Updated: 6 days ago
You know the drill, you put them to bed – it’s already taken a full hour of negotiating to get them into the damn bed and now they want another wee, another book, another cuddle, another drink, another kiss, another ENOUGH ALREADY!
Before you know it, another 30 minutes has passed and you’re still no further forward in getting them to sleep. In fact now bedtime is getting really late and your evening is disappearing before your very eyes – again! Yes, you know the drill because this happens every single night.
So What's Going On Here?
Well, these little humans are clever, they know how to push your buttons, they know what to say and they love to be in charge. They are now in charge of this situation instead of you. Did you even notice that had happened? Probably not, your knackered and you just want them to sleep.
In the end you may end up getting into bed with them, you may end up losing your sh*t and shouting at them to just go to sleep. But how did this all start…?
When Did It Start?
Often this commonly occurs when your little one learns to climb out of the cot or you move them into a big bed. Previously the bars on the cot represent your authority over them, take that away and suddenly control has changed from you to them. Bedtime is boring, they’re after something and they can get it now because they are free to move around or they work out how to get you to get it for them. I have known toddlers to fling everything out of the room, including dirty nappies to get parents attention. They are so clever that they will even threaten to wake siblings up if they don’t get their needs met.
They Are In Control
It may surprise you, it may not, often when I speak to parents about this they actually admit they are aware they have lost control over the situation and that their child is ruling the roost but they don’t know how to fix it.
When a parent says to me ‘They just won’t go to sleep unless I do X,Y,Z’ then I know the toddler is deciding on the rules here not the parent. Ultimately, if they know they will get what they want where is the incentive to go to sleep? There isn’t one, no point in giving up because they know you’ll give up first.
Why Is This So Hard?
Your knackered that’s why, you want the easy life – don’t we all. I used to do the same, up and down the stairs like a yo-yo giving in to all of their demands just to keep them quiet, avoid a meltdown and hope it means they sleep sooner.
It’s emotionally draining having to be consistent and follow through, not to mention having to put up with their meltdowns and distress. No one likes to listen to that, but unfortunately this really is how they will learn that kicking and screaming will not get them what they want and the rules are the rules.
Are You and Hubby On the Same Page?
Often I find there is a ‘softer’ parents and a ‘stricter’ one and the issue with this is the toddlers knows this! You aren’t hiding it from them, they are onto you, they know daddy says no and mummy will get it so they only call for mummy.
It’s so important to have a united front particularly when it comes to bedtime, if the toddler can see mummy and daddy agree and there is no benefit to having one over the other the responsibility can be split more easily between you both.
Another factor is just feeling guilty, something us mums are very good at. We blame ourselves, it’s our fault we are in this situation, perhaps you even feel your partner or your extended family blame you. It’s no one’s fault that you decided to give in because you were beyond tired, desperately needed some sleep and simply didn’t have the energy to follow through. Stop blaming yourself and instead focus on the bigger picture, the end result and the things you can do now that will make changes to achieve better sleep for everyone.
Setting Some Limits
First of all the reason your child is taking ages to fall asleep at night, getting a second wind, becoming overtired and fighting sleep is because there is a lack of rules around bedtime.
The lack of boundaries means there is no expectation on them that they will get into bed, close their eyes and simply go to sleep. All attempts to prolong bedtime and get your attention have worked and so it continues and the way to resolve this is to start setting clear limits.
So What Can You Do About It?
Firstly identify which of your child’s demands at night you need to sort out. Usually it’s just the constant demands of another this and that. So communicate with your child your expectations and write them down.
Ideally you incorporate everything you need to do in the bedtime routine itself, so bath (keep this short no more than 15 minutes), quick drink, brush teeth and upstairs into Pjs, two books, a quick wee, one cuddle and into bed for sleep.
Any further demands after that will not be met. If your little one gets out of bed then put a gate on your door, the first few nights you enforce this they may end up falling asleep at the gate.
Try to remember its okay to say no, ensuring they get the sleep they need is vital and having these firm boundaries in place is part of that. You wouldn’t think anything of saying no to them if they were about to touch a candle and hurt themselves. As parents it’s our job to ensure their safety and wellbeing and ensuring they get to bed and fall asleep at an appropriate time is essential.
Your child will get angry and upset, but if you stay calm and consistent they will soon learn as they take their lead from you and realise it isn’t working. You don’t have to abandon them, you can go to them for reassurance but don’t keep offering them what they ask for.
Toddlers love to be praised, use a sticker chart to reward them for sticking to the new boundaries and reinforce the good behaviour.
Your toddler is in charge if you are finding yourself running around for a long time at bedtime. If they are getting you to take them to the bathroom multiple times, offering numerous drinks and reading endless stories you have a limit setting issue.
Decide what your bedtime routine will look like and be clear with your toddler on the rules around what is allowed before you expect them to stay in bed and go to sleep.
Remember that you are in charge, not them. You’re the one who knows what is best for them and that is to fall asleep at an age appropriate time to ensure they are getting the sleep they need.
Use a reward chart to reinforce good behaviour and make sure you use lots of praise for them following your rules and expectations.
For a FREE Reward Chart that you can use to incentivise them to follow the rules, click here.
If your toddler is completely running your house right now day and night and you’re desperate for some control back but overwhelmed and frankly scared of the consequences of making the necessary changes then get in touch.
You may think you have the most stubborn, difficult toddler in the world but trust me, they are ALL stubborn. I love a challenge so toddlers are one of my fav ages to work with. Link to book a call with me here.