How to establish bedtime routines that your toddler can stick to.

Night Moves

Q. My 2-year-old started sleeping through the night at six weeks. Up until about a month ago I could put our daughter down at 8 p.m. and she would put herself to bed. I'm at this moment listening to her screaming at us to get her out of bed. It's 10:30 p.m. and I can't stand it much longer.

A. Make sure that bedtime rituals are clearly defined, short, and efficient. Use pictograms to create a contract. For example only two stories, one song, and one prayer. Make sure that activities around the ritual are quiet and relaxing. If your child complains about monsters, don't validate her concerns by hunting for monsters or talking about them. The last part is the most difficult -- repeatedly walking your child back into her room. If the protests are getting longer and louder, you may need to resort to latching the door. This should only be done briefly (a matter of seconds) the first time to serve as a statement that you mean business. It can be done longer if necessary, and this last-ditch method can always be held as a threat should settling not occur. The whole process demands a commitment to keeping your promises and threats. It'll be exhausting for a week or more, but in the long run you'll be rewarded (and your family) with more peaceful nights and more rested days.

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