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Why Won't My Toddler Let His Dad Put Him to Bed?

Photograph by Twenty20

Dear Heather,

Any advice on getting my 2-year-old to let Daddy put him down? We've been very patient with him about bedtime and don't force it at all, but he still refuses to let Daddy be the one to do it—even when we incorporate Daddy into the routine.

Bedtime Mom

Dear Bedtime,

It may not seem like it in the heat of the moment, but 2-year-olds are actually very adaptable little creatures. When it comes to bedtime routines, your son will get used to anything you do every night that is warm, loving, consistent and clear.

RELATED: My Perfect Crib Sleeper Won't Sleep In a Bed

Here’s a good routine for a 2-year-old,

  1. Bath
  2. Pajamas
  3. Read books/snuggle with Mom or Dad
  4. Sing two songs
  5. Kisses and goodnight

There’s nothing wrong with your son having a preference for his favorite bedtime person and the steps in your routine, so, if it’s OK with you, then I wouldn’t change a thing. However, if you need Dad to take over the going-to-sleep part, that’s very possible to do—as long as you stick to it.

Empathize with your son and his desire to have you be the one to put him in bed.

If you decided that, for two weeks, your husband was on bath duty every night, and you took the books and songs, your son would get used to it. Or if your husband took over for the whole routine, he could be the one to put your son in pajamas, read him stories and sing songs. You might have to do something slightly different or special to get your son over the hump of resisting Daddy taking those last steps (books and songs)—for example, reading with a special nightlight or flashlight, having your son pick the books or having Daddy create a funny or silly story with a cliffhanger that your son looks forward to. Something to divert his attention away from his usual pattern.

RELATED: How a Too-Good Night Routine Can Ruin Baby Sleep

Empathize with your son and his desire to have you be the one to put him in bed. Give him lots of hugs and kisses to take with him when you say goodnight and hand off to Dad. If he has feelings about the new way of doing things, you’ll need a clear and consistent way to respond to him—in "The Happy Sleeper" book, that’s what the Sleep Wave technique is for.

Happy sleeping!


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Do you have a sleep question you want Heather to answer for Sleep Fix? Email her at heatherturgeonmft@gmail.com. Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her Los Angeles-based sleep consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

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