How to Stop Bedtime Battles with Your Toddler

Bedtime for your toddler…Everyone’s tired, parent and child, by the time bedtime rolls around. Unfortunately, your toddler may have a very different idea than you on how to fix that problem. Bedtime struggles are common for many families, but by helping your child to develop good sleep hygiene through a consistent bedtime routine, you’ll be on your way to fewer bedtime battles.

Sleep Training: Good or Bad?

Some parents strictly adhere to sleep training and do not allow their children to sleep in bed with them. And, for good reason, a wiggly toddler on a bouncy mattress can cause everyone to lose sleep. Other parents choose to let their children guide the sleep process because of their or their child’s personal needs.

The side of the fence you fall on may depend on your family situation. Naturally anxious children may have trouble falling asleep and require a more relaxed approach. Children who successfully self-soothe may fall asleep easily. The important thing is to make sure your child is happy, healthy, and reaching milestones at appropriate times.

As long as sleep training doesn’t seem to cause your child undue distress or harm and it allows you to get some much-needed sleep, go ahead and stick with it.

On the other hand, if your child cries for hours until she vomits or has difficulty breathing, don’t feel guilty if you decide to take a different approach. Rather than focusing on training your child to sleep, help her to develop good sleep hygiene, such as a consistent bedtime and a bedtime routine.

Child love repetition and bedtime routines work.

The body, especially a child’s body, responds well to a regular schedule. As you keep a consistent bedtime routine, your child’s brain will automatically start releasing sleep hormones at the same time every day because it starts to recognize the established pattern.

A consistent bedtime goes hand in hand with a bedtime routine as it trains your child’s brain how to fall asleep at the same time each day.

To keep a consistent bedtime, you might need to plan in advance. If you want your child to pick up her toys before bed, leave plenty of time to do that before her bedtime routine starts. As much as fun as it might be to wrestle with mom or dad before bed, playtime should take place early in the evening. You want your child to be as calm and relaxed as possible.

A bedtime routine should include activities that calm your toddler like reading a book, taking a warm bath, rocking, or singing a quiet song together. If your child wants to read the same book and sing the same song every night, that’s even better. Perform the activities at the same time in the same order every night. The last activity should have your child in bed and drowsy.

You might feel like giving up after a few days, but routines take time to work, and some kids require a longer adjustment period than others. Stick with the routine for a few weeks before you try something else, but most importantly, be consistent.

Lastly, a note about technology. Technology teaches kids some great things, but it can get in the way of your new bedtime routine. Cartoons and movies should not be included in the routine. The bright blue light from televisions, laptops, or smartphones can confuse the brain, making it believe it’s time to stay awake. Remove televisions and screens from your child’s room and turn off screens at least one hour before bedtime to prevent any confusion.


Written by
Sarah Johnson
Community Relations

Tuck Sleep is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.

Bedtime for toddler