Any parent will tell you that toddlers are fascinating creatures. They are mini-humans, learning to talk, develop thinking skills and creativity, and are becoming more and more like adults. This is the sweet stage of toddlerhood. Although you hear more about the “terrible twos” or tantrums and boundary testing, there are many sweet memories of toddlerhood, and many parents will agree that this is the time they wish lasted a little longer.
Boundary-testing is something I hear about as a sleep consultant all the time. Most of the parents I work with that have a toddler usually have an amusing story surrounding bedtime. This bedtime routine that they have in place may include three, four, sometimes five books, a glass of warm milk, a very specific and drawn-out way of saying goodnight, and by the time the toddler goes to sleep, they are wondering how on earth the bedtime routine became 45 minutes.
The secret to the madness… it happens a little bit at a time.
Toddlers love to test boundaries, and they love to see how much authority they actually have.
It may start off with asking for a glass of milk, and the parents think, “what’s the harm?” and then the next night the toddler is asking for milk and an extra story… do you see where I am going with this? Little by little these crazy routines get established, all according to what the toddler wants.
- Establish a short bedtime routine
- NEVER deviate from it
That’s it. It is that simple. Or is it? Sticking to rules can be challenging because we both know that your toddler is going to ask, test, complain, and what have you, but you HAVE to stick to your guns. I promise they will understand sooner rather than later that the bedtime routine is not up for debate.
Remind yourself that toddlers take a great amount of comfort in knowing that you, the parent, are firmly in charge and are confident in your decisions. It provides them a sense of security. If you start allowing them to make the decisions, they actually start to feel like they’re in charge, and surprisingly that feeling that mom knows what she is doing starts to fade.
Having a set bedtime routine will help let the body know that it is time for bed. It signals to the brain that it is time to start secreting melatonin and signals the body to start relaxing the muscles in preparation for a restful, relaxing snooze.
Remember, stick to your bedtime routine! The benefits of sticking with it are so rewarding for both you and your toddler!