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Six Ways To End Toddler Bedtime Battles For Good

January 26th, 2016 | no comments

Always follow a consistent pre bedtime routine, it can be as long or as short as you want it to be but a series of events leading up to bed will give your child a clear message that bedtime is approaching, which will give her a sense of control because she knows what’s coming next. Studies show that children who have pre bedtime routines are much more confident than children who don’t.


Remember your child needs you to be the parent, which means he needs you to set clear, appropriate limits and respectful boundaries regardless of how much he dislikes them. Empathise with your reluctant child and reflect what he is telling you but make it clear that it’s bedtime. For example, if your toddler is angry and crying and resisting bedtime, you can say something like ,“You don’t want to go to bed, you want to stay with me,” or “you want to keep playing.” Show your toddler that you understand what he wants, welcome his emotions and validate them. “You feel angry that I’m putting you into bed, I understand, it’s ok to feel angry, thanks for letting me know” and then you might try bringing in a bit of logic, “but we all need to sleep so we have energy for our day tomorrow.” Or you can keep it as simple as “but its bedtime”. This is not an argument and you are not trying to reason with your toddler, you’re here to hold the boundaries in place and make room for all his feelings. I guarantee if you give this is try, you won’t have nearly as many bedtime battles tomorrow night.


Make sure you have the right bedtime, there’s nothing worse than a baby or toddler or even a older child who is going to bed too early or way too late. If you’re unsure of the right sleep and nap times for your child get your hands on my eBooks or my downloadable sleep routines. An overtired child is very difficult to settle and will inevitably throw a tantrum or cry inconsolably, depending on their age. A child going to bed too early will be bored and learn to dislike their cot and their room, resisting future bedtimes. From my experience with my Sleep Like An Angel babies and toddlers, a child on a customised sleep routine with set sleep times will happily go to bed when you communicate with them and give them plenty of warning about what’s coming next.


It’s all about choices, you have the power to help your child feel strong and empowered or weak and disempowered. For most parents the nightly bedtime battle is a thinly veiled power struggle between you and your little person. The best thing you can do at these times is stop, connect with your child and find a way for her to feel like she has some power in the situation again. One of my favourite ways of doing this is by giving her choices. This is not a way to manipulate but rather to give your child the opportunity to make some of her own decisions. At bedtime you might encourage your child to choose her own pyjamas or if this is too overwhelming, you might say, “Would you like your pink pyjamas or your purple rabbit pyjamas?” When its time to brush your child’s teeth, you might ask your child if they want to brush their own teeth or ask them, “Would you like to brush your teeth with your green car toothbrush or your Smurf toothbrush?” Choices help us feel potent and powerful and you can offer them all the way up to your goodnight kiss, “Would you like your kiss on your lips or your nose?” Or, “Where would you like your kiss tonight?”


Retell your toddler’s story, spend some time right before bed talking about and reflecting on your child’s day, ask her questions and get her involved. For example, “Today we woke up and we played with Tilly and Eadie and you cried when Tilly was holding your blankie, you pushed her and I held your hands and stopped you”. You might ask how your child felt and get them involved. If they don’t want to talk about that particular aspect of the day, let them guide you. You might go on to talk about the afternoon and what happened when Daddy arrived home and how your child felt about dinner etc. Avoid talking about it with judgment but rather with a tone of reflection.

This is a process I have done with my daughter since she was about 6 months old and as she’s grown I’ve encouraged her to join in adding parts of the day that she remembers. This process helps your child connect with you, resolve any difficult parts of the day, build her memory and is a great way to end the day.


Some children really enjoy role playing and most children love imaginative play, so I often suggest parents with sleep resistant toddlers introduce role playing into their pre bedtime routine. Give your child the opportunity to put their special cuddly friend (a doll or a teddy or even a car, in Sophia’s case). You can make a little cot out of a shoebox and decorate it, using an old piece of blanket or fabric to make a little blanket and then ask your child if she wants to put her friend to bed. She might not want to and that’s totally fine, you don’t need to coerce or keep asking, just sit back for a moment and let her lead this process, most parents are surprised by how much their child benefits from putting their teddy bear into bed for the night. They are also often surprised to hear their child repeating their own words of love, affection and comfort to their own ‘baby’.

I’d love to hear from you, comment below and let me know how you go with these changes or if you come up with some other great tips that work, please share them below!

~ Sleep Well Mama

Note:- These process’s I have listed here are a combination of things I have figured out myself and also read about, particularly from the following authors.

For more information on some of these processes check out the Whole Brained Child by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

Janet Lansbury’s blog and books

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