How to Get Your Toddler to Go the F**k to Sleep

It happens to every dad. You’re feeling good about yourself. You’ve got the routine down. Bath time. Chocolate milk. Brush their teeth. Read them a book. Rock them. Say your prayers. Lights out. 

At least that’s how it’s been going up until now. For some reason, your toddler has started screaming bloody murder everytime you get them ready for bed. 

One more story? Sure, maybe that will work. “Once upon a time…” You head towards the door and WAAHHHHHHHHHH. 

Rock you one more time? Sure, that will definitely do the trick. Nope. Nothing but screaming… all the time. For hours… 

What do you do? Give up and start drowning your sorrows with a bottle of whiskey? That’s one option for sure. And maybe not the worst one. 

But before you go there, let’s acknowledge that this is a phase and it will pass. Even if it seems like it’s never going to end. Ever. It will. 

So before you open that bottle of whiskey, let’s talk about some of the common reasons why your kid may be having trouble going to sleep and ways you can put them down successfully, without an extra shot of benadryl: 

Reason 1 for No Sleepy Time: They think they are the sh*t

Yep. Your toddler thinks they run the show and they are starting to claim their independence. Your kid is finally learning how to say “NO” and one of the best ways they can do that is to refuse to go to bed. 

Time to show your kid who’s really boss… while also being the supportive, loving dad that you are. Next time you kiddo won’t stop screaming before bedtime, try out a method called Controlled Crying. 

Once your little angel starts their first screaming fit, give them a few minutes to yell their little hearts out. Then head on into their room and comfort them for a few moments. 

Don’t pick them up, or rock them - that just assures them that “Yep - I won!” Instead just reach over their crib and give them a few pats and tell them that it’s bedtime and it’s time to go to sleep. Then head for the door. 

Odds are they are still going to be screaming - kids sure are defiant little things aren’t they? Almost makes you proud. Almost.

Give them a few more minutes and go and repeat the process. 

At some point your kid is going to get it through their head that they are not going to get another story, they are not going to get rocked, and that it is actually is bedtime. 

You definitely need some patience to use this method, because it can last a while. But over time it will work for you. 

Reason 2 for No Sleepy Time: There is a huge monster under their bed that’s going to murder the whole family as soon as they go to sleep

Well… at least that’s what your toddler thinks. As their mind starts to develop and wander, they may be a little scaredy-scared of the dark. 

Here’s a few things you can do to show them there’s not a monster in their closet, besides going all “Major Payne” and breaking out the 9MM. Side note - if you haven’t seen that movie, first of all - what’s wrong with you? And second of all, Damon Wayans is hilarious. In this scene in the movie, one of his JRTC students says there is a monster in the closet and he can’t go to sleep so Major Payne drops five or six 9mm rounds into the closet and says “If he’s still in there, he ain’t happy”. Hilarious, and effective. 

But without wasting precious rounds, or getting the cops called on you by the neighbors, here’s four things you can do to comfort your little one: 

  1. Get them a night light
  2. Make a bottle of Monster Spray (i.e. water…) and spray it around the room before bed to make the monsters go away 
  3. Close all Closet Doors - everyone knows that’s where the monsters hide 
  4. Remind them to stop being stupid, monsters aren’t real 

Reason 3 for No Sleepy Time: Maybe they really are sick and aren’t just a liar 

Let’s be honest. Kids are liars. But, maybe for once they are actually telling the truth and don’t feel well. 

If screaming continues and they are acting out of the sorts, go ahead and go through your medical rounds. 

Check their temperature, check their ears (my kids get ear infections like every other week…), make sure they don’t have any rashes, etc. 

Reason 4 for No Sleepy Time: They are used to partying before bed

You may need to adjust their bedtime routine to see some real results here. If they are used to staying up and watching Princess Elana of Avalor for 2 straight hours before bed, it’s probably not going to end well for you. Try a couple of these things instead: 

1. Make your bedtime routine longer

Start getting ready for bed a little bit sooner than you usually do. This allows your kid to get into “bedtime zone” longer, and will make them more apt to fall asleep faster. Try reading a couple of more stories, or start bathtime earlier. Really just anything to get the winding down period started. 

2. Cut out TV or iPad Time

We all do it. It’s so easy to just give your kid the iPad and let them watch Blippi for 20 minutes while you do the dishes. But TV and iPad’s really stimulate your kid and get them amped up, not ready for bedtime. Instead, switch them to books or puzzles before bedtime. 

So before you totally give up, cry in the corner, and drown yourself with bourbon, try the above tips and see if you can actually get your kid to sleep. 

And if none of those work, well - it might be time to pull Major Payne routine. Just be ready to explain it to the cops. 

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