Toddler Tactics - Your Guide to Dealing with Bedtime Shenanigans

Oh, toddlers. Where to begin?!

I like to think of them as Sour Patch Kids… "First they’re sour, then they’re sweet, then they’re GONE!” Think about it - one moment your child is having a meltdown because you gave him the red cup instead of the blue cup, but then you did give him the blue cup (pick your battles, right?)...which he really wanted to get out of the drawer himself. 

Some days you just can’t win. Literally two minutes later he’s over it and singing a song about how much he loves his mommy, and your heart instantly melts. You want to Eat. Him. Up! I’m telling you - sweet, sour, gone! This season of life may seem like the days are dragging on, but they will be over before you know it.

Toddlers have a few things going for them. First, they are learning all about the world around them - how it works and how to navigate it. They are also learning to regulate their emotions, often without having the vocabulary to identify what it is they are feeling.

These are great acquisitions developmentally, however, they can present themselves sometimes with extreme behavior. Toddlers are notorious for stalling, throwing tantrums, pushing buttons, and testing boundaries. While these things can be frustrating to us as parents, know that this is how your toddler is learning about the world around them (and how to deal with it). It is your responsibility to help teach them these boundaries so they can be safe and grow into independent human beings!

One of the biggest boundary testing times is bedtime. This is my area of expertise so let’s get into it - here are some strategies to help you and your toddler at bedtime:

Provide Motivation

Toddlers can be motivated in a variety of ways. When working with my toddler clients, I always utilize a bedtime reward chart as a tool in the beginning of our time together. Positive reinforcement will yield positive results when used correctly! To download your free Bedtime Reward Chart for your toddler, click here - you’ll be directed to subscribe to my email list, which I promise will benefit your child’s sleep moving forward and allow you to stay up-to-date with all the promotions and goodies I have to offer! Pair this chart with your child’s favorite stickers and you have instant motivation to get through the bedtime routine while maintaining your sanity. The reward chart and system can be faded out over time.

Speaking of routines…

Have a Set Bedtime Routine

Routines provide boundaries for our children that are predictable and known. When our toddlers know what’s coming next, they find comfort and safety in that predictability and feel somewhat in control which is what they’re often looking for. To read about the importance of having a bedtime routine, check out this blog post (freebie bedtime routine samples included!). For information on how to come up with the best routine for your child, read more here.

I love to incorporate some sort of cue-ing system for a toddler as well. A visual (besides the chart) that they can look at or hear and know what is coming - sleep! I love the Hatch Rest clock and sound machine. The yellow light means it’s time to get ready for bed, the red light with some white noise playing means it’s time to get in bed now, and the green light and bird chirping in the morning means it’s time to get up! You can also program your Alexa to say “It’s time to get ready for bed.” This makes her the “bad guy” and not you, mama!

Provide Choice by Setting Limits

Toddlers are looking for control which is something all human beings strive for in their life! One easy way you can help with this is by giving choice within your bedtime routine. For example, give your toddler two sets of pajamas, and they can pick which ones to wear. You can ask which book they’d like to read by presenting two at a time (more than this can overwhelm them!). Limit your reading to 2-3 books and don’t veer from this or it will cause problems down the road - boundaries, remember?! 

This brings me to the never-ending saga of ongoing questions at bedtime. Is it just me, or does your toddler turn into a little philosopher at bedtime too?? Limit questions to 2-3 per night, and again, don’t veer from this limit. For a fun post all about this, checkout my Instagram. Make sure to follow along for timely sleep tips and tricks!

These strategies should help your toddler at bedtime. If you’re experiencing more issues even after implementing these tips, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. I find that some toddlers need even more boundaries and guidance. I also make sure to look at your child from a holistic perspective when working together to make sure that all the pieces of the sleep puzzle fit together correctly - this can look different for different children. After all, we aren’t robots!

For more information about how it is working with me, check out this post from a toddler mom I worked with a few months ago!


Erin Meinel

Erin is the founder and owner of Lake Country Sleep located in Wisconsin’s beautiful Lake Country area. It is her pleasure to help parents help their baby get the sleep he or she needs to thrive.  It is her belief that a holistic and gentle approach, coupled with support, guidance, and accountability, is the best way to approach teaching the skill of sleep to your little one. Erin’s background in early childhood development and education, along with her expertise in pediatric sleep, allows her to successfully guide families all across the country with teaching their children the skill of sleep.

Learn more about Erin here. Follow along on Facebook and Instagram for all the latest tips and tricks when it comes to your little one’s sleep!

Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.

- SlumberPod

Hi Allegra – We’re sorry to hear you’re now struggling with sleep at your house but are glad to hear you’ve found some helpful resources.

- Allegra

Well… My meltdowns are covered with mud lately! I’ve had a sleeping angel with no sleep training or whatsoever for a year but it’s gone… And now, when I start reading anything it’s like super obvious for everyone you have some routines and schedules while I was never needing it and it’s really upsetting. I have this book now to follow – – and I find it very helpful and not patronizing so I’m falling with love with the author!

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