How can I change bed time routine for 2 yr old that isn't working?

Melissa - posted on 09/11/2011 ( 9 moms have responded )

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My only child, 28 month old daughter is an active, reasonably well behaved child during the day. When it comes to the bedtime routine, I feel like what we are doing is not working and leads to 2 exasperated parents and one child sent to sleep in less than ideal circumstances.

In short, we begin bedtime routine around 6:30 pm in the hopes of getting in the bed by 7:30 because she wakes at 7:30 am no matter what time she goes to bed. On the perfect night, she has a bath followed by lotion, putting on diaper and pajamas. We let her pick 3 books, and she has milk while we read them in her rocking chair. After story time, we brush teeth, then do goodnight hugs and kisses.

It starts going awry at the end of the bath, followed by squirming to a degree that makes getting bed clothes an olympic challenge. She then seems excited about the books, but gets up in the middle to change her mind about which to read.

By the time we get to brushing teeth, I am on the verge of loosing my temper. She has a singing tooth brush (her choice). At the start of the song, I tell her that after the song is over and she's had a chance to brush her own teeth, Mommy (or Daddy) will brush her teeth next. Then I look like I'm wrangling a cat fish barehanded to accomplish brushing her teeth. Time for hugs and kisses gets thrown out the door when she'd rather run around trying to bait us into chasing her.

I end up putting her in the bed with the threat of spankings if she gets out. Which she does. I used to inquire why she got out after I told her not to, but the response was always manipulative stuff like, I want more milk, or a coy smile, ect. I waste no time now grabbing her up and carrying her to her bed with a spank and explaination that it was because she disobeyed and it is time to go to sleep. While a spank works in the day time, she is immune to their intended message at bedtime.

I am looking for objective eyes on what I am doing wrong and perhaps changing the order of bedtime events. I don't want to have my daughter fall asleep having last seen her parents at their wits end!

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Jennifer - posted on 09/13/2011

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You could consider dropping the nap as you mentioned. I do that with my own daughter. So long as she is being good she doesn't have to take a nap but if she stars doing the cranky, over-tired thing then into the crib she goes for a nap. Most days she doesn't take them anymore.

As for the routine itself, maybe change it up a bit. I know my own daughter doesn't like to go right into her jammies so I let her stay in her towel, or just be naked, for a bit and let her little body breathe. She too like to try and change up her books in the middle but gets told, as someone already mentioned, that this is what she chose and if we're done it's bedtime. Can't help you with the teeth brushing, that's one thing mine is good about. As for the getting out of bed, perhaps try giving her something to keep her IN bed. My daughter never goes right to sleep and in our house bedtime just means it's time to be in bed and stay there. She usually takes her Mr. Bear, a book and another toy in with her (tonight it's a maraca rattle lol) and as long as she stays relatively quiet and in bed she can play with these things until she falls asleep on her own.

Just what works for us. I hope you find what works for your family! :)

Banannine - posted on 09/13/2011

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by the way, i have 2 little sisters also, huge age difference. One just was not a sleeper, she always battled the naps and sleep and to this day as a teen is not much for sleep. she stopped nap time at 18 months because she would not sleep at all. The other still at 12 yrs, sleeps over 12 hours a day. she napped till 4 yrs old! i guess everybody has their own needs.

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Melissa - posted on 09/13/2011

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Thank you Ania for pointing out that each child has their own sleep requirements. I am on the fence about whether or not my daughter is ready to drop the nap. In my experience today in going without the nap, it was horrible. She was tired, crying, clingy and wanted to be held most of the after noon. I didn't allow her to take a nap even though at 4, she could have fallen asleep on her own. I thought it was too late and would interfere with night time sleep.

I started to get her ready for bed early and things were going well until after bath time. It seems she got a 2nd wind. And and hour and a half later, she had been out of bed 3 times, the last at 8:50 pm! Each time we return her to bed it is without verbal interaction so as not to encourage that behavior. I can hardly believe she could keep her eyes open after such a long day!

Jennifer S.- Thank you for your suggestions. I hadn't considered letting her 'air-dry' for a while. Nor letting her take a toy to bed. She currently takes her favorite blanket and pillow to bed, but that's it. I am curious though as to how to initiate this toy allowance in bed. We moved her to a bed when she was able to climb out of her crib ( it was a sad day for me as I dreaded the getting out of bed issues). And what kind of other toys have you allowed your daughter to take to bed? Do you have a certain pool of toys to pick from or can it be any of her toys? Do you use a night light or complete dark as the windows allow.

As I described to Ania, my daughter did not do well today without her nap. You mentioned that as long as your daughter isn't cranky, she can stay awake. But I am curious, how late is too late to put her down for a nap? And do you let her sleep until she awakes, or do you wake her up by a certain time? Thanks for your help.

Banannine - posted on 09/13/2011

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Ah, mine is a bit different, he loves nap time. its the bed time i started having trouble with. he might wine about it but always takes at least that hour. if she isn't sleeping at nap then i would cut it and see how you do. If she is actually falling asleep but just fighting not to go, i would push the bed time. at 2 years its give or take, some kids need nap for hours and some are over it by then.

Melissa - posted on 09/13/2011

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So Ania, your son still gets 12 hrs of sleep, plus a nap? You just moved his bedtime? I thought you were going to recommend dropping the nap. Today, my daughter was unable to settle down for a nap. I put her down to nap at 12:30, she got out of bed 5 times before 2:00. By then I decided it was too late to nap anyway and so I told her nap time was over and she could play. Now I am wondering if her 12 hrs a night is all she needs and perhaps bedtime routine would be easier if she skips the nap. Any thoughts on that idea?

Banannine - posted on 09/13/2011

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in that case i would say maybe put her down later. some kids just need more time to get tired. I used to put my son at 7:30 and now i put him at 8:30. He just hit that point when he didn't want to go to bed. by 8:30 he is willing and after about a week and a half he started getting up later. so now he is up at 8/8:30.

Katie - posted on 09/12/2011

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Well your routine is pretty much exactly the same as mine. We start bedtime at 6.50 in a hope to be in bed by 7.30. My 20 month old goes in the bath for 15 minutes then we get him out and lotion and then pjs and then bottle and then book and then into bed with some lullaby music. So almost the same as yours. The only thing i would change about about yours is that she should get to choose one book. If she decides to get up in the middle of it to change her mind you say "No. You chose this book so we will read this book however if you would prefer to just finish and go to bed thats your choice. Continue to read or lets get into bed?" Give her the choice to decide what happens next. My boy is still in his cot at the moment so i can't really help. When she gets out of bed i would completely ignore her and just keep putting her back to bed. The more you talk and discuss with her the more she is getting the interaction with you which is what she wants. Things will get better eventually. I cant say i smack my children unless they do something very dangerous, we use the naughty step for bad behaviour which works for us. I hope this helps and things get better. I think most parents are frazzled by the end of the day so try not to feel bad...

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