Stop toddler bedtime battles with these 18 tips and tricks. I’ve tried 14 of these tips and some worked for us. Read on to find out which ended our toddler’s bedtime struggles.
The kinds of excuses that my toddler has to fight bedtime range from making me chuckle and laugh out loud to making me homicidal.
Kidding aside, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard some those excuses too and you’ve felt the way I felt at some point.
I actually listed down and posted some of the excuses she had. Just so I can look back on them when my social media accounts remind me of it.
I can actually laugh at the creativity and absurdity of her excuses. Because now, I’ve finally found a way that works for us, a way to stop all this bedtime resistance.
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List of Contents
Is it normal for toddlers to fight bedtime?
Believe it or not, our kids are not testing us or are just being complete nutjobs for having these so-called toddler bedtime struggles.
There’s actually some logical explanation on why toddlers fight bedtime. Common toddler sleep issues that lead to bedtime resistance can be the following:
Toddler sleep regression
Thought newborns and babies younger than 1 year are the only ones who have sleep regressions but nooooooo, toddlers have them too.
Must be a FOMO thing..
This is a glimpse of the teenage years. Kidding aside, toddlers are at that age where they’re naturally developing independence – they want to do things their way. Which usually is not agreeable to your way.
Which is actually not a bad thing. Except when it’s bedtime.
Screen time before bed
Blue light from screens, phones, and tablets can delay sleepiness and can be very stimulating. It can also affect the quality of your child’s sleep, keeping them up at night, which leads to them becoming sleepy during the day.
Stress or overexcitement
No amount of talking, pleading, bribing, scolding, shouting can calm down a hyped-up or stressed-out toddler, let alone make them sleep.
Bad sleeping environment
Too much noise, too bright, too hot, too cold – anything that’s uncomfortable for your child will make it hard for them to sleep.
Not tired or overtired
Maybe your child had a long nap right before dinner time so naturally, they won’t feel tired and sleep by bedtime.
Skipping naptime, however, can cause overtiredness in toddlers. Which causes them to produce cortisol, the stress hormone that can keep us awake. With this hormone raging in their system, it can be hard for your toddler to fall and stay asleep at night.
Fear of the dark
Trying to sleep in the dark can make their imaginations go wild. They might tell you of monsters under the bed, inside the closet, etc and these fears are very real to kids.
Hell, even I get scared of the dark sometimes. So imagine telling someone to close their eyes, lie down in the dark for hours, then you’ll have to leave them on their own. Isn’t that kinda jarring and alarming too?
Night waking happens for a lot of reasons. They might have heard some noises, noticed their parents are not by their side to rub their back or any other sleep onset associations, nightmares, or worse, night terrors.
Your toddler might have sleep apnea, which not only includes physical symptoms such as restless sleep, sleep terrors, disturbed sleep, etc. but can also cause hyper activeness, behavioral problems, and a lot more.
It’s quite common for kids to sleep talk but sleepwalking can cause a great disturbance. Plus your kid might not get enough sleep or worse, might get into danger.
Your child might be teething, having an earache, fever, cold, etc, and might have trouble sleeping.
Ending Toddler Bedtime Battles: The Strategies I’ve Tried That Failed
Been there, done that. My toddler’s bedtime routine involves gently prodding her to the bathroom to brush her teeth, a quick bath, reading a book, talking about our day, practicing gratitude, and ending our conversation with a “Good night, sleep tight, I love you.”
I thought I had this bedtime routine down to a tee. Apparently not.
I’m quite aware of how toddlers always want to assert their independence as much as possible. I try to make my daughter feel in control of any activity, by giving her choices. Even at bedtime.
For example, I make her choose her pajamas, what books to read, how to turn off the lights (me carrying her to turn it off, counting 1 to 5, etc.), etc.
But that didn’t really help with the bedtime struggles.
Making small tweaks
So I made some small tweaks every now and then. Like, after saying “I love you”, I’ll tell her I won’t talk anymore because I want to sleep.
Or right before turning off the lights, I’d ask her if she needs to pee or drink her water.
I also tried adjusting her bedtime. I thought initially that her bedtime was too early. I tried moving it 30 minutes later. Then adjusted it again to another 30 minutes.
Still didn’t work. So I tried another tactic.
Tiring them out
I know, I know, an overtired toddler would be harder to fall asleep. But I made sure to catch her tired cues before she steps into the point of no return.
I don’t necessarily make her run around the track or do jumping jacks. I just play with her, teach her stuff, and basically just spend quality time with her.
Having rules and consequences
I don’t know why my toddler gets hysterical at bedtime, especially when I remind her of our rules and the consequences for not listening and insisting her way.
We have this rule that once was bathed and ready for bed, we can’t step out of the bedroom. Well, my daughter literally can’t yet, because of a baby gate. But I still remind her every now and then when she insists on getting a toy or playing outside.
We also have a rule about not playing when it’s not bedtime. We can only do quiet time activities, like reading a book and talking to each other.
It’s part of our routine to tell her that she needs to sleep so she can have more energy to play tomorrow.
We also have an agreed consequence (I talked about this with my daughter and she agreed to it) that if she doesn’t listen to me, I would have to take away a toy or two.
Which didn’t really work and just made things worse and prolonged our toddler’s bedtime battles
Reading a book about bedtime
I read to her Llama, Llama, Red Pajama, Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, I borrowed books from the library such as Orion and the Dark, Bedtime, etc., all of which has some sort of lessons on a bedtime routine and the importance of sleep.
In this case, it didn’t work.
Installing a baby gate
Well, she can just open the door and look out tearfully or worse, cry and wail because apparently, according to my little one, I’m forcing her to sleep.
Dealing with their fears
My kid told me she was afraid of the noises upstairs and of sleeping in the dark.
This was valid because even I get startled with the sudden noises that our neighbors upstairs would be making at the most inconvenient hours.
She also didn’t like sleeping when it’s pitch black, which greatly helped in getting her to sleep longer when she was a baby.
One way that I dealt with the noises was by turning on some white noise to drown out the unwanted racket upstairs.
I also had a quick trip with my toddler to see the neighbors upstairs. We just took a very sneaky peek in their house as we passed by the lobby and I had made up all these entertaining stories about why they were noisy at night.
My kid seemed to have bought it, probably because seeing the neighbor’s house made the noises seem less scary.
And finally, we bought a night light for her room. I initially didn’t have any so she can sleep longer. But now that she’s more vocal about her fears, I guess the right way to deal with it is putting up a night light in the room.
But of course, that still didn’t work.
Not reacting to sleep talking
I made the mistake of talking back when my toddler was talking in her sleep. That totally surprised and woke her up completely.
Expecting and rolling with it
I’ve learned the hard way as a mother that managing expectations are one of the best ways to deal with a situation. For us to be calmer, less stressed, and be happier in general.
And yes, expecting my toddler to fight bedtime all the time made a big difference in the way I handled the situation.
But lately, (before I found out the only 3 strategies that seemed to work), her delaying bedtime tactics are getting longer and more creative.
And frankly, I’m getting tired.
I am tired of being zen all the time, tired of waiting for her to at least lie down, tired of waiting for her to sleep, and lately, I find myself snapping at her and losing my cool.
Which makes her cry, which just makes the whole bedtime routine longer, which just frustrates me more.
I’ve finally had enough. I asked around and looked online AGAIN for more tips that I can try and finally saw a few more.
It’s a mix of tactics and some realizations about our current bedtime struggles that I never thought of before.
I tried these new strategies on how to stop bedtime battles and thank god, something finally clicked!
But let me just share with you some other advice and tips that I haven’t tried yet below.
Dealing With Toddler Bedtime Battles: Tips I Haven’t Tried
Now, this is a very curious thing. I think this would work better for those whose kids are sleeping in a separate bedroom.
The idea is to give your toddler a bedtime pass that they can only use only once every night.
They can wake up at night and use it for something quick and with a specific purpose – drinking water, peeing, a hug, etc. but that’s just it.
The pass is effective for some reasons – one is it provides kids the choice to cash it in and gives them a sense of control.
Having a bedtime pass also loses the appeal of fighting for a way out of bed.
It also offers a sense of security and waiting to use it might lead to kids just falling asleep.
Whatever the case may be, I’ve never heard of this uncommon approach and I don’t know if it will work with my kid as we co-sleep.
I know that is one of the biggest hurdles that we both have to overcome.
My daughter literally just turned 4 a few days ago (as of this writing) and I know she’s in that age where experts, studies, and society in general, would expect her to sleep on her own.
I’ve had some friends and a pediatrician advising me strongly to do so the soonest time possible.
And while I appreciate their well-meaning advice, I have my reasons for co-sleeping with my toddler. Reasons which don’t seem logical but make sense for us.
Giving a reward
I don’t believe in giving an incentive to everyday activities. I don’t want my daughter to expect a reward every time she falls asleep but that’s just me.
I have yet to use a night routine chart like so), as I don’t think it will help. I believe it only prolongs our routine. But that’s just us.
Some parents seemed to find it effective in teaching and guiding their kids to accomplish tasks and finish their bedtime routine.
How Do I Stop Toddler Bedtime Battles: The Only 3 Tips That Worked For Us
Don’t be lenient
Have your toddler asked for 2 minutes to do something and you readily gave in cause you were busy doing something?
I never realized I was doing that more and more. I thought I was being consistently firm with my toddler, especially when it concerns our bedtime routine.
Until she asks for 2 minutes more to cuddle with my husband, to finish her drink, to choose a stuffed toy to bring to bed, etc.
So I forced myself from giving in to her request and pushing away her adorable face from my mind and just said no.
I gently but firmly said no to everything that wasn’t part of our bedtime routine.
And to my surprise, she just expressed her disappointment with an “awww” and just listened to me!
No to empty threats
I used to tell my daughter that I would have to sleep in the other bedroom because she can’t seem to sleep when I’m beside her.
Of course, she’d protest, cuddle up with me and say she’ll sleep, so I’ll stay. Then after a few minutes, the whole bedtime struggle saga starts again. I don’t know why my toddler doesn’t listen to me when it’s time for bedtime but for most of the day, she’s such a good listener.
Anyway, one time, I followed through with my threat. I told her I was sleeping in the other bedroom, stood up, and left.
She started crying and I could still hear her crying while I was in the other room. I was emotionally and mentally torn if I was doing it right until she stopped wailing and calmly called for me.
I went out of the bedroom, asked her if she was ready to sleep, and said yes. We went back and it took her only 5 minutes to sleep.
I thought it was a fluke, I thought maybe she got so tired from crying so much. So I tried the same tactic again the other night when she was in a calmer mood. And had the same results!
Believe in them
I’m quite aware of how powerful our words can be to our children as whatever we tell them can become their internal voice.
But I never thought of taking advantage of it to stop bedtime battles until I tried it.
Now when she wakes up in the middle of the night and I’m working outside, aside from giving her a quick hug and kiss, I tell her “Go back to sleep, I know you can do it, you did it before, I believe in you, night.”
She doesn’t whine and cries anymore for me to go back and sleep beside her. She just gives me a good night kiss and just goes back to sleep, no more protesting or whatsoever. Ending my toddler’s bedtime battles.
What worked for me might not work for others but I just wanted to share what I’ve learned and tried so far to finally end our toddler’s bedtime battles.
Let me know what didn’t work and what worked for you, share your details and I’ll add them to the list above.
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