So about a month ago, I felt like the bedtime routine with my son was dragging on and on and on. We would deal with toddler tantrums, or we would have to read a million books and he would have to say goodnight to his dump truck and turn on and off the light and, and, and, and.....
Sometimes, I don’t mind. I love to soak in those cuddles and love my son’s love for reading.
But sometimes, I am ready to wrap.this.thing.up.
Don't get me wrong, I love some snuggles, but after a long day of work, I really wanted to have some time to myself and my husband. Those things aren't selfish. They are essential to the makeup of the self-care of a busy mom.
So if this is you, what to do?
In today’s blog, I have 7 easy tips to eliminate toddler tantrums at bedtime.
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Table of Contents
7 Easy Tips to Eliminate Toddler Tantrums at Bedtime
In today’s blog, I have 6 easy tips to eliminate toddler tantrums at bedtime and cut 10 minutes out of the routine.
# 1 Use a Timer.
Toddlers with big feelings aren’t going to understand that play is just over and all of the sudden they have to stop and go to bed.
At least, they won’t understand on their own. They need some help.
Introducing the timer.
Before bed, use a timer to establish when it is time for bedtime. "Okay you are on the clock, you have 5 minutes left to play. When Mr. Ringer dings, we are all done."
Then, you set the timer and every minute or so, you remind your toddler “You’re on the clock.”
When the timer goes off, excitedly proclaim, “Mr. Ringer! Time to put everything away.”
Preparing your kids that play or TV will end soon, will help eliminate toddler tantrums at bedtime. It won't feel so abrupt to them, and over time, they will be conditioned to know what that timer means.
I like to give my toddler some control too when the timer goes off. I will give him the remote to turn off the TV or hand him a toy to put away. Something very specific and goal oriented that I can praise him for doing that will make him feel in control and special.
# 2 Set the Mood.
Sleep hygiene is so important for adults and kids too. Just like it’s hard for me to go to sleep right after exercising or being on my phone for a while, kids can’t be expected to go to bed after watching a stimulating TV show or vigorously playing.
That’s why it is so important to set the mood in order to eliminate toddler tantrums at bedtime.
Setting the mood can look like this:
By setting the mood, we are preparing toddlers for sleep and getting them to feel tired. Therefore, they are less likely to have a meltdown when we announce it’s time to go to bed.
Why? Because they are already feeling sleepy.
# 3 Set Boundaries and Stick With Them
When the dinger goes off, be firm and stay within your rules. "Ok, the TV is going off in 5-4-3-2-1. Bye, bye, TV. Goodnight."
The first few times, your toddler might throw a tantrum or cry or beg for more. It might be tempting to give in and give them “just five more minutes.”
But hold firm.
The more wiggle room you give them, the more they will continue throwing fits to get more TV because they know that that works.
Simply shut down the play or the TV, take a deep breath, and allow for the cries and tantrums. They are a healthy release of emotions.
I like to say, “You’re sad that the TV had to get shut off. You didn’t want that. Right now we need to go up to bed to get ready. Can you help me pick out a book about a truck?”
You set the boundary and hold firm, but you also empathize and redirect with a choice.
After a while of doing this practice, you will start to eliminate toddler tantrums at bedtime.
# 4 Explain What Will Happen Before Bedtime
Oftentimes the actual going to bed is what sets your toddler off. They don’t want to stop playing and miss out on any excitement.
Therefore, shift their focus away from bedtime.
Explain to your toddler what you are going to do BEFORE bed. Instead of "It's time to go upstairs to bed," say "It's time to go upstairs to take a fun bath, read two books, and sing our song."
This will get your toddler excited and decrease those bedtime tantrums.
# 5 Implement a Checklist
Toddlers are visual. They also like to help out and have responsibilities.
Implement a checklist of the nighttime routine. "Ok, let's look at the checklist. Let's see what's first. Oh! First, we take a bath....Ok, bathtime is finished. Let's check it off and see what is next."
Carry around a laminated checklist or have it hanging in your toddler’s bedroom.
Point to each one and have your toddler check off each routine after it’s completed. After a while, you can even ask them what comes next in the routine.
For additional positive parenting, play the fool with your toddler. Every now and then, mix up the routine on purpose and have your toddler fix your mistake to make them feel confident and in charge.
“Okay, now it is time to brush your knees….Ohhh, your teeth. Not knees. Silly me.”
“Okay, first we will put on your pajamas, and then we will get a bath.”
Your toddler will be giggling in no time and forgetting all about why he didn’t want to go to bed in the first place.
# 6 Gossip About Your Toddler
Gossip about your toddler before bed. Share the news how well your toddler is following the bedtime routine and how she listened to the dinger.
Toddlers like to hear how well they are doing especially when they overhear praise from Mommy and Daddy to their favorite stuffed animal.
With continued praise, those bedtime tantrums will gradually decrease.
# 7 Reinforce with Sign Language
Finally, reinforce everything with sign language. Sign language reduces tantrums and increases comprehension.
Some key phrases to sign:
Wrapping It Up
Some key takeaways to remember...
1. When toddlers throw a tantrum right before bed, they aren't doing it to be defiant. They don't want the fun to end.
2. Stick to a consistent routine to trigger your toddlers' sleepy cues. Toddlers likes predictability.
3. Show empathy for your toddler. It's hard always being told what to do.
Check out my parenting guide, Now What? for life's hard moments for more bedtime tips.