Making Bedtime Fun for Strong-Willed Toddlers
Our daughter hated bedtime for the first two years of her life. And honestly, it’s still not her most favorite thing in the world. And since she’s so strong-willed, it’s been a challenge trying to figure out how to make bedtime something that is fun and exciting, rather than dreadful and frustrating.
Now that we’ve had a couple years of trial and error, I’ve found a few things have been excellent to incorporate in our bedtime routine with her. So if you’re a parent who also has a strong-willed child, these tips below might be a night-saver!
1. Make it Overly Exciting and Interactive
The thing about strong-willed children, is many times, their negative responses or one-track mindsets can be diffused with joy, laughter, or excitement. For our daughter, when the clock strikes 8:29, we do a sort of “countdown,” almost as thrilling and as exciting as the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in Times Square. We explain to her that when the clock shows the numbers 8, 3, and 0, that it’s time to celebrate and run to her room. So when 8:30 finally hits, we all scream, laugh, shout, jump, sing, dance, and run straight to her room. Doing this lessens the negative anticipation, and replaces it with a fun activity filled with positive emotions.
2. Let Your Child Choose a Bedtime Book or Stuffed Animal
Giving our daughter the opportunity to pick out what she wants to read before bed, or what stuffed animal she wants to sleep with, gives her strong-willed personality a sense of purpose, even over an event as simple as bedtime. Letting her have control over those decisions empowers her to make a choice that she will be happy with, and is one step closer to her agreeing to go to sleep. Giving choices to strong-willed children not only keeps them within the parameters of what you’re wanting them to do (go to sleep), but it also makes them excited to “take the lead” per say.
3. Find a Cool Night Light
Many kids are afraid of the dark, and require a night light anyway. Our daughter, though, is not afraid of the dark, but we found that getting her a cool nightlight caused her to get excited about bedtime, because the only time she could experience this fun “toy” was in the evening. We ordered a moon-shaped nightlight from Amazon, one that changes colors or you can select a color your child wants the moon to be. Each night, we gave our daughter the option to pick her “color,” or to choose the alternating color method. Since this nightlight is interactive (and I’m sure there’s tons of fun options out there), it became a fun activity to look forward to each night.
4. Let Them Fix Up Their Diffuser
We use tons of essential oils in our house, mainly because they help us sleep and keep us healthy when we diffuse them in our bedroom at night. Because of this, we decided to get our daughter her own diffuser for her bedroom. Each night, we let her be the one to put the water in it, add drops 4-6 of whatever essential oils she is wanting/needing, put the lid back on, and turn it on. Again, this gives her control of things. Allowing her to be the one to take action steps and make decisions that empower her strong personality rather than irritate or frustrate it.
5. Hype Up the Plans for the Next Day
After all the steps above are completed, we pray over her and let her know in full detail what our plans our for the next day. We share them with excitement, with vigor, letting her know that the only way that will happen is if she goes to sleep. Doing this refocuses her attention away from the “dreaded idea of going to bed,” and rather gets her excited about what’s to come if she simply relaxes and closes her eyes.
Lastly, sticking with these tips consistently has caused bedtime to be one of fun rather than dread. These simple tips have allowed our nightly routine to be full of laughs rather than tears. Raising strong-willed kids can be challenging. But learning tips and tricks to make life better for yourself and for them is so worth it!