What to do:
Self-Talk. Say to yourself, "I get so frustrated when my child fights going to bed, but I can handle it. I may end up tired, but that's better than angry. I can teach him how to go to bed."
Empathy. Tell yourself, "My child probably doesn't want to miss out on what's going on without him. I understand how he feels. He doesn't know that it's important to get rest-he just thinks it's important to play! And I can understand that he doesn't want to stop being held, sung to, read to, or cuddled."
Teach. Tell yourself, "I can help my child learn that going to bed can be a special, happy time for him...and feel-good time for us both."
Establish a Bedtime Routine. From day one, making sleeping and feeding routines for your newborn and infant, as well as toddler and older child, are #1 priority. Even newborns can be "sleep-trained"-taught self-calming and sleep-going routines. A routine might be: clothes off, bath, pajamas on, special take-to-bed toy or blanket, story, song, kiss, night light on, lights out.
Play Beat the Clock to Set a Routine. Make the timer the "control" to avoid a power struggle with your child when she fights going to bed. This allows her to know what to expect will happen which makes her feel more secure and calm. The phone timer routine helps you and your child make a game, instead of a struggle, out of bedtime. Until this becomes a habit for you and your child, follow along these steps on the page right here:
Up to 45-minutes. before bedtime (or naptime, if you'd like to do so, without changing to pajamas or taking a bath), set your smartphone timer for 5 minutes and say that the phone will tell when it's time to start getting ready for bed.
When the phone timer sounds, say, "The phone says it's time to start getting ready for bed. Let's take a bath and get into our pajamas."
Then reset the phone timer to about 15 minutes for the bath. When the timer rings, say, "The timer says that it's time to get out of the bathtub. Now let's see if we can beat the timer getting pajamas on."
Set the timer for 5 minutes to get pajamas on. When the timer rings, tell her how glad you are that she got ready for bed! This gives you the opportunity to praise your child's efforts at getting herself through the basic bedtime routine.
When the routine is finished, reset the timer for 10 minutes for getting a drink, brushing teeth, and going potty (if she's old enough) or changing a diaper.
What's left? Getting into bed with a special take-to-bed toy or blanket. Then set the timer for 10 minutes for reading a story, talking about the day and snuggling together.
When the timer rings, it's time to set the timer one last time for 5 minutes for singing a fun good-night calming song, giving each other a kiss, turning on the night light, turning out the lights and finally, saying goodnight and leaving the room.
Follow the Same Routine Regardless of Time. Even if bedtime has been delayed for some reason, go through the same routine to help your child learn what's expected of her when it comes to going to bed.
Maintain the Same Order of Events. Since young children find comfort in consistency, have your child bathe, brush her teeth, and put on her pajamas in the same order every night. Ask her to name the next step in the routine. This will help to make a game out of getting ready for bed and will help her feel as if she's calling the shots. It's the sequence of events that becomes important and comforting for all.
Make Bedtime Rules. If your child will only sleep on the sofa with the TV on or won't sleep without you lying next to her, make some bedtime rules, such as, "The rule is, you may sleep only in your bed", or "The rule is, I will stay next to you while we read our story, then I have to move to the rocker. I'll be right here."
Use Grandma's Rule. If your child resists following a step in her bedtime routine, say, "When you have brushed your teeth, we will be able to read books before bed." Keep calm and stick to the routine to help your child do so, too.
What not to do:
Don't Let Your Child Control Bedtime and Naptime. Stick with your chosen bedtime despite your child's resistance. Remember that you know why your child doesn't want to go to bed-and why she should. Say to yourself, "She's only crying because she doesn't want to end her playtime, but I know she'll play happier later if she sleeps now." That's the lesson!
Don't Threaten. Threatening your child to get her into bed can cause nightmares and fears, not to mention making you feel upset. Punishing a child doesn't teach her appropriate behavior. Instead, focus on using your phone timer as a neutral authority to determine when bedtime arrives.
Don't Be a Historian. Saying "Because you didn't go to bed on time last night, you don't get to play on the computer this morning," doesn't teach your child how to get into bed on time.