Stop Fighting About Bedtime with Your Toddler 

There are few things worse than making it to the end of the day only to fight about bedtime with your mini-me or the miniature version of your partner. You’ve had a long day. You’re touched out, talked out, mom-ed out, and you need them to go to sleep. But now they need a drink, the potty, seven stuffies, another snack, three cuddles, and a flipping partridge in a pear tree. 

Setting boundaries at bedtime can be tricky because these things usually sneak up on us. They were going to bed fine, and then one night, asked for an extra story, and you were feeling generous, so sure. Then they asked you to sit next to them for a little longer; why not? Before you know it, they’re getting out of bed seventeen times. Or you’re sitting on the floor holding their hand for an hour to get them to fall asleep, and now it’s 10 pm, and there’s no time for Netflix. Not great. So here are my top tips for smoothing out toddler bedtime.

Using a Bedtime Routine Chart

A bedtime routine chart is a visual tool that outlines each step of the bedtime routine. The chart helps children understand what to expect and when, and I LOVE them. A chart gives your child cues and responsibility, taking the pressure off you as the parent. You can use a bedtime routine chart for a child as young as 18 months. Print out pictures of every step of the bedtime routine, laminate it, and keep it in their room or the bathroom. Let them use a dry-erase marker to check off each step as they accomplish it.

How to Use a Bedtime Routine Chart

  1. Customize the Chart: Create a chart with simple, clear pictures and words representing each step of the bedtime routine (e.g., bath, pajamas, brushing teeth, storytime, lights out).
  2. Involve Your Child: Let your child participate in creating the chart. This involvement can increase their sense of ownership and cooperation.
  3. Follow the Routine: Use the chart every night, checking off each task as it’s completed. 

This reinforces the routine and helps your child feel a sense of accomplishment.

I provide personalized bedtime routine charts for all my clients, tailored to each family’s unique needs. This personalized approach ensures that the routine aligns with your child’s preferences and family’s lifestyle.

Benefits of Using an “OK to Wake” Clock

An “OK to Wake” clock or “Grow Clock” is a tool that signals to your child when it’s time to get up in the morning. Your child has no idea what time it is. The red at night and green in the morning quantify time for them.  These clocks can be particularly helpful for children who wake up too early or struggle with staying in bed until an appropriate time.

Advantages of an “OK to Wake” Clock

  1. Visual Cues: The clock changes color to indicate when to wake up. It provides a clear visual signal that your child can easily understand.
  2. Promotes Independence: It encourages children to stay in bed until the clock signals it’s OK to get up, fostering the ability to choose to do something and helping them develop better control over their sleep routines.
  3. Consistency: Reinforces a consistent wake-up time, crucial for maintaining a healthy sleep schedule and circadian rhythm. 

Consistency is Key

Kids love consistency, even if they act like they don’t. They may ask for more things, argue about every decision you make, and want to change the rules every day, but really, they want you to tell them no, sorry. They are trying to figure out what is allowed and what’s not allowed. They will push boundaries. That’s their job. Your job is to patiently and firmly hold the boundary so they feel safe.

Tips for Maintaining Consistency

  1. Set a Regular Bedtime: Choose a bedtime that allows your child to get the recommended amount of sleep for their age and stick to it every night, even on weekends. Get my free sample schedules under Free Sleep Resources. The flexibility of about 30 minutes earlier or later is fine.
  2. Follow the Same Routine: Use the bedtime routine chart to follow the same steps in the same order each night. This predictability helps signal to your child that bedtime is approaching.
  3. Stay Calm and Patient: Bedtime battles can test your patience, but staying calm and consistent will reinforce the routine over time.

Transitioning from Crib to Bed

Moving from a crib to a bed is a significant transition that can disrupt bedtime routines. If safety concerns exist, I recommend only making this transition before age 3, as younger children may have difficulty adjusting.

How to Ease the Transition

  1. Prepare Your Child: Talk to your child about the transition and let them be involved in setting up their new bed. This can make the change feel exciting rather than upsetting.
  2. Keep the Routine: Maintain the same bedtime routine for consistency and comfort.
  3. Monitor Safety: Ensure the new sleeping environment is safe, with guardrails if necessary, and remove any potential hazards.

Additional Resources

For more detailed strategies and tips on preventing bedtime battles, download my free guide, which is available on my free resources page. This comprehensive resource offers practical advice and solutions to help you create a peaceful and effective bedtime routine for your child.


Fighting about bedtime is a quick way to lose patience and strain your relationships. I work with many toddler families simply because this is a difficult stage of life. Just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. My background in parent coaching and certification in sleep hygiene allows me to support your family in setting boundaries, getting great sleep, and learning to work together to enjoy one another. Book a free sleep assessment with me, and let’s take the anxiety out of bedtime.

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