Bedtime: the Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Is your child famous for temper tantrums at bedtime? Do you find yourself falling asleep in your child's bed or negotiating over one last drink of water? Is putting the kids to sleep stressful for you and a game for them? Read on for two bedtime strategies: a Plan for the Best and a Plan for the Worst.

A Plan for the Best

Set a routine to prevent problems. Toddlers need rules seven days a week so they can get 12-14 hours of sleep. Be consistent with bedtime habits, and they will soon learn that you cannot be argued with.

  • Never do bedtime activities in your bedroom, only in the child's room.
  • Do not allow TV or other screen time during the bedtime routine.
  • Ease your child from one thing to another with firm, clear instructions: "In five minutes, it's time to put pajamas on," or "Ok, lights off in ten minutes."
  • Suggestions for your child's bedtime rituals: bath, brushing teeth, potty time, last drink of water, picking out pajamas, listening to relaxing music, singing a lullaby, reading a story, saying a prayer or talking quietly, goodnight hugs and kisses. Make sure the activities are done calmly, so that your child starts winding down.
  • Leave the bedroom while your child is still awake so that she learns to fall asleep without you.
  • Make sure you are giving your child enough positive attention during the day. If you don't, your child will try to get your attention at a time that is not convenient for anyone, like bedtime.

A Plan for the Worst

Your kid won't stay in bed. He may also be crying, screaming or demanding water, hugs, or that you stay with him. Is the bedtime routine over? No!

  • Every time the child leaves his room, take him by the hand and lead him straight back to bed. SAY NOTHING, and DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT. If there are two parents at home, alternate doing this so the child knows that both parents follow the same rules.
  • Note: This practice can be frustrating, but remember that your child is testing you to see when you'll give in. Pretend you are a robot and do this as many times as it takes for the child to stop getting up…the first night you might be doing it over 10 times!

For More Information

Download and print Navigating Bedtime Struggles, a colorful tip sheet from our Parent Resource Library.