Tip # : Take away his fear of monsters
When we have a lot of worries on our minds, it is natural for us to sleep badly. The same holds true for your toddler, even though he’s stressed out about the monster under his bed, and not the house mortgage. You need to bear in mind the fact that your child is at a stage of his life when his imagination is totally going to take off. Even if he was never scared of the dark before, there is a good chance that he may start ‘seeing’ ghosts and other scary creatures – and this bit of his imagination may make him put up a fight out of sheer worry when you try to put him to bed.
To make things easier for your kid and yourself each night, it is necessary for you to respect his fears. You need to tell him you understand how scared he is, but while doing so, make sure that you don’t heighten his anxiety. For instance, if you use ‘monster spray’, you will just make him believe that there could be monsters hanging out in his room. What you should instead do is to offer him a bit of reassurance, tell him that you’re always nearby and that there is no such thing as monsters. If anything, you need to convince him that his room is a safe place, devoid of monsters and all other such creatures.
Check on him
If you child starts crying the moment you leave his room; just explain to him that it is time for him to go to sleep and that you will keep checking on him through the night. However, when you check on him, make sure that you don’t stick around.
3 Tip # : Help him release energy
Toddlers, as you may already know, are packed full of energy. Even when you are out of breath and desperately in need to rest for a while, there’s a good chance that your toddler will still have plenty of run left in him. For this reason, it is necessary for you to help him release all that pent up energy so he may become a bit tired and sleepy by nighttime. You need to make sure that your kid has a daily outlet for all of his energy and that lots of physical play forms a significant part of his day. If you do this regularly and consistently, there is a good chance that your toddler will fall asleep much more easily at night.
There are quite a few groups and organized activities that you can get your toddler involved in to incorporate exercise and movement in his life. From football classes to clambering across gym equipment, you are bound to find a group activity that your kid will fall totally in love with. These activities don’t even have to cost a fortune as just heading out to the playground and a little kick about in the garden should be enough to relieve some of your toddler’s energy.
Let him set his own alarm clock
When your kid starts going to pre-school or kindergarten, make sure that you get him an alarm clock. Once he gets one, teach him how to set it himself at night when he starts going to school. Each night, let your child set the alarm clock himself before going to bed – make it a part of his bedtime routine. This way, he will get to take responsibility and this single chore will get him to listen to you when you want him to go to bed.
2 Tip # : Say goodnight to everything
As you and your child progress through the different steps of his bedtime routine, you need to encourage him to say goodnight to everything he sees. For instance, get him to say goodnight to the potty, goodnight to the toothbrush, goodnight to his books and goodnight to all his toys etc. All through the process, keep reminding him that it’s sleep time for all of his things, which should serve as encouragement to get him to bed without putting up a battle. This will also go a long way in helping you minimize his ‘just one more’ requests – for instance, if he wants to go to the loo ‘just one more’ time, you can tell him that the potty has gone to sleep already and he should too.
Next, make sure that you strike a little deal with your kid – for instance, if he wants to stay up in bed a little longer, get him to agree that he won’t call for you constantly and if he says yes, let him look at his story books or play quietly for a while. However, this may not work for every child, so it is best for you to use your personal judgment. Also, this trick is best used for older toddlers who have basic reasoning skills and can communicate verbally.
Even after doing so much, you may still find yourself having to deal with a staller – a kid who is just not ready to go to sleep. To deal with such a situation, tuck your toddler into bed and leave the room. Come in after a while and interact with him in the most boring manner possible. Make sure that you don’t make much eye contact and speak in a monotone voice. Bore the pants off him and he’ll be fast asleep soon enough.
1 Tip # : Get him to eat to sleep
The things that your child eats through the day can have an impact on how he sleeps at night. For this reason, it is extremely important for you to pay careful attention to your toddler’s diet and see if it is impacting his sleep. The consumption of caffeine can keep your child up for a long time, so make sure that you cut out chocolate in the afternoon. Also, if you breast feed your toddler, you should also cut down your own caffeine intake so that it doesn’t affect his sleeping routine. Desserts and other sugary foods should be completely off the menu at night as sugar also has the potential to interfere with your child’s sleeping pattern.
If you have an older kid, you also need to take all the electronics out of his bedrooms. If your child doesn’t sleep properly at night and wakes up extremely mean and fussy in the morning, he should not be allowed to have any electronics in his room at bedtime. If you want, you can just remove all of the electronic items from his bedroom permanently or you can take the game controls of the video game, the mouse and keyboard and his cell phone at night. In case your child doesn’t comply, don’t return his cell phone to him.
Check in on your toddler before lights out
It is highly recommended for parents to check on their toddler at least once while the lights are still on before going to sleep. But make sure that you knock on his door and say, “May I come in?” – if he says yes, open the door and check on him. If he says no, tell him that you will be back in 5 minutes. This way, he will know that you are concerned about him and it will take away much of his nighttime fears.