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12 Tips to Avoid your 3 Year Old’s Bedtime Tantrums

Like any parent of a toddler, you may find that the day’s activities have exhausted you and you are counting down the minutes till bedtime.

You find yourself looking forward to the golden few hours you can claw back and enjoy just being an adult again, be with your partner, watch something other than cartoons on the television. It sounds almost dreamy!

The announcement has been made and the bedtime routine is underway…

Now the American dream would be for your toddler to jump into their PJs, brush their teeth, have a story, and fall off into a dreamy wonderland leaving you to be you and not mom for a few hours. Does this sound magical?

That is exactly what many moms are led to believe should happen when it comes to bedtime. The harsh and sad reality is that you are more likely going to find yourself battling what may seem like a losing fight.

You are exhausted and aching for a rest but first, there is a battle of PJs, teeth brushing and endless conversations about how thirsty or hungry your dear darling is.

You may find you lose your temper on many occasions which can sometimes leave you and your child in tears. 

Fear Not! 

Help is out there! The bedtime ritual which was so grueling before can be put to a stop! Here are our 12 tips to avoid your 3-year-old’s bedtime tantrums.

Why Is Sleep Important?

During preschool age (between 2-4)  sleep is a massive part of development. It is a known fact that children not only grow in their sleep but their brains make secure electrical paths ready for more learning experiences when they wake. 

The recommended amount of time your child should be sleeping would be anything from 10-13 hours a day including naps. If a child doesn’t get the essential amount of sleep then their health and development will be hindered significantly.

So after reading this you may feel that the pressure of bedtime is building already? Let us relieve some of the tension with some handy tips you can put into practice to help ease into a stress-free routine.

12 Top Tips To Avoid Bedtime Tantrums

We all want to have a stress-free and tantrum-free bedtime routine after a busy day with our toddlers. Here are our top 12 tips to bring harmony to your bedtime routine.

1. Make A Routine Ritual

It is no secret that we all love routine. No matter what age we are, we all love what to expect during the day. This rule is even more important for your thriving three-year-old.

Setting the routine ensures they are not going to be surprised when bedtime is announced, they know exactly what they are expecting and will eventually accept that it is the rule of bedtime. 

During the moment you announce it is bedtime you may want to include the following into your routine.

  1. Choose a sensible time for your family.
  2. Getting PJs on.
  3. Brushing teeth.
  4. Allowing for a drink.
  5. Last use of the toilet.
  6. Choosing a book.
  7. Kiss and sleep.

By working a drink and toilet into your routine, you as the parent can be aware of your toddler’s hidden procrastination techniques. If they are nagging for the toilet you can confidently say ‘NO’ if they have just been. 

2. Give Them Choices

Now by this point, you are nearly on your knees after jumping to the demands of your three-year-old all day long. So using this top tip will help them believe they are still in control and make going to bed essentially their choice.

This doesn’t mean they get free rein otherwise you will find yourself still reading the millionth book at midnight. Give them options such as:

  • What would they like to wear to bed? 
  • Would they like one or two stories?
  • What stuffy would they prefer? dog or duck?

Allowing them to have control over their bedtime can help them maintain focus and accept its is time to wind down. 

3. Blackout Curtains Are My Savior

This summer we moved house and it didn’t occur to me that my daughter’s room is at the front where the glorious sunsets.

A beautiful sight I must admit but we had the horrible realization that during the summer months this magical experience doesn’t come until around 9.30 pm. In our house bedtime is between 7 pm and 8 pm so this is much too late for any busy toddler.

I found that blackout curtains became my best friend. Not only do they cool the room but they instantly make the room look as if it is super late outside!

4. Avoid Screen Time Before Bed

During an age where technology is running our lives, it is no surprise that many young children have access to pcs, tablets, and television.

There is regular research in the area of how screen time affects sleep, especially in young children – the conclusion of much of this research is that screen time before bed is not advised as it can interfere with the body’s natural process of preparing for sleep.

Not something you want to promote during a bedtime routine.

5. Be Clear About Expectations

You are probably already thinking, I have tried this but they don’t understand. The truth is your three-year-old probably does and is using their cuteness to pull on those momma strings.

Explaining to your child that there is no more talking allowed because our brains are needing to rest will outline what you want from them. 

Please don’t think I am naïve to think this will work the first time around but setting your expectations from the start means they know exactly what you expect of them. With each night they will accept it is not playtime anymore.  

6. Allow Them To Relax

Using things like scent boosters in your little ones’ room can be effective to calm the craziness of the day. Lavender and chamomile are top scents that are proven to help with relaxation.

Why not spritz some into the air of your toddler’s bedroom? You must make sure you always follow the guidelines of the products you use. They are not going to be magic sprays but they can help the relaxation process. 

7. Magic Spray

Now talking of magic spray, I found myself ripped off our wonderful bedtime routine when my daughter reached about 2.5/3 years old. The main reason our routine was disrupted was because of those pesky monsters that tend to creep out of our children’s imagination.

I always thought why at night? But in hindsight, your child is usually and unknowingly processing the demands of their day and sometimes imaginations can get the better of them! 

After tons of research, I came across my magic spray!

These monsters were very real for my daughter so no amount of “it is not there” would have done in our scenario. Together we made a spray that defeated our bedtime monsters for good!

We included:

  • Wishing water – Lavender mist
  • Fairy dust – glitter
  • Dream dust – Bicarb (make sure you use the smallest amount just to get a bit of fizz)

Mixed together in a handy spray bottle my daughter added our monster spritz into our routine every night until she didn’t need to anymore!

8. Weighted Blanket

I have wanted one of these for so long to use for myself. They are therapy blankets that are weighted to give the user a slight pressure on their body. It aids relaxation and a restful night’s sleep.

These are usually tools used for children with behavioral and cognitive conditions but I am positive they would benefit at bedtime.

9. Tantrum Tilly

When trying out a few of these tips you will be faced with the dreaded tantrum. Maybe you feel that introducing a new routine is miles away from what you were doing and this is ok because what you were doing wasn’t working so now it is time to try something new.

But unfortunately for your toddler, this means that they are no longer in the driving seat of what they want when it comes to bedtime. 

With this in mind, you may find that you are faced with the ultimate screaming match. You have followed the routine, spritzed the magic spray, read books, cleaned teeth but your 3-year-old still doesn’t want to sleep? 

My advice is to Be prepared! 

It is easy to give in for an easy time, it is also easier to hear your child in a happy place rather than from a place of upset and rage but please please momma, do not give in to tantrums.

You are in charge and what mommy and daddy say goes! If it is bedtime then that is it bedtime it must be. Try and ensure that you and your partner are following the same steps so that your child understands that you are a force field that cannot be pushed over.

10. Getting The tone Right

When dealing with a stressed toddler it is hard not to raise your voice to try and put across your dominance and ensure that they know that you mean what you say.

What about if I were to say that raising voices at bedtime not only gets you worked up but also your child. Heard of the phrase any attention is good attention? This is exactly the same when it comes down to bedtime.

Your child is making you aware that they don’t want to go to sleep, and by winding you up to the point of shouting they are getting the very attention they want. The cant sleep when you are raising your voice right?

Try and set the tone as calmly as possible and ignore any whining, questions, etc. Repeat ‘it is bedtime’ and leave it at that. They will soon get bored!

11. Bath/Shower

This worked wonders for us in the beginning. Having a bath before bed allowed me to slip in some bedtime baby bath in the tub, wash their hair, and have some fun with them while unbeknown to them they started winding down for bed.

The scent and relaxation of the warm water really helped set that relaxing atmosphere. Of course, if you have a boisterous child who likes to splash about and in hindsight get wound up try a shower.

12. Snuggles Are Ok!

We are at a point where my daughter is finding it hard to let go. All she wants is her mom/dad to wait with her to fall asleep. As tempting as this is I have allowed us to have a snuggle before she falls asleep.

We get through the bedtime routine and sometimes just lay in the silence or sometimes we chat about her day. 

It is important not to let your child fall asleep whilst cuddling though! This can open a can of worms later on! make sure they are aware that snuggle time is over and sleep time is needed. 

13. Leave

I found this the hardest part of bedtime. The leave it method!

Some moms love it and other moms choose not to follow through but either way, choose you must, and do what is right for you.

Once you have ensured there is nothing else to complete in the bedtime routine it is time for sleep. You could leave, no talking, no negotiating just a clear explanation that it is time for our brains to rest.

When you leave you may be greeted with a wail, screams, or having your little one follow you.

If this is the case you need to calmly walk them back to their bed, no talking or eye contact, and again leave to stand guard.

You may be surprised with how quickly this can work or you may have to be stubborn about it but many moms swear by this method, no harm in trying?

The Final Thought

Overall you need to give yourself a break. You are reading and researching this article because you have recognized that your current bedtime routine isn’t great, this is the first step to getting a peaceful bedtime. 

Using these tips can help give you the motivation and balance you need to help reset bedtime in your home. There is no telling what war you may face whilst putting these rules into motion but you know that you are doing this for the health of your child. It is in their best interest and in the long run yours! 

You will find yourself pleasantly surprised by how easy it can become once you jump over the first few hurdles.