By Taylor Kulik
We’ve all been there: bedtime is a mess! Your toddler is delaying bedtime for any number of reasons, and you are frustrated because you just want him to get to bed!
Oftentimes, when this happens with toddlers, it is caused by them feeling like they have no control over anything, and it’s an attempt for them to gain some control however they can. Imagine how frustrating it would be to have someone telling you what to do all the time, and when you make a request or a suggestion, it’s shot down! Look – no judgement if this sounds like your relationship with your child some evenings. I’ve been there too. I think most of us have. But, there is a way to prevent these power struggles in the first place:
Offer safe and appropriate choices within the bedtime routine
Wanting to have some say and control over their life is a totally developmentally appropriate and normal desire for toddlers. They are kind of in between this stage of total dependency and becoming their own person and doing their own thing. This is a time when your child is developing really strong opinions and preferences, so it’s completely normal for them to want to have some say in how things go! Offering your child choices gives them the sense of control they desire so much, and goes a long way to reduce bedtime power struggles.
Wanting to have some say and control over their life is a totally developmentally appropriate and normal desire for toddlers.
I like to think of this as offering choices within boundaries. Hopefully, you have a bedtime routine implemented. If not, I’d recommend you implement a consistent and enjoyable bedtime routine. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or super long. Something as simple as: pyjamas, brush teeth, read two books, sing a song, say a prayer, turn out the lights and rock to sleep is a great bedtime routine! Change it up, keep it simple and enjoyable, and make it so that it works for your family.
Note: If you need more support in coming up with an enjoyable and connected bedtime routine that fosters feelings of confidence and safety in your child, make sure you grab The Connected Bedtime eGuide. This eGuide will help you reduce bedtime battles and make bedtime more peaceful for the entire family.
The bedtime routine consists of the boundaries you’ve set as the parent. Now, you can decide on some safe and appropriate choices you can offer to your child within the boundaries. Depending on your child’s age and developmental level, you may give them an open-ended choice (“What pyjamas would you like to wear?”) or you may choose to give them options and have them select from the options (“Would you like to wear the truck pjs or the dino pjs?”).
Here are some ideas for bedtime choices:
- Let your child choose which song they’d like you to sing while you brush their teeth.
- Allow your child to choose how they get to their bedroom – they can move like an animal (hop like a frog or slither like a snake). Bonus: This also utilises play to make transitions easier!
- Give your child the opportunity to select the bedtime stories.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve incorporated more bedtime choices for your child, and what changes you’ve noticed!
Taylor Kulik is an occupational therapist and a Certified Baby-Led Sleep & Well-being Specialist. After her own struggles to adapt to motherhood and discovering how little support and information there is for families who do not want to sleep train, Taylor shifted her career focus to supporting new parents in a way that validates their intuition. Taylor also has specialised training in perinatal mood & anxiety disorders from Postpartum Support International, as well as additional training in child development, postpartum care, and breastfeeding. She combines this training and her background as an occupational therapist to comprehensively and holistically help the entire family thrive and get more sleep through relationships and connection, without any sleep training. She also has self-paced eCourses which provide holistic and empowering information about postpartum recovery and infant sleep. You can find more information about the services & eCourses she offers at taylorkulik.com, or through her Facebook and Instagram pages.