Developmentally, toddlers are learning about themselves and relationships. They have trouble controlling emotions and understanding rules. They have difficulty making choices, sharing and they say no a lot, all whilst needing strong emotional and physical reassurance.
Of course, bed time routine and ritual are all important but getting toddlers to bed can be tricky.
If you find you end the routines and rituals and then the trouble begins, look at how you are responding and think about the 2 option rule.
I have mentioned this before and it can be applied to any situation as well as bed time. Remember, toddlers have difficulty making choices but are trying to gain some independence as well.
Here are a couple of things that can help if you are on the difficulty getting to bed round-a-bout. Offer your toddler 2 choices such as: would you like me to carry you to bed or would you like to walk yourself? What you are saying is, it’s time for bed but you are giving some control about how to get there.
If your toddler is one of the ones who has learnt that they can string out bed time by having one more book or a drink or some other diversion, let them know in a calm manner that it is now bed-time, unless there is a good reason they might be thirsty. Let them know in advance it is one book, three books-whatever. Try and offer any extras before bed time starts.
If staying in bed or getting out is a problem, explain calmly:
If you lay down and close your eyes I will stand a the door. if you get up I will leave. OR, If you stay in bed, the door can stay open, if you get out of bed, the door will be closed. Both of these options must be followed by honest action (ie, leave as you said or close the door) if the toddler is getting out or not lying down.
Undoubtedly, some of you will be shaking your heads saying, I have tried this but I imagine you have tried, then given in to the yells, requests or undesirable behaviour by your toddler knowing that it will get you some peace. Chances are that if you have done this, your toddler is learning that noise gets results. Changing this will take some repetition and practice-like any new skill.
I can tell you that if you keep repeating the 2 options and stand firm calmly, your toddler will soon get the message that they really only have two choices. This may take all of the strength and control you can muster, and some repetition but it will bring change.
One of my favourite sites for advice on toddler behaviour and tips is Triple P parenting. If you get a chance to attend one of their free seminars, it is well worth the time spent. I always get great feedback from parents who tap into this great free resource.
If you have any questions or there are any topics you would like to see in future posts please don’t hesitate to get in touch.