Toddler Bedtime Battles

How do we deal with a toddler who resists bedtime? Our 2-year-old recently went from being a great sleeper to suddenly fighting bedtime in an insane way – screaming, hitting, and running around his room. We've done nothing to change his schedule – nap from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m., and bedtime at 7:00 p.m. – and we have no idea what brought this on. What should we do? We're desperate!

It sounds like you’ve got a major battle of the wills going on. But then, you’ve got a 2-year old, so that isn’t too surprising. Your little guy has his own idea of what he wants to do in the evening, and obviously sleeping is at the bottom of the list.

Here are a couple of suggestions. First, shorten his nap time. At 2 years old, he may not need a two-hour nap each day. If he is sleeping for the full two hours, that’s great, but if he only sleeps an hour and then wakes up, there’s no reason to make him stay in his bed. Needless to say, if nap time is too late in the day it can interfere with his ability to fall asleep at night.

You also might try putting him down a bit later in the evening. It may simply be that he’s not tired at 7:00 and a 7:30 or 8:00 bedtime fits his body clock better. If your troubles started during the summer months, it might be because it’s still very light at 7:00 p.m. at that time of year. Very few kids want to go to bed when sunlight is streaming into their room and they can hear the neighborhood kids playing outside.

It’s especially important to establish a bedtime routine and stick with it. This could include a warm bath followed by some quiet reading and cuddling time on his bed. It might even be a good idea to lie with him on his bed for a while in the dark until he falls asleep, at least for a couple of nights. But don’t make a habit of this. You mentioned that he was doing just fine falling asleep on his own until recently, so he’s obviously capable of it.

You also mentioned hitting. That, from our perspective, is a matter of special concern. It is never acceptable for a child to hit his parents, no matter how tired and cranky he may be. Quite apart from the other bedtime difficulties you’re experiencing, this particular behavior needs to be dealt with decisively before the child gets any older.

If the problem persists, we’d suggest you consult your pediatrician. You can also call our Counseling department here at Focus on the Family for some more in-depth help. They’ll be pleased to assist you in any way they can.


Focus on the Family Complete Guide to Baby & Child Care

The Christian Mama’s Guide to Parenting a Toddler

Getting Toddlers to Sleep


You May Also Like