How To Keep Your Toddler In Bed
Parents, we know you’re sleep deprived—-we’ve been there. One of the most exhausting things you can go through as a parent is the process of “sleep training”, where you set your child up for success with some healthy bedtime routines that promote restful, through-the-night sleep (for everyone).
When your children are in the toddler stage, they are starting to exert their independence; they will state their preferences—very loudly at times—they will push the envelope when it comes to discipline, and they will in general test the limits of what you deem acceptable bedtime behaviors. All of this is done in innocence; they are merely trying to find their way in the world, and they need to know what the parameters are. If you are wondering how to keep toddler in bed, read on for some tips and tricks that, when used with patience and consistency, really do work.
How to keep toddler in bed for good
This might be an easy process for your child, and it might take weeks, even months, to keep toddler in bed. After all, you are removing your child’s biggest source of comfort up to this point—-you—and asking them to achieve sleep independence. Here are some simple steps to use if you are reading this while sleep deprived:
- Complete your bedtime routine as you normally would. Hugs, kisses, encouragement are perfect for setting up a positive nighttime experience.
- Leave quickly and without apologies or fanfare. Do not respond to last minute requests or pleas for a few more minutes.
- If your child does get up, calmly guide them back to bed and tuck them in. Remind them that this is the safest place to be at night, and that they must stay there. Repeat this behavior as many times as needed to keep toddler in bed.
- Should your child repeat the behavior, repeat the same guiding motion back to their bed, but now do so silently. Repeat as many times as needed. The more you can consistently reinforce good behavior and ignore off task behaviors, the more your child will crave that positive reinforcement.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. Some nights will be great. Others will not be so swell; keep the thought that you are setting your child up with healthy behaviors for life, and that you must do this right in order to create a healthy habit. You must keep toddler in bed!
Are there exceptions to the rules?
The answer to this question lies with you, strong one. How rigid do you want to be? Is a sick child cause to bend the rules once in awhile, so you can keep a close eye on them? Is it fair to keep toddler in bed when a strong storm comes through at night, scaring everyone in the family? You ultimately decide what is right for you and your child; if you feel you can keep toddler in bed with these periodic, off course deviations, then feel free to make exceptions when you need to comfort or care for your child.
All about the headstrong toddler
A toddler is curious and excited about life; they have reached the developmental stage where they prefer to explore the world around them rather than to passively observe. They want to desperately to be “in charge”, and they will look for every opportunity to try to exert their will and independence, often to the detriment of others in the family. These little people have big emotions and big experience, but cannot always express themselves in ways we understand, so conflict and tantrums can be common phases that we all must weather as parents.
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Toddlers are delightful little people who show us that life is still magic—even the mundane and small experiences in our days hold their interest and make us look at things from a different perspective. These kiddos live full throttle, and with all of the energy that they expend during a day of exploring, playing, and testing, you’d think it would be easy to keep toddler in bed at night, right?
Wrong. Dead wrong.
Some nights are great, some nights it feels like you have another newborn in the house. Regression with nighttime sleep habits is common in toddlers, as they are still trying to test the limits of independence while finding their safety. To keep toddler in bed is the ultimate challenge for a parent, and to do so while getting some semblance of an adequate night’s rest for yourself is a feat worthy of a Nobel prize. Every child is different, every night is different, so pull yourself up by your bootstraps, dear parent, and get ready for this opportunity for greatness. Try some of these tips to keep toddler in bed:
Stick to a routine
While your toddler might not ask for it, he/she is craving routine around bedtime in order to feel safe and secure. When transitioning from crib to toddler bed, realize that your smartie pants will eventually realize that they have a lot more freedom when it comes to getting in and out of bed. If you establish a routine and clear expectations about what you need your little angel to do, he/she will be more likely to stick to that routine when things seem unpredictable or temporarily scary. Examine reasons for “off task” behavior—-did they nap too close to bedtime? Are they going through a phase where they are experiencing bad dreams an a vivid imagination that makes the shadows in the room come alive? Be compassionate but firm in your expectations, and if there is a deviation in the routine, do your best to correct it quickly and efficiently. Your child will soon recognize that this routine is non-negotiable, and will soon acquiesce.
Plan and prep
Set your child up for success by talking about what your expectations are. Praise your child for good behavior, and refuse to focus on the negative if your child is slow to respond to this new routine. Get a drink of water, read a bedtime story, and use the bathroom before tucking junior in for the night, so there is no chance to use stall tactics as an avoidance technique. Have favorite stuffies and blankets at hand, ready to use as a source of comfort. For kiddos that need a little extra incentive, provide a sticker chart that they can visibly see, and celebrate successes with little prizes and treats along the way. Anticipate their needs, and think one step ahead of them to make sure that they can’t “wiggle” free.
Sometimes, all it takes to keep toddler in bed is to create a sense of excitement about their room and their bed. If you can make sleep feel like drifting off to a fantasy world with special pillows, new sheets, and even decorative elements in their room that are warm and inviting, they will look forward to that time when they can enjoy their personal space.
A white noise machine or comforting music played nightly is a source of great comfort for some children; for others a special night light or nighttime ritual of gratitude and hugs is enough to instill a sense of peace and tranquility that promotes restful sleep. It isn’t impossible to keep toddler in bed, but it will likely be one of the more challenging things you will face as you train your little angels to become more independent. Here’s to happy, healthy, restful sleep for everyone!