Establishing a regular bedtime routine.

As your little one transitions from baby to toddler her journey to independence begins. Testing limits is one of her most important occupations.  You may find that one of the times when she most tries to assert her will is at bedtime, when stalling tactics and outright defiance are common.  At this time a solid, regular bedtime routine is more important than ever. It will help your toddler settle her busy mind and body for a well-earned rest. But what to do when it feels like every step of your nightly ritual feels like a battle?

Offer choices along the way.

Offering specific choices related to the steps toward bedtime can help your toddler assert her opinion without derailing the process.  For example, asking her, “Which pajamas do you want to wear, the stars or the horses?” may help avoid having a tug-of-war over whether she will put on pajamas at all, or an exhaustive review of all of her pajamas in order to pick out one pair.  If she stalls, you can simply tell her, “If you can’t decide which ones you want to wear now, I will choose them for you”.


Identify which parts of the routine are her favorites.

Make them at least partly dependent on her cooperating with the rest.  If she loves to read books, let her know that the sooner you both get through bath time, the more books you can read.  If she starts acting out, remind her that you’ll have to read less since you’re losing time.


Find a balance.

The more you can find a balance between respecting your toddler’s newfound independence and giving her the structure she truly needs, the easier bedtime will be for both of you.  Remember, it’s her job to test your limits and it’s your job to demonstrate exactly where the limits are.


Sasha Carr

Dr. Sasha Carr is a psychologist and child sleep expert who has helped over 1000 families get healthier sleep. Dr. Carr serves as a faculty member of the Family Sleep Institute and is the author of Putting Bungee to Bed, a bedtime picture book aimed at helping children be better sleepers. You can learn more about her services here.

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