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Toddler bed time


Full Member
My 2 1/2 year old is a real trip at bed time. He does not like to go to bed. We have been in a very bad habit of letting him fall asleep on the couch. Now he is watching movies. He does not usually get to sleep until between 10 and 11 at night. My husband and I are so frustrated. We know we have not done the right thing, but it is frustrating when we both work and he won't go to bed by himself. If we put him in his bed, he cries and leaves his bedroom. Nothing we have tried is working. We both work and we have a fifteen year old daughter whose stairway goes into his bedroom with no door. We don't feel it is fair to keep her up with his tantrums. Any advice would be most welcome. THanks.:confused:


no real "cure-all"

Hi - I've been there - well, not exactly the same problem, but I have a 2 year old daughter who has gone through phases where we've done things we shouldn't just to get her to sleep. Sometimes you have to do that to get some sleep yourselves.

My advice to you isn't pleasant. I think you should pick a time when everyone is healthy and after some good sleep - then start boot camp. Maybe start slowly - I don't know. But start with a good bedtime routine by 7:30/8 - bath, books, whatever. Quiet time. No movies. It will be hard and cause problems most likely. But you have to do it. Be consistent. Also, constantly be preparing him for bed by saying "after bath we'll read books and it's time for bed" or something like that. I have to do that with my daughter or we'd read every book in her room! Earlier bedtimes can lead to smoother falling asleep. Try to have at least 4-5 hours between waking from nap and bedtime so he's tired. THen I think bedtime routine by 7:30-7:45 will help - then hopefully he'll be asleep by 8:30. Differs for every child, though - so whatever works for you.

Be gentle but firm - no nonsense type of voice. AFter books or whatever you do, put him in his bed, say I love you and good night, then leave without lingering or looking back. He'll cry, scream, throw everything in the book at you to try to get you back, but you have to stay firm. Your older daughter will just have to sleep maybe somewhere else or stay out of her room for this part - whatever is necessary. (You say it's not fair to her but it's also not fair to your son to be learning bad sleep habits. Your daughter can bounce back better - should be going to bed later anyway than him.) Go back in every few minutes or so and repeat the goodnight message, but don't pick him up/hold him.

Now this may not work for you - I'm just saying it works for us. My daughter is so blasted stubborn and knows every trick in the book to get us to come back into her room. But after our routine and good night, we leave. Then if she keeps it up, one of us just stands outside her room so she can't see us and tells her it's time to sleep, etc. SHe gets it eventually.

I'm no expert - and I know others do not agree with letting your child fuss or cry it out or whatever, but I am a firm believer in doing what you can to teach your child to fall asleep on their own - it's a healthy habit for them.

Have you tried the birth clubs on Babycenter.com? Wonderful advice there! I don't know if I've helped in any way or just rambled, but know that you're not alone! BEst of luck to you - keep at it and it will work eventually (like potty training!)


Senior Member

I agree with beenthere on several points. First, bedtime should be 7-8 pm. And, you need a calm bedtime routine. When my son moved out of a crib and into a bed, he hated being alone in his room at bedtime. The only thing that worked was a very quiet, soothing, predictable bedtime routine. And, once he was in bed, I sat in the hallway outside his room (within his sight) and waited until he fell asleep. He wanted to be sure that I was there. After a few weeks he was used to that, and I moved down the hall, out of his sight. Every few nights, he would sneak out of bed, peek to see if I was still there, and then pop back into the bed. I didn't let him make a game out of it though--he knew that he had to get back in the bed without me picking him up and taking him back. I remember sitting and reading a book or writing letters or paying bills, in the hall for an hour just about every night, for 2-3 months, until he began feeling secure enough to fall asleep on his own, without checking to be sure that I was there. I think that's where a lot of the issues come up--the child wants to be sure the parent is still nearby because of their fear of the new sleeping arrangement.

Good luck, be firm, and it will pay off eventually with a smooth, cry-free bedtime. :)


Full Member
Me too

I just am glad that others are having the same problem. My three year old likes to sleep with us and keeps me up all night long. Last night, we just said no. My husband actually has to do it. He is also a night owl too. I don't know what to do about that.


Full Member

Thanks so much for all the advice. I know what we have to do, but as you all have said it is difficult. It is very hard for me to spend one to two hours sitting in the hall when other things need to be done, but I guess it might just work. I will try some things and hope for the best.


Senior Member
early bedtime is healthy

I think you have received some great advice. I just want to add my 2 cents that children need to be in bed as early as possible but at least by 8 o'clock and I also believe in naps.

I always get my kids in bed by 8:00 and frequently earlier--they are 5 and 8 and I have made it the rule and custom of our house from the start of their lives. My kids always had naptime when they were toddlers and they still have naptime at least one day on the weekend most weekends. They have nap time also in the summer time and on holidays. My kids have very busy lives. They are on the school bus by 6:45 in the morning and stay at school until around 4 at after-school daycare. Then it's homework, chores, baths, reading time, computer time, TV shows. We just ended soccer season which involved 2 1-hour practices per week and games on Saturdays. Soon we will have baseball season and swim team. We also attend church every Sunday morning and Wednesday evenings for children's fine arts enrichment. We take long vacations, go on excursions, and the kids have playdates and such. With all this go-go activity, I think it's imperative that they have time to recharge their batteries with seriously early bedtimes SEVEN days a week.

A sign of inadequate sleep is hyperactivity--I see it in my 6th graders who often brag of staying up super-late doing nothing productive. There is nothing on television that my kids need to become addicted to. I just don't see what kids need to stay up late for.

I hope you can get on top of your child's sleep habits. The older the child is when you implement change, the tougher it is. Good luck.