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I Let My Toddler Choose Her Own Bedtime — And I’ve Never Slept Better

flickr / Steven Depolo

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What were the best decisions you made as a parent to an infant or toddler?

Our daughter struggled with sleep from the beginning. Well, no, I take that back. She did nothing but sleep for the first 2 weeks of her life. I had to wake her up to feed her. Parenting is so easy! I thought.


Then, all of a sudden, she quit sleeping. For about 3 months we zombie walked around the house, wondering if we got a defective model.

When she was around 4 months old she started sleeping through the night. We thought we hit the jackpot.

Bahahaha. We were so young. So ignorant.

It lasted about 2 weeks.

For months, we spent countless hours swaddling and bouncing, rocking and shushing just trying to get her to sleep. We ended up bringing her into our bed, just for some relief. It was never our plan to co-sleep, but it happened because it had to happen. Otherwise, none of us would have ever slept.

After about a year, we decided it was time for sleep training. It was horrendous. No one slept for weeks. We gave up and back to our bed she went.

We wanted our evening quiet time and she needed to sleep.

When she got too big for her crib and too big for our bed, we bought her a toddler bed and spent hours upon hours holding her hand, rubbing her tummy, singing songs and telling stories, just trying to get her to sleep, please, for the love of God!

She didn’t want to sleep and there was nothing we could do to make her want to sleep. Sitting on her bedroom floor for hours, willing her to sleep as we read e-books about everything we were doing wrong as parents, accomplished nothing. Trying to make her stay in her bed just led to screaming. We wanted our evening quiet time and she needed to sleep.

So, we implemented a new rule. After all the tooth brushing, story reading, and songs, we allowed her to do whatever she pleased. There was only one rule: She had to stay in her room (except if she needed to visit the potty) with the lights off.

The screaming stopped. The bedtime dread ceased.

Now she plays in her room until she’s tired. Some nights she hops in bed right away and goes to sleep. Other nights, she stays up for an hour or so, reading to herself or playing with her dollhouse (we keep her closet light on, door open, so there’s plenty of light).

Every kid is different and you have to do what works for your individual child. For us, this works. It’s the best parenting decision we’ve ever made.

I think it’s also helping her get to know her body and respond to its cues. When her little brain and body tell her she needs to sleep, she does. The control is in her hands.

And our home is so much more peaceful after dark.

Michelle Hozey is the stay-at-home mom of a 4-year-old. Read more from Quora below: