Getting Your Toddler to Stay In Bed

So you want your toddler to stay in bed, huh? I’m assuming you have graduated from a crib to a toddler bed if you are here. And now that your sweet little angel can break free at a moments notice, I know you are wondering what to do. Here are 9 ideas to consider when your angel tests his new found freedom:

1. Aquire the appropriate tools

You probably took him to the store to pick out bedding, you made a HUGE deal about the BIG BOY (or GIRL) bed. Maybe you went all out and redid their entire room.

2. Continue Established Bedtime Routines, Discuss Expectations

You did bedtime, discussed expectations, and quietly walked away so to begin your evening of peace. Great job, Mama! You did it! But then that little shit comes wandering down the hall again, and again, and again. Uhh.. junior, we talked about this, remember? It’s bedtime.

3. Guide Your Child Back to Bed with Little to No Interaction

If you do it the way the blogs and books tell you – you quietly guide him back to his room and tell him it is time for bed.

4. Secure Your Child in Bed so that they Cannot Escape

You repeat step three 5,280 times until you realize you need a queen size sheet and wrap it around his toddler bed so many times he can’t get out. Your origami skills are really coming in handy now! Maybe your sweet little one even thinks its a fun game watching you contort and twist the mattress around creating a human cocoon. There is no getting out of bed now.

But then, just as caterpillars always do – your little one busts through your perfectly crafted cocoon to become a butterfly. But this is no butterfly. No, butterflies sleep at night. At least I think they do. This is a moth, drawn to the glowing lights of your family room. Retreating to the darkness only temporarily until he returns yet again.

5. Close Door to Encourage Child to Stay in Bed

By now, I can guarantee you are freaked out. If you are like me – you don’t like bugs. Especially not huge, child sized moths with super human strength. You lure your little one back to his bed.

Your only option is to shut the door, sitting quietly on the other side listening for signs of resistance. You look at the handle in horror as it slowly begins to turn. Oh shit.

6. Lock Door. From the outside. It just got real.  

Ok Mama, think fast. Obviously the only thing to do is grab that door handle and hold the door shut. (I find the best strategy is to place my foot firmly at the base of the door and lean all my weight back. Don’t worry about falling, you probably won’t, assuming you have a firm grip on the knob.)

You listen to your little monster throw himself at the door. He screams. He flails. Wait, did he lick my foot through the door crack? I think he did. How? You never actually figure that part out, but after 45 minutes the screams turn to whimpers, the whimpers go silent. Your foot has completely dried. You slowly open the door to find junior asleep in a ball on the floor. You carry him to his bed, silently cursing the day he learned to climb out of his crib.

The next day you install a lock on his door. From the outside. Obviously it’s not humane to lock a toddler in his room at bedtime, but I think we can all agree locking up a child sized monster moth is ok. Well Mama, monster moths are quick to adapt. And never in a good way – what was supposed to be a one week transition period turned into a six month experiment finding the best path to outrun your toddler as he chases you to his bedroom door, throwing every finger and limb in the way before you can shut the door without any major injuries.

7. Push Bedtime Back 

If you are like me, you find yourself pushing bedtime back further and further to avoid the drama that is sure to ensue.

8. Re-evalute – Compromise  

After six months of bedtime drama, in a moment of weakness, you tell Junior you will leave his door open if he PROMISES to stay in bed. Feeling generous, you offer to come back and check on him. And you do, you compliment him for staying in bed, saying you will come back again in a few minutes. And you do, but then – something magical happens – he is asleep. Just like that, asleep.

9. Begin Counseling

So what are the deliverables here? To lock your kid in his room and let things sort themselves out? You can try it. To push bedtime back? I actually did find that helped a lot.  And when my son dropped his nap, it made bedtime a breeze. But mostly just go with the flow and do what feels right in the moment. It will all work itself out. And after years of therapy, you might be able to laugh at these times. At least that’s what my therapist tells me. Good luck, Mama. Believe it or not, you’re doing great!


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