Putting your toddler to sleep can be a challenge when they decide to throw a bedtime tantrum. No matter how difficult the situation may seem, it is a regular part of a child’s development (1). While some toddlers throw a tantrum regularly, others do it less often. Toddlers throw tantrums when they are tired, uncomfortable, hungry, or frustrated.
Around age two, toddlers learn to express themselves in different ways, but the inability to clearly convey what they want can lead to tantrums. Toddler tantrums can be broadly classified into frustration tantrums, exhaustion tantrums, and temper tantrums.
Keep reading as we tell you why toddlers throw bedtime tantrums and how to manage them.
Why Do Toddlers Suddenly Start Crying At Bedtime?
While tantrums are common, if your toddler throws a tantrum at bedtime, it can be a frustrating experience for you. When toddlers throw tantrums to evade sleep at night, it can affect not just their sleep schedule but yours too.
Knowing why your toddler is crying or throwing tantrums at bedtime can help you resolve their issue and get them to bed as early as possible. Here are a few probable reasons why your toddler throws tantrums at bedtime.
- Illness: This is one of the most common reasons why your child throws a tantrum during bedtime. Toddlers are usually unaware of how to react when they are unwell (2).
- Fear: Fear of the unknown or darkness, episodes of nightmares, or just the fear of you not being around can cause them to cry at bedtime.
- Fear of separation: If you do not spend enough time with your toddler, or if they feel so, they might cry out of fear that they will be separated from you again when they sleep (3).
- Tiredness: An overtired toddler can get very cranky and refuse to sleep (4).
- Insufficient physical activity: If your toddler is less tired or has not had sufficient physical activity, they may refuse to go to bed on time or throw a tantrum.
- Hunger or thirst: If your baby is hungry or thirsty and is unable to communicate it, they may cry during bedtime.
- Discomfort: Dry, irritating clothes, warm atmosphere, dry skin or rashes on skin.
How To Deal With Your Toddler’s Bedtime Tantrums?
Here are a few tips that can help you manage your toddler’s bedtime tantrums.
1. Establish a bedtime routine
Put your toddler to bed at the same time each night. This will help your child know that it is bedtime and condition them to fall asleep faster (2). Since children of different ages sleep for a different number of hours, you may have to modify their bedtime routine based on their age.
2. Maintain consistency
Maintain consistency in what your toddler is supposed to do or not do during bedtime. As they grow up, make sure they know what their boundaries are and stick by them, as this gets them to wind down in time.
3. Do some activities the hour leading up to bedtime
The hour leading to your toddler’s bedtime is crucial to their night’s sleep. Indulging them with screened devices or other distractive activities is not recommended. Reading them a story or playing soothing music is a great way to put them to bed.
4. Give them a choice
Give your toddler a choice and make them in charge of what they wish to do during bedtime (2). Let them choose their favorite toy for the night or the pajama they wish to wear to bed.
5. Play soothing music
Some children love to sleep to music or a soothing song. If your child is one of them, play their favorite lullaby or relaxing music that instantly calms them and puts them to sleep.
6. Give them a bath or shower
A warm bath before bedtime is absolutely comforting and soothing. If your child has trouble sleeping or gets cranky before bedtime, give them a warm bath and watch them sleep peacefully.
7. Maintain a reward chart
One of the best ways to inculcate good habits in your child is by rewarding them when they behave well. One good habit that you can teach them is getting to bed early and waking up early. You can get them to wind down for the night by creating a reward chart. Reward your child every time they go to bed on time. This acts as a positive reinforcement, and they are more likely to be early risers too. Also, this could help reduce their bedtime tantrums.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do I need to cut down my toddler’s daytime naps?
As your newborn grows up, they will start napping less, and once they turn five-years-old, they may stop napping altogether. In most cases, you would not need to cut down on your toddler’s nap time as they stop napping by themselves. If your toddler refuses or resists a second nap after the first one, you can let them be and engage them in a fun activity.
2. Should I adjust my toddler’s bedtime routine?
Yes, adjust your toddler’s bedtime routine in a way that they get their required sleep, and ensure it fits your routine as well. Different babies have different needs, and therefore, try to find out what works best for your toddler.
The amount of sleep your toddler needs depends on their age. While newborns spend most of their day sleeping, their sleep time and nap time reduce in duration as they grow. Sleeping and napping are essential for children as these help their brain grow, make more connections, and consolidate what they have seen and learned during the day.
It is absolutely okay if your toddler throws a tantrum or two before bedtime. However, if it persists for several nights, ensure you identify their problem and use one or more tips given above to let them get enough sleep.
2. Temper tantrums in toddlers: How to keep the peace; Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER)
3. Six Ways to Stay Calm When Your Child Cries and Cries at Bedtime; Hand In Hand Parenting
4. Settling 1-3 years; Tresillian