Bedtime tantrums could make bedtime a nightmare for parents.
Yes! if you’ve got a toddler or a preschooler who puts on resistance to his/her bedtime, be rest assured that you are not alone.
Really, bedtime tantrums are common with children.
Check out the following mums-vetted and approved tips and tricks to avoid bedtime tantrums and garner a good night’s sleep for the whole family.
1. Give your child options
Humans like to be in control.
Young children are no exception, and like everyone else, they too need limits.
That said, you can appeal to your child’s sense of wanting to have their way by presenting some choices at bedtime.
Keep in mind though, when you offer a choice to your child, be sure to offer up options that work for you, no matter what your child chooses.
For example, if you ask, how many stories at bedtime, don’t come with options like four, five, or six if you aren’t willing to read/tell that many.
You don’t want to go back on your promise, as that will just cause frustration for everyone or even provoke a session of bedtime tantrums.
Try some of these questions and see which works for your kid:
Which pair of pajamas?
Which book to read before going to bed?
How many books to read?
What time should the child go to bed? (remember, give them a semblance of control, but only options that suit you).
Which blanket to sleep with?
Which stuffed animal to sleep with?
When getting feedback from your preschooler, the keyword here is choice. Be sure to give a few options (two, maybe) and try not to leave the question open-ended, because then you might just get answers like “I want to read 20 books!” or “I want to go to bed by 12am!”
2. Use Favourable Curtains
You know the drill with a particular season having longer days than night, right? Very good. In such seasons, darker (blackout) curtains will save you from bedtime tantrums.
For example, you have a 3-year-old whose bedtime is 7:30 p.m.
But at 7:30 during such months, it isn’t even close to being dark outside. So how do you resolve such a child’s need to sleep when it ‘looks’ like nighttime?
Blackout curtains do a great job of making the room totally dark. Whether it is still light at bedtime or vice versa, times when it is a little too light very early in the morning.
Timely warning: blackout curtains can make the room quite dark, so be sure to have a night light ready if you think the darkness will be too much for your little one.
3. Try Some Soothing Scents
Lavender and chamomile have been said to deliver results when it comes to helping people relax.
While using essential oils is popularised by many, you should be careful when applying them to the sensitive skin of young children.
Instead, try products that release the scents into your child’s room, including sprays, and diffusers, and ensure you carefully follow all directions on the product.
Also, check out 7 ways to keep your baby asleep at night
4. Make Your Own ‘Monster Repellents’
For kids who have nightmares, fears of the dark, or fears of the unknown in the dark (achluophobia), a little comfort can really go a long way to reduce bedtime tantrums.
“Monster repellants” or “Go Away Sprays” encourage kids to ‘spray away’ their fears, whether it is a monster under the bed or some unknown entity in their wardrobe. They can be bought, or you can make your own.
Simply fill a spray bottle with water and add a scent.
It could be an essential oil or a cologne that your child likes. Have the child decorate the bottle any way they choose.
Food for thought: Rather than use a “Monster repellent,” think about using a more positive designation for it, such as Courage Potion or Night Spray.
Monster repellent may actually confirm for your child that there is a monster in the room to be scared of, while the alternatives empower youngsters to be brave.
5. Soothing Music
Lullabies have been a go-to for parents of babies for generations, and with good reason.
So, why not continue the practice as your child gets older?
While there is not a slice of medical evidence to support the efficacy of lullabies, some research does indicate that playing soothing music or sounds can improve sleep quality in children.
Regardless, lullabies are certainly soothing and calming and go a long way in establishing a serene ambiance at bedtime.
You want to ensure the music is loud enough that your child can hear it but soft enough so it doesn’t interfere with your child falling asleep.
Tip: If you choose the same soundtrack every night, the resultant effect is that eventually your child will associate that music with bedtime and will likely learn to relax much faster.
6. A Bath Or Shower
People like to bathe or shower in the morning because it helps wake you up and sort of clears up the head.
This is why it makes sense to use it as a therapy to get that child to relax and in the mood for bed.
Giving a child a bath or a shower at night has a few purposes including it cleans your child after a long day of running, climbing, playing, and whatever else that has caused your child to be messy and/or dirty. But a bath or a shower also stops the day in its tracks.
It’s an effective albeit subtle transition from day to night, from clothing to pajamas (which are also an indicator to your youngster that it’s time to settle down).
7. A Little Mummy-and-Me Time Can Ease Bedtime Tantrums
For some kids, bedtime is tantrum-worthy because they don’t want to separate from mom, dad, or nanny.
Therefore, a good way to avoid bedtime tantrums for such kids is to take some time out to relax together.
Have you read: Covid-19: Best self-care tips for mums
If you have the time, you can make it separate from reading a bedtime story. Turn off all the lights, put away the screens, get under the blankets, and just cuddle.
You can talk about your day or just sit in (blissful) silence.
The one thing to watch out for here however, is that you don’t get into the habit of letting your child fall asleep while you are still there because that can lead to subsequent issues. But still, a few minutes of quiet calm in the dark together will be beneficial to you both.
8. Set Up A Reward Chart
Everyone’s facial muscles relax a bit more at the mention of reward.
For kids who need a little extra nudge, consider hinging on a reward system of some kind.
Reward systems are a way of praising good behavior while encouraging them to keep it up.
For example, if you have a child who has difficulty staying in bed, you might create a sticker chart (a bead in a jar can work well too), documenting every night that your child stays in bed without getting up.
This really applies for the next day where you can praise your child for a job well done (or talk about what went wrong and all the reasons they need to try harder).
For this, however, it’s important that you catch your child not too long after they wake up- reward systems are most effective when the praise is immediate.
Depending on what type of system you implement, you may want to give your child a higher reward depending on what they accomplish.
For example, ten nights in a row where the child stays in bed might equate to a bigger portion of ice-cream or two extra cookies.