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Toddler bed time delay tactics, and how to deal with them

You may have noticed that your toddler, who previously went to bed pretty fuss free, now has an increasingly long and last minute to-do list just before bed time. These delay tactics are very common around the time toddlers really start pushing boundaries, and those boundaries are often pushed right up til bed time. So what do you do?


Around 2 years old, toddlers are developing skills constantly. These skills including boundary pushing, understanding consequences, an acceleration in language and communication skills and also an increase in separation anxiety. All of these things combined, often lead to them trying to implement delay tactics at bed time.

Delay tactics can present themselves in a range of forms, from wanting just one more story, to suddenly 'needing' to do something outside of the room - for example they suddenly 'need' to put their toy away downstairs - to using a sudden thirst or need of the toilet just as they're about to settle down. Sometimes it can present in plain refusal to get their Pyjamas on and defiance in following their night time routine.

Often if they try one tactic and it doesn't work, they may try another or if they find a tactic that works they may stick to that.


Be consistent in setting boundaries at bed time, sticking to your bed time routine and not negotiating with them. If you have a rule they only have two stories before bed but they're asking for more, calmly explain 'No, we are having two stories then bed time as we always do' and ignore any protests or tantrums.

Give them warning of whats happening next in their bed time routine. For example explain 'this is your last book, then it's bed time isn't it?' to pre empt a possible delay tactic. Ensure they've understood and communicated this with you. Remind them of your routine and boundaries as you navigate through bed time.

Be completely consistent in your approach. As with all child sleep, consistency is always extremely important. If you are inconsistent, your now very savvy toddler will recognise this and understand their is the opportunity to push past these boundaries if they try hard enough.

If they consistently get back out of bed, don't enter negotiations or conversations with them as this is a reward. Lead them back to their bed and explain its bed time. If it happens a second time silently return them to their bed and continue this.

Stay calm through bed time, even if they're pushing all of your buttons and you feel frustrated. If your emotions become heightened they will react to this and it will likely cause them to become upset and distressed too.

Although it can seem like hard work, and tantrums may well be involved, the more consistent and in control you are with your routine and boundaries, the sooner they will respond and bed time will become less of a battle again.


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Working out your baby or child's sleep needs can be daunting and it can also cause worry that you may disrupt them or make their sleep more unbalanced that it currently is.

This is where working with a professional can help you look at your little one's current schedule, the issues you're facing and where they are in their development and whats going on in their home life and help you to build a schedule that works for your individual.


If you would like more help with your child's sleep I can help create a tailor made plan for your family based on your individual needs. Explore my packages for something that suit you

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