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How to foster your baby’s autonomy during bedtime

baby with pacifier laying in bed

Key points
1. Children seek more autonomy as they enter a stage of self-definition and may resist bedtime.
2. Allowing children to participate in bedtime routines by making choices can help promote their autonomy.
3. Giving children a limited number of options, such as choosing pajamas or a bedtime story, can help them feel in control while still following a sleep schedule set by parents.
4. Parental guidance and establishing rules around sleep are still important, even when allowing children to make choices.


You’ve probably noticed that now your little one seeks more independence. They are entering a stage in which they begin to define what they like and don’t like, and want to exercise their autonomy. If your little one is going through this and you notice that they resist bedtime, a good piece of advice is to allow them to participate in the routine. Here are different ideas that you can try at home to encourage your child’s autonomy and help them enjoy bedtime.

Tips to promote my child’s autonomy

  • Continue implementing your regular bedtime routine, but allow them to express their opinion and to make their own choices.
    • When providing options, the trick is to only give two or three options among which to choose from. Make sure that the options are something that you would approve of.
  • Give them pajamas options, let them choose the story you’ll read together, which stuffed animal to sleep with, or even how many of them! Letting them participate will make your little one feel in control of their own decisions.
  • Decorate their room with their favorite stuffed animals, so they feel comfortable and enjoy being there.
  • Let your child choose their favorite night light.
  • Don’t ask your little one if they want to go to sleep or not, because they can answer “No!”. Instead, ask “Do you want to go to bed before or after listening to the goodnight story?”.

Remember that, even if you’re giving your child options to choose from, you are in charge of their sleep schedule. You have the final word, not your little one, so feel confident to establish the necessary rules for your child to sleep well. Sympathize with and listen to them. You can say: “I know you want to stay up, but it’s bedtime. Let’s choose your pajamas and the goodnight book”. You can also ask: “Do you want to brush your teeth before or after putting on your pajamas?”. Providing options allows you to reach your goal and fulfill your purpose as a parent: fostering your child’s autonomy while peacefully helping them do what’s best for their well-being.

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