5 Tips to Tame Bedtime Battles
Updated: May 11
"Just 5 more minutes. Pleeeasssseeee!"
We've all heard it, and we've all given in to it. It never fails though, as soon as said 5 minutes are up, your typically calm, cool, and collected house (lol) suddenly starts to remind you of your college frat party days. Just know, you are not alone.
Bedtime battles are no joke. Especially at the end of the day when you are likely at your wits end with your job, your kids, your pets, basically your everything. You're tired and they're tired. Except, your tired looks like rolling up into the fetal position on the couch and their tired looks like somersaults and butt naked trust falls off the dresser.
While I can't sit here and tell you that we never have bedtime battles in our house, I can tell you they are few and far between. Because, for me, it only takes one night of toddler zoomies to whip bedtime back into shape.
Here's five tips to help you manage those bedtime battles.
1. Start Early
If you've followed me on Instagram or Facebook for any amount of time you already know that I talk about early bedtimes. All. The. Time. I'm sorry if you're tired of hearing it, but not really. The benefits are endless, here are my top three favorites.
Kids get their most restorative sleep between 6 PM and 12 AM. Who doesn't want well-rested, well-behaved kids?
Kids who go to bed early, sleep better.
You get time in the evening to do what you want to do. Say this loud and proud. "Self care is not selfish." Cliche? Yes. Necessary to reiterate? Yes.
Okay, moving on.
The reason your kids are bouncing off the walls is because you missed their sleepy window. Just like adults get second winds and can suddenly stay up watching 15 episodes of Schitt's Creek, kids get their second winds too. And, it's no surprise that kids have a much harder time dealing with this second wind than we do. Think about it, they can't even wait 3 seconds for a snack.
So what is an appropriate bedtime? Typically somewhere between 6 PM and 7 PM. As always, base bedtime on the quality of your day and naps.
2. Get Rid of Distractions
Getting rid of distractions falls in line with making sure you have a conducive sleep environment. However, with toddlers this can look different than just having dark blinds and sound machines. Toddlers are easily distracted at night and in the morning. Too many toys, books, and general clutter can make for a hard time falling asleep.
Do your kids have 52 stuffed animals like mine do? Make sure some of them stay downstairs to sleep. Our rule is, pick two buddies to sleep with at night.
Do you have a million books on your shelf? Try having just one or two rows and rotate them out every so often. Bonus: this helps keep you from reading the same story over and over again too. You know, that one that you tucked in between two bigger books and placed on the shelf backwards in hopes that your kid wouldn't find it for at least a week.
I know it seems kind of silly to have all these rules for a conducive sleep environment. Does it really matter? I'm just gonna throw this out there. I literally can not sleep if my closet door is open. If you think about it you probably have "a thing" that prevents you from falling asleep too. Our kids aren't any different.
A general rule of thumb. If it would be uncomfortable for you it's probably uncomfortable for them.
3. Have a Solid Bedtime Routine
Let your kids know that they are expected to go to bed soon by honing in on your bedtime routine. Routines should be
The same every night
Last about 20 - 30 minutes
Consistent among caregivers
I can not stress the importance of a routine enough. If you've been a parent for any amount of time, you know that kids thrive on routine and knowing what comes next. It offers them a sense of security, instills good habits, and breaks bad ones.
SPOILER ALERT: YOU CAN HAVE A SECURE ATTACHMENT TO
YOUR CHILD WITHOUT PRACTICING ATTACHMENT PARENTING.
Routines don't have to be long or crazy. Just a simple routine such as.
Brush your teeth
Wash your hands
Read 2 books
Sing one song
Review sleep rules
Say your night time phrase such as "Time for wine." Whoops I meant, "Time for sleeping."
Here's a tip, you never want to drop bedtime on your kid like a bomb. If your child is having a hard time settling down when you tell them it's bedtime, get a visual timer. Set it for 15 minutes before bedtime routine is going to start. The more they know the better.
4. Don't Rush It
Think about it, your child is about to spend the next 11-12 hours sleeping in their bed. Wait, your kid doesn't do that? Let me help by booking a package here.
Seriously though, don't rush it. I know the end of the day can seem so close yet so far away. However, it can be a really crappy feeling for our kids to know we are rushing through their bedtime. Most kids love their bedtime routine, it's something that they enjoy want to do with you not for you.
Enjoy it, it's only 20 - 30 minutes. Trust me, if your child knows you are giving them undivided attention at bedtime it will go much smoother. Here are some tips to keep it fresh.
Leave your phone and electronics downstairs, kids are not going to put on their jammies for you if your looking at your phone
Pick out some books that you both love
Learn a new song every week, we print out the lyrics so we know the words
Let them practice reading to you, this is insanely fun and cute with a two year old
Do you have tried and true ways to keep your bedtime fresh? Tell me about them so I can feature it on social.
5. Be a Pro
I think we can all agree, parenting a toddler means having a million tricks in your back pocket to throw at the wall anytime you need them to behave. And then, hiding the shock on your face when one of those tricks actually works.
Because I love you, here are three pro tips that consistently make it into my 1:1 sleep plans.
Pro Tip #1
"I need water."
"But, I'm gonna pee my pants."
"My belly hurts."
Sound familiar? Create a hall pass.
You can make it as fancy or as plain as you want. The idea is to give them the hall pass to use for one trip, one glass of water, one hug, or whatever it may be. Once, they use the hall pass they have to turn it into you until the next night.
Most kids will hold on to that ticket like it's pure gold. And if they do use it, then you know it was a serious need.
Pro Tip #2
Let them control bedtime without actually controlling bedtime. Also known as, give them ALL the choices.
"Red jammies or blue jammies?"
"ABC's or You Are My Sunshine?"
"Trolls toothpaste or Mickey toothpaste?"
"Do you want me to help you or you do it yourself?"
As long as it doesn't interfere with what you the parent needs to be in control of, such as actual timing, then they can have the choice.
Pro Tip #3
Wrap up your day. Often times kids can have trouble falling asleep if they feel that their day is unfinished. Try these tips.
Talk to them about their day and what they did
Clean up toys before bedtime routine
Build in 2 - 3 minutes of mindfulness into your child's routine
And, as always, stay consistent.
Good luck out there!
Makenzie Miller, better known as Mak, is a Certified Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute who is passionate about learning and teaching all things sleep. Along with running her sleep coaching business she also works as a Respiratory Therapist on the transport team in a level 3 NICU in Pittsburgh, PA. Her inspiration to become a sleep coach became clear when she realized that, although leaving the NICU is an amazing step in your journey, it can also be scary and stressful. When you suddenly don't have monitors to watch and a team of medical professionals to ask questions, it can be hard to manage life at home. She is passionate about both her NICU and sleep coaching jobs and is excited to share with parents the ways in which these two worlds collide.