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April 8, 2022

How to Get Your Child to Bed on Time Without the Nightly Tantrums – and Still Have Time Left for Yourself

Written by Karissa Monzo, Family Support Navigator

Does this feel familiar? 

It’s 7:00 pm and you’re already running through the bedtime plan in your head.  You think, “If I start our night routine by 7:30, he can be in bed by 8:30. Tonight will be the night!”  You give yourself a pep talk and get ready to tackle the bath, pick a book, and keep bedtime on schedule. You are excited just thinking about the movie that you will finally get to watch while cuddled up on the couch with your favorite snack!   

All right, it’s showtime…let’s go! 

You put the last dish in the dishwasher, then you go tell your little one it’s bath time. That’s when your toddler starts screaming, throwing toys, and crying.  “I don’t want to take a bath!” You take a deep breath and handle that meltdown thinking that will be the last one of the evening.  Not even close!   

Every request you have of your toddler results in a tantrum. It is now 9:45 and he is finally in bed, but you’re exhausted, the house is a wreck, and movie night is a no go. It’s all you can do to pick up and get yourself ready for bed.  Your bedtime plan did not work. You have tried this plan for the last two weeks and it seems to be getting worse.  Your toddler wins every night.   

So, what can you do differently? 

Here is a suggestion from a parent who has been through this and who talks parents through situations like this every day:

Talk to your toddler about your plan before you start it, even if it’s just five or ten minutes before.  Little ones like structure and order. It might not seem like it, but they do!  

They are also very visual.  So, think about making a schedule of your bedtime routine and putting pictures with it.  This way you can show your little one what is going to happen next. Refer to that chart often.  Soon they will be able to tell YOU what comes next!  If your little one is old enough, think about making the schedule together. This way they can take part in the schedule and feel like they have a bit of control in the outcome.    

The biggest additional tip I can give you is to stay consistent. As I mentioned before, kids like structure and order.  So once you make your plan, create a way to share it with your child, and start giving them a heads up before the bedtime routine starts, stick with it for several nights. Some nights might be tough, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  

Good luck! You can do it!  If you need any help or more tips and tricks, feel free to reach out to one the Family Support Navigators here at navigation@familyfutures.net. We are here to support you!