Bedtime Battles

Toddlers are surprisingly adept at avoiding sleep. Read our strategies for handling bedtime protests and getting your child to nod off.

Introduction

If only toddlers sought sleep as desperately as their weary parents do! But bedtime often brings on vehement protests-and an abundance of stall tactics. One of the best ways to help your 2-year-old drift happily into the Land of Nod is to appeal to her love of ritual. Set aside about 30 minutes before the desired bedtime each night for "getting ready for bed" activities: a bath, brushing teeth, reading a storybook together, singing a song, and being tucked in with a well-loved stuffed toy or blanket. Let her help make decisions along the way -- what pajamas to wear, book to read, favorite toy or stuffed animal to snuggle with. The ritual will be more enjoyable for your child if she takes an active role. A nightlight can be a comforting presence, too, since fears are starting to develop at this age.

How best to handle protests? Make it clear that it's now bedtime, that you won't be able to talk to your child anymore, and that he needs to go to sleep. Then, try to ignore his attempts to engage you in conversation. Don't return to his room unless he's sick or genuinely needs something.

If your child is in a bed rather than a crib, she may try to leave the room and join the rest of the family. Lead her back to her bed and leave the room as soon as she is lying down. Try not to get into the habit of lying down with your child or staying in her room to help her get to sleep; weaning her from this can prove to be a long, painful process.

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