My best strategy is to avoid the topic. I do it by telling them it's time to say "See you later" to their brother, Jake, while he's quietly doing his homework.
They go kiss him and toddle upstairs with me under the premise of "going to visit Jake's room" which is normally off-limits to them. I give them a few minutes to look at his trophy collection, see his pictures and framed collectibles on the walls, then we lock the door and exit.
Next it's on to their toy room. We play for about 8-10 minutes with some of their quiet toys, not the screeching airplane or the fire truck with a working siren. We read books, build blocks and talk to their stuffed animals.
One by one, I then take each toddler to bed, rock them gently and sing a little good-night song. It's a routine that works well for us. It's especially effective if Hunter is the last one to bed. He prefers when I tell him Zeke is already sleeping. (A competitive thing I guess!)
There are many great nighttime routines you can try to soothe and relax your toddler. Check out the website What to Expect for wonderful ideas.
1. Have a nightly bath time with tub toys and warm jammies waiting.
2. Give them a snack like milk and an oatmeal cookie. You could also try crackers and cheese, yogurt or cereal. Any combination of protein and carbohydrates helps to last them until morning.
3. Brush their teeth and turn it into a game like you're looking for gold, counting their teeth, etc.
4. Let them say goodnight to their favorite toys, limiting it to 2 or 3. You can kiss their dolls or stuffed animals or just name a few items in the room, like in the book "Goodnight, Moon."
5. Include a story. My twins have several favorite books and they'll run right to bed if I say we're going to read about the Pilgrims or read "Go, Dog, Go"
6. Definitely end the day with a kiss and hug and a combination of your favorites sayings, "Good night. Sleep tight. See you in the morning."
Bedtime can be the sweetest time of day with your toddler. However it can also include meltdowns, protests and punishments. (Obviously the former is better than the latter.)
Try to make your routine something you can do every night so that it becomes predictable, enjoyable and stress-free for both of you!