For many exhausted parents, 🙋🏽 we look forward to when our children finally go to sleep. Their slumber is our gateway to a few hours of personal time (aka when we catch up with our spouse, watching brain-numbing reality television, or finally shower). So obviously bedtime tantrums are the absolute worst after a very long day. Below are some strategies to reduce bedtime tantrums.
All the books, costly sleep consultants, and blogs promote a consistent bedtime routine because it works.
Every family has their own routine but the underlying concept is time to “powering down”.
Bath, comfy PJs, books, lowered voices, and low lighting are all things to signal to your child it is time to relax and go to sleep.
Make Bedtime Positive
Children will look forward to bedtime routine if it’s positive. Many children especially going through heightened separation anxiety dread and avoid bedtime because it is the time when their parent(s) leaves them alone in the dark. Make bedtime more enjoyable and give them some power. Allow them to wear fun pajamas, pick out 2-3 books, maybe a special sleep time stuffy doll, and always include snuggles. My 5 year old really loves getting back scratches before bed because it relaxes her. My daughter’s best friend unwinds by telling her about her day at bedtime. Decrease the struggle by making the end of the day a special time.
But What About Monsters?
At 2 years old a child’s imagination is heightened. They really believe that Elmo, Elsa, fairies, and monsters are real. Monsters do not have to be frightening. When my daughter was a toddler we read a lot of books about kind, fun, friendly and loveable monsters.
Some of my favorites include:
Be Mindful of Universal Tantrum Triggers at Bedtime
- Overly Tired => Push bedtime back, or add an afternoon nap
- Overly Energetic => Shorten or eliminate naps, or maybe more activity during the day
- Overly Stimulated =>Adding more relaxation (i.e., deep breathing) opportunities before bedtime
- Hungry =>Did they get enough to eat all throughout the day?, not just at dinner
And of course, all the last-minute verbal requests or demands at bedtime with the most common are “I’m thirsty” and “bathroom” (for toilet trained children). It’s easy to prep for this by having a water bottle in their room with some water (too much = definite trips to the bathroom) and reminding them to use the toilet before bed.
For the FOMO Child
My personal favorite technique for the child that has a Fear of Missing Out is shutting the house down. If they get out of bed you might tell them that the entire house is going to sleep. Turn off the electronics and ALL the lights. Nothing for them to see or do around here!
You got this!
Kat is a school psychologist with over a decade of experience working with toddlers to school-aged children. She is also a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator and has taught classes and workshops in increasing coping skills and self-regulation to children. She specializes in early intervention, Autism, and behavior management. She lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband and two young kids.