28 01, 2019

Crib To Bed Transition

January 28th, 2019|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep, Transition Tips|

Here it comes; the crib to bed transition. Are you ready?

There comes a time in every child’s life when they outgrow their crib, both physically and developmentally. As much as we may want them to stay little forever, this can be an exciting milestone in your child’s life.

The crib to bed transition is when a child is ready to make the move out of their crib and into a more traditional ‘bed’ style sleeping surface. Whether they are cognitivally ready or developmentally, it has to happen sooner or later.

Tip One: Timing is Everything

As with everything in child sleep development, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ for tackling this transition. And while, many parents will move their toddler between the ages of two and four, I recommend waiting as long as possible. Personally, I find that when this transition happens after three years of age, it goes very smoothly.

Older and Wiser

The reason I recommend waiting until your toddler is three years old before making this transition is three-fold.

First at this age, your child’s impulse control is more developed.

They have learned, and are still learning, to control their impulses. At a younger age, they will act without thinking, which will not make for a smooth transition. At three years old, they might have the desire to get out of bed, but they are learning to rationalize and control these impulses.

Second, at three years old, most children have a pretty firm understanding of rules.
Threenagers have a much better understanding of boundaries and consequences should rules be broken, than their two year old counterparts.

Setting firm limits that your child can understand and adhere to, will help make the crib to big kid bed transition smoother for the both of you.

Lastly, kids can feel overwhelmed when their familiar crib is gone.

A crib can provide a  familiar sense of security, even to those kids who are physically outgrowing it.  When we remove them from it, it can feel a bit unusual and somewhat disrupting to a young child.

Waiting until they are three years old can help avoid this as they are more developed and emotionally equipped to deal with the transition into a new sleep setting.

How to make the crib to bed transition

As with any transition, there are steps to follow to help the situation go smoothly. Once you have decided your child is ready to transition to a big kid bed, here are more tips to consider.

Tip Two: Talk to them

In the lead up to this transition, you can talk to your child about it and explain what is going to happen. Keep it fun and upbeat so that they are excited about the move.

This will help them prepare mentally and emotionally for the switch, rather than having their crib disappear all of a sudden. When talking to them, it’s kind of like you’re trying to ‘sell’ them on the idea of a big kid bed.

Whatever you feel your child will respond best to, use it. You may want to say that it means they’re more grown up, they’ll have more room in the bed as opposed to a crib and/or it will be more comfortable for them.

Tip Three: Activities to Prepare

Another fun activity to help sell them on the idea of moving beds is to select some new accessories together.

You can go shopping for new bedding and sheets, and maybe some new cuddly toys for the bed too.

Countdown calendars can be good fun and a great way to prepare your child, but if you choose to use a countdown calendar, don’t let it go on for more than a few days.

Tip Four: Taking Ownership

Allow them to take ownership, within reason, of this transition. You could let them choose where in the room they would like their big kid bed to be placed, which stuffies to have on their bed, or which sheets and pillows they want.

Try and let this transition happen in a way that feels fun and exciting and like they have control over the transition.

Tip Five: Set Your Child Up for Success With Expectations

Are you familiar with the story; If You Give A Mouse a Cookie? It can serve as a cautionary tale of what happens if you give a toddler a bed without rules. 😉

Bedtimes can easily spin out of control as toddlers are notorious for trying to test limits (and your patience).

Want to keep bedtimes on track before make the crib to bed transition? Get tips on bedtimes, night wakings and more by downloading your copy of : Sleep Solutions for Toddlers + Preschoolers: Easy Tips for Exhausted Parents

To cut down on the requests for multiple glasses of water, stories and hugs, I highly recommend setting up a simple list of expectations.

Not only does this help your little one again take ownership of their sleep routine, but it creates a very specific outline for them to follow.

When creating the the rules or expectations, make it into a fun activity with your child get their input into it.

Make sure that you give clear instructions on what is expected, but don’t over complicate the rules. They need to be simple and unambiguous.

Tip Six: Good Day Sunshine!

While it’s important to set rules and expectations around bed time and going to sleep, don’t overlook the morning and waking up.

Does your child know what to do when they wake up in the morning?

What time is acceptable to start the day?

Should they come out of their room by themselves?

Should they call for you?

When creating rules around morning wake up, remember to keep them realistic! If they tend to wake up around 6:00am, asking them to wait until 7:00am is too long for most young children.  You can always work towards that as a goal, but in the beginning, to help them feel successful, keep the interval much shorter.

Tip Seven: Consistency is Your Friend

It’s very important that you stick to the rules strictly in the first two weeks of the transition from crib to bed. This is the time where your toddler will test you and the boundaries that have been set.  

If you give in or give up, you set the tone for them to continue that behaviour in the future. They can only be as consistent as you are. 

Tip Eight: Follow Through With Logical Consequences

When (not, *if*) they break the rules follow through and employ logical consequences. However keep in mind, this is very different from a punishment.

Punishments breed shame and resent and never help the child to learn.

Consequences are respectful ways for the child to realize the direct impact their choice has.

When deciding on consequences, in order for them to be relevant, respectful and a teaching opportunity, they should be directly related to the mistake the child made.

For example, if they came out of their room at night, the logical consequence may be that they don’t go to the park the next day because they didn’t get a good sleep and are too tired.

While it’s important to ensure there are consequences for their actions, don’t shame, blame or manipulate. Avoid getting into power struggles with them, just have respectful consequences and they will catch on very, very quickly. 

Conquer the Crib to Bed Transition

No transition is easy for you or your child.

Believe me.

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

However, at three years old, your toddler is more developed and able to cope with and understand transitions. Unlike a the two-to-three nap transition which happens at a much younger age, you can have more rational conversations with your three year old to help them understand what is happening and why.

The crib to big kid bed transition can be an exciting one for your child, as long as you present it that way. If you’re stressed about it, your child will pick up on that and be worried too.

Remember that while this has every possibility to be an exciting time, it’s still a new way of doing things, so rules and boundaries need to be set.
Set clear expectations, and follow through with helping your child learn through logical consequences.

Kids are quick learners and before you know it, your toddler will easily be going to sleep in their new bed each and every night.

Need more help getting your toddler’s sleep on track? Grab your free copy of Sleep Solutions for Toddler + Preschoolers; Easy Tips for Exhausted Parents.  

Tired of reading?

Ready for action?

Schedule your consultation today, so you can start sleeping better tomorrow.

27 01, 2019

Crib To Bed Transition

January 27th, 2019|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep, Transition Tips|

Here it comes; the crib to bed transition. Are you ready?

There comes a time in every child’s life when they outgrow their crib, both physically and developmentally. As much as we may want them to stay little forever, this can be an exciting milestone in your child’s life.

The crib to bed transition is when a child is ready to make the move out of their crib and into a more traditional ‘bed’ style sleeping surface. Whether they are cognitivally ready or developmentally, it has to happen sooner or later.

Tip One: Timing is Everything

As with everything in child sleep development, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ for tackling this transition. And while, many parents will move their toddler between the ages of two and four, I recommend waiting as long as possible. Personally, I find that when this transition happens after three years of age, it goes very smoothly.

Older and Wiser

The reason I recommend waiting until your toddler is three years old before making this transition is three-fold.

First at this age, your child’s impulse control is more developed.

They have learned, and are still learning, to control their impulses. At a younger age, they will act without thinking, which will not make for a smooth transition. At three years old, they might have the desire to get out of bed, but they are learning to rationalize and control these impulses.

Second, at three years old, most children have a pretty firm understanding of rules.
Threenagers have a much better understanding of boundaries and consequences should rules be broken, than their two year old counterparts.

Setting firm limits that your child can understand and adhere to, will help make the crib to big kid bed transition smoother for the both of you.

Lastly, kids can feel overwhelmed when their familiar crib is gone.

A crib can provide a  familiar sense of security, even to those kids who are physically outgrowing it.  When we remove them from it, it can feel a bit unusual and somewhat disrupting to a young child.

Waiting until they are three years old can help avoid this as they are more developed and emotionally equipped to deal with the transition into a new sleep setting.

How to make the crib to bed transition

As with any transition, there are steps to follow to help the situation go smoothly. Once you have decided your child is ready to transition to a big kid bed, here are more tips to consider.

Tip Two: Talk to them

In the lead up to this transition, you can talk to your child about it and explain what is going to happen. Keep it fun and upbeat so that they are excited about the move.

This will help them prepare mentally and emotionally for the switch, rather than having their crib disappear all of a sudden. When talking to them, it’s kind of like you’re trying to ‘sell’ them on the idea of a big kid bed.

Whatever you feel your child will respond best to, use it. You may want to say that it means they’re more grown up, they’ll have more room in the bed as opposed to a crib and/or it will be more comfortable for them.

Tip Three: Activities to Prepare

Another fun activity to help sell them on the idea of moving beds is to select some new accessories together.

You can go shopping for new bedding and sheets, and maybe some new cuddly toys for the bed too.

Countdown calendars can be good fun and a great way to prepare your child, but if you choose to use a countdown calendar, don’t let it go on for more than a few days.

Tip Four: Taking Ownership

Allow them to take ownership, within reason, of this transition. You could let them choose where in the room they would like their big kid bed to be placed, which stuffies to have on their bed, or which sheets and pillows they want.

Try and let this transition happen in a way that feels fun and exciting and like they have control over the transition.

Tip Five: Set Your Child Up for Success With Expectations

Are you familiar with the story; If You Give A Mouse a Cookie? It can serve as a cautionary tale of what happens if you give a toddler a bed without rules. 😉

Bedtimes can easily spin out of control as toddlers are notorious for trying to test limits (and your patience).

Want to keep bedtimes on track before make the crib to bed transition? Get tips on bedtimes, night wakings and more by downloading your copy of : Sleep Solutions for Toddlers + Preschoolers: Easy Tips for Exhausted Parents

To cut down on the requests for multiple glasses of water, stories and hugs, I highly recommend setting up a simple list of expectations.

Not only does this help your little one again take ownership of their sleep routine, but it creates a very specific outline for them to follow.

When creating the the rules or expectations, make it into a fun activity with your child get their input into it.

Make sure that you give clear instructions on what is expected, but don’t over complicate the rules. They need to be simple and unambiguous.

Tip Six: Good Day Sunshine!

While it’s important to set rules and expectations around bed time and going to sleep, don’t overlook the morning and waking up.

Does your child know what to do when they wake up in the morning?

What time is acceptable to start the day?

Should they come out of their room by themselves?

Should they call for you?

When creating rules around morning wake up, remember to keep them realistic! If they tend to wake up around 6:00am, asking them to wait until 7:00am is too long for most young children.  You can always work towards that as a goal, but in the beginning, to help them feel successful, keep the interval much shorter.

Tip Seven: Consistency is Your Friend

It’s very important that you stick to the rules strictly in the first two weeks of the transition from crib to bed. This is the time where your toddler will test you and the boundaries that have been set.  

If you give in or give up, you set the tone for them to continue that behaviour in the future. They can only be as consistent as you are. 

Tip Eight: Follow Through With Logical Consequences

When (not, *if*) they break the rules follow through and employ logical consequences. However keep in mind, this is very different from a punishment.

Punishments breed shame and resent and never help the child to learn.

Consequences are respectful ways for the child to realize the direct impact their choice has.

When deciding on consequences, in order for them to be relevant, respectful and a teaching opportunity, they should be directly related to the mistake the child made.

For example, if they came out of their room at night, the logical consequence may be that they don’t go to the park the next day because they didn’t get a good sleep and are too tired.

While it’s important to ensure there are consequences for their actions, don’t shame, blame or manipulate. Avoid getting into power struggles with them, just have respectful consequences and they will catch on very, very quickly. 

Conquer the Crib to Bed Transition

No transition is easy for you or your child.

Believe me.

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

However, at three years old, your toddler is more developed and able to cope with and understand transitions. Unlike a the two-to-three nap transition which happens at a much younger age, you can have more rational conversations with your three year old to help them understand what is happening and why.

The crib to big kid bed transition can be an exciting one for your child, as long as you present it that way. If you’re stressed about it, your child will pick up on that and be worried too.

Remember that while this has every possibility to be an exciting time, it’s still a new way of doing things, so rules and boundaries need to be set.
Set clear expectations, and follow through with helping your child learn through logical consequences.

Kids are quick learners and before you know it, your toddler will easily be going to sleep in their new bed each and every night.

Need more help getting your toddler’s sleep on track? Grab your free copy of Sleep Solutions for Toddler + Preschoolers; Easy Tips for Exhausted Parents. 

1 10, 2018

Night Terrors & Nightmares; How To Help Your Child Sleep

October 1st, 2018|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|

Night Wakings, Night Terrors, & Nightmares-how to help your child manage all three

Halloween is coming! And with this season comes with an assortment of monsters, goblins and ghosts – oh my!

For some, this festive season is all in good spirits. For others, such as our little ones, it can be all too new and terrifying. The imaginations of children can be affected by the scary sights that are flying around at this time of year. Their brains are working on overtime trying to process it all and this can cause bad dreams.

How should you handle situations where your toddlers and preschoolers are scared and waking up at night? Is it really nightmares, or something else entirely?

First, it’s important to note that there are three common types of night wakings:

  • Overtired night wakings
  • Night terrors
  • Nightmares

Let’s look at each in a bit more detail.

Overtired Night Wakings

Did you know that no one really sleeps right the way through the night? Especially not children! We all go through periods of rest and brief wakefulness.  As you can see in the following image, our children’s sleep cycle lasts approximately forty five minutes. Once a cycle is complete, they will partially wake up before entering another cycle.

4 month old sleeep

You usually enter and exit these cycles seamlessly. However, children can become overtired due to an increase in stimulating hormones in the body. This will increase the chances of waking during the night when children are trying to transition through the different stages of their sleep cycles.

The Solution To Night Wakings

The solution to night waking is simple (in theory 😉 ). Make sure your child is well rested and getting the right amount of sleep based on their needs.

It goes without saying, but if they’re over tired they need a few days with earlier bedtimes. This will help them to catch up on the deep sleep cycles that occur early on in the night.

In addition, have a soothing wind down routine, dark sleep environment to encourage their body and brain to settle for the night.  Finally, work towards weaning their dependency of sleep props if it is disrupting their ability to transition through sleep cycles at night.

Night Terrors

Night terrors are not a pleasant experience for the child and parents. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the phenomenon, during a night terror your child may have their eyes open and appear to be awake. They might yell, scream and thrash uncontrollably. Your attempts to soothe them will go unacknowledged until all of a sudden they ‘snap out of it’ and come to. This will leave both you and your child confused.

Technically speaking, night terrors, less commonly known as a Confusional Event, occur when part of the child’s brain remains asleep although their eyes are open. When they overcome the night terror they won’t remember what has happened. This might seem similar to a nightmare, but it isn’t. No dreaming occurs during the sleep cycle when night terrors take place. Night terrors tend to happen during NREM sleep  and in the first four hours of sleep.

The Solution To Night Terrors

Like regular night wakings, night terrors can be associated with a child being over tired. Make sure they are getting the right amount of sleep and be sure to allow them earlier bedtimes if they’re lacking sleep.

Night terrors can also happen if the child is too warm. Watch that their bedroom temperature stays between 17-21 C (62-69 F). Dress them in warmer pajamas and have a cooler room temperature. This is better for the body than wearing cooler clothes and having a warm room temperature.

Nightmares

Nightmares and night terrors often get confused with one another. But nightmares differ from night terrors for a few reasons.

  • Nightmares happen during REM sleep whereas night terrors occur during the NREM sleep phase
  • Because of this, nightmares tend to happen later during the night
  • The child will usually remember their nightmare or at least know that it’s the reason why they woke. Children won’t remember their night terrors and may even fall back asleep after one unless woken by a parent

The Solution To Nightmares

Children waking due to nightmares is a common worry I see among my clients. The good news is that nightmares don’t actually happen as often as you might think. I see more night wakings happening in children that are caused by sleep debts and over-tiredness. This is more of a concern than nightmares.

That’s not to say that nightmares don’t happen.  Incidences of nightmares usually peak between the ages of 3-6 years of age and can be brought on by a number of things. More often than not, it’s simply brought on by growing up and being aware that negative or scary things exist.

If a child is dealing with anxiety or stress brought on by changes in their lives such as starting school or a new sibling coming into the family, this can also trigger nightmares. Or, the child may simply have an overactive imagination.

Validate Their Feelings, Not the Fear Itself

When your child has a nightmare, reassure them that the dream wasn’t real and validate their feelings. At the same time, be careful to not validate the actual fear itself. 

Sometimes, in their efforts to reassure a child, parents will start to do a “monster check” or spray a supposedly magic potion to keep them away. But doing this implies that there are actually monsters to check for, or bad things that require a magical potion.

Instead offer gentle reassurance, love and support after a bad dream. Give them the tools to work at building their confidence up. For example; if they are very upset you could try to help them by rewriting the dream and giving it a funny or silly ending.

This not only conveys the message that the dream wasn’t real, but empowers your child to manage their feelings upon waking.

Watch What Your Child Watches

Children have wild imaginations-it can be what makes them so fun to be around.  But many young children are very sensitive and even some cartoons and movies that are targeted for younger audiences can be too scary.

I once made the mistake of letting my daughter watch The Lion King. She was already in school, so I thought it would be fine. However, the hyenas scene bothered her for a few weeks.

We had many conversations about how it wasn’t real, along with ideas of what she could focus on at bedtime instead, such as her favourite parts of her day, what we would do on the weekend, etc.

After that, I always took into account her sensitive nature before viewing other movies.

Limit Electronics Before Bed

It may also be a good idea in some circumstances to monitor and limit the amount of TV your child is watching before they go to bed.

It is recommended to shut TV or similar electronics off 60-90 minutes before bedtime to encourage melatonin release and help your child wind down. This can also help your little one to not incorporate anything too confusing or scary into their dreams at night.

8 takeaways to help you and your toddler sleep easy

  • Make sure they’re getting the right amount of sleep for their needs
  • Give them earlier bedtimes to help them catch up on their sleep cycles
  • Make sure their room is a good temperature
  • Validate their feelings, but don’t encourage the fear
  • Reassure and comfort them
  • Help them to learn coping mechanisms
  • Limit TV exposure before bedtime

When our little ones wake at night, it’s important that we understand the reason, so that we can help them get back to sleep quickly and efficiently. Whether it’s an over-tired night waking, night terror or nightmare, there are several tips and tools you can use to help everyone get the rest they need.

Want more sleep tips for your toddler or preschooler? Grab your free copy of Sleep Solutions for Toddler + Preschoolers; Easy Tips for Exhausted Parents

28 08, 2018

Back-To-School Sleep Routines; How to Recover From Summer

August 28th, 2018|Categories: Preschooler Sleep|Tags: |

Have you ever heard of the “summer slide”? It’s the term given to the idea that students lose some of their academic skills over the summer.

But when it comes to sleep, children experience a different kind of summer slide. One that involves later nights, a more fluid routine and less sleep overall.

As we enter the new school year, it’s important that our children are refreshed, rested and ready to tackle the year ahead. Here are some tips to get your little scholar’s sleep back on track.

Wind Down Routine

The first step is to create a relaxing pre-sleep routine that is easily repeatable. This wind down routine helps your child’s body gear down, cue their brain to release the sleep hormones, and set the stage for sleep.

Depending on the age of your child, their wind down routine may include;

  • a warm bath,
  • bed time stretches or yoga,
  • reading books,
  • writing in a journal
  • cuddles with a parent

Whatever you and your child choose, you want to repeat a variation of it each night. This creates a cue for the brain and helps the body to relax quickly and settle down for a good night’s sleep.

The Right Time for Bedtime

Children under the age of 6 can require up 12 hours of sleep each night. However, if they are going to bed too late and waking up early for school, they will miss out on precious hours each night. This can leave kids overtired, and unable to fulfil their full learning potential. To conquer this, make sure your child is getting the right amount of sleep each night in the days and weeks leading up to the beginning of school.

To do this, you need to look at when they will need to be awake each morning and count backwards from there.

For instance, if your child must be awake by 7:00am in order to get to preschool or the bus stop in time, count backwards the amount of hours they need to get a full rest. That is when bedtime needs to be placed.

So if they on average sleep 11 hours at night, with a 7:00am wake up time, they need to be asleep by 8:00pm.

If bedtime has been later or, morning wake up will need to be earlier than it is now, you can start adjusting their routine ahead of time. This gives their internal body clock time to adjust gradually.

Add Sleep to the Shopping List

If you’re like me and excited to purchase the back-to-school supplies, be sure to add sleep supplies to that list. We want our young students to get the most restful sleep possible and that means being comfortable and cozy.

New pajamas, sheets, pillows, are always a special treat. But don’t forget to shop for their sleep environment too. Black out blinds to help with early bedtimes and morning wake ups are important, as well as white noise machines to mask the noises from the older siblings, family pets or street traffic.

If you’re creating a new wind down routine as mentioned previously, this is also the time to find a special journal to write in, or new books that can become old favourites.

Be Mindful of After School Activities

Now this tip isn’t necessarily for the time before school starts, but after. Starting school, for anyone, especially those in preschool, kindergarten or full-time days, is a huge adjustment. Not only emotionally, but physically. Children often need more sleep in the first few months as their body adjusts to these big changes.

Therefore when registering them for after school activities, be mindful of this. Consider when these start and end as well as the driving time involved.

If they mean your little one will be getting to bed later on a week night, you may want to consider doing a weekend activity instead or, doing it in the spring once they have adjusted.

As much as we want our children to be well-rounded and have a multitude of experiences, they won’t enjoy them if they’re exhausted. More importantly, not getting enough sleep will also hinder their focus, attention and behaviour at school.

We all enjoyed the lazy-hazy days of summer, but now it’s time to get back into a regular routine. Don’t worry if the summer slide hit your household. By following the tips above, your children be ready for the school year ahead-bright-eyed and well-rested.

 

 

 

16 08, 2017

The End of Toddler Bedtime Battles

August 16th, 2017|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|

It’s bedtime.

You have a two year old…

“Let the (toddler bedtime) gamessssssss, BEGIN!

You see your toddler yawn and rub her eyes. Glancing at the clock you realize bedtime is on its way.

You decide to get her to pick up her toys by “making it a game” like the last parenting blog you read had suggested, but it only results in you playing the “game” alone as she starts to dance around you.

After bath, she proceeds to run around naked while you desperately try to get her dressed. Finally catching her you get her PJs on in a manner that you imagine it would be like to dress a goat.

Next comes potty time. You’re getting more tired and it’s not even your bedtime, but she seems to have even more energy-how is that possible? But you see her rub her eyes again.

Bedtime snack follows. She complains about it and starts crying. And yawns again. You quickly get her another snack and then take her to her room.

There (and after finally getting her to stop jumping on the bed), you think your work is done. But you hear;

One more story

“I have to pee”

“Why is the sky blue?”

“I need a hug”

“I have to pee again”

After honouring all the requests, you leave the room.

Collapsing on the couch, you marvel at your child’s ability to stall. Putting your feet up, you turn on the TV and hear her door open. You meet her in the hallway and decide that it may be easier to just lie down with her.

“It’ll only be for a few minutes” you say to yourself, but aren’t able to leave until forty-five minutes later.

Annnnnd *scene*.

Did I just describe your nightly ritual?

Most of the parents I help experience some, if not all, of the previous scenario during bedtime. The good news is that this can be a thing of the past.

Change Your Frame of Mind

When I help parents, the first issue we work on, is mom and dad’s mindset.

They have been stuck in a cycle of doing all the work during their toddler’s bedtime and (understandably) truly believe their child needs 37 glasses of water and 24 songs, in order to fall asleep.

But there is a difference between a need and a want. The child doesn’t need the water, they want it.

Because the parent has (out of love and desperation) regularly been accommodating their wants, the child begins to expect it each night, and it quickly develops into what is called a sleep association.

To be able to fall asleep independently though, without the sleep associations, parents must believe that their child  is capable of learning this valuable skill.  Before they can change their child’s habits, they must change their own.

The transition from constantly helping a baby, to, stepping back and allowing a toddler to be more independent, can be a little scary and let’s be honest; a little bittersweet. But the good news is that parents don’t have to do all the work anymore. Their child can start to take ownership of bedtime.

Solution

When mom and dad are able to trust in their child’s ability, we see amazing progress in a very short time. Children begin to feel their parents confidence. So set the bar higher and be amazed when they rise to the occasion!

If you find yourself worrying that your toddler can’t sleep without you, or without all the “stuff” you’ve been doing for her, ask yourself these two questions;

“Does my child behave differently for me than for other family members?”

“Does my child go to sleep easier for another caregiver such as a daycare worker, grandparent or relative?”

95% of the parents I work with say yes to one or both questions. Why is that? It’s not that your child likes them better, that they are more skilled or have a magical formula.

It’s because;

  •  your child feels the most safe with you (really, her tantrums are a compliment 😉 ),
  • she knows what buttons to push (It’s not manipulation, it’s nature. Toddlers are hard-wired to test limits.) and
  • your child is incredibly smart by this age and understands cause and effect

To begin, start working on your mindset when it comes to your child.  Every time you catch yourself thinking “my child needs me to….”, reframe the sentence to “my child wants me to…”.  

As simple as it sounds, by consciously thinking about the situation differently, your brain will begin to frame your thinking about bedtime differently. too. It will give you the clarity in the moment, stopping you from responding on autopilot.

Toddler Bedtime Battles Got You Down?

Get your FREE copy of Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night

Next, make a list of all the things your toddler can do. If they can follow instructions through the day, list that off, if they can play independently, write that down. Whatever it is, even the smallest task, make a note of it.

Third, review it and see how those skills can transfer to bedtime.

Recognize that if your little one usually is able to get their shoes or jacket out when you ask, they will also be able to get their toothbrush out when you ask.

If they can choose a shirt in the morning, they can choose their PJs or a stuffed animal to sleep with at night.

Finally, pick one or two areas that your child can start doing and implement that each night. Not only will this give your child some ownership, but it will help you to see how quickly they can learn a new skill.

Understand, Acknowledge and Deal With Your Fear

“Wait, what?!? I’m tired, not scared.

Well, maybe I’m scared I’ll never sleep again…”

Ok, so hear me out.

Often we feel that there are many external reasons why our children aren’t sleeping well such as;

  • Molars,
  • Not enough outdoor time,
  • Weren’t at daycare that day and aren’t tired out
  • Were at daycare that day and are overstimulated
  • Company stayed late,
  • Another sibling/parent/friend revved them up.

The list goes on.

But as much as we want to blame external factors, most of the time, it’s because of us.

And I lovingly say this without judgement because I’ve gone down this road, too and speak from experience. But us parents are usually the main reason why bedtime spirals out of control. And the reasoning lies deeply-seated, almost unconsciously in fear.

The fear of the unknown, of our child’s outburst, of other parent’s judgement of us, of resistance, but most of all, fear that our children will stop loving us.

It can be hearbreaking to think we may do something to lose the love/bond/attachment that we have with our children and from that, stems the inability to set and enforce limits.

However, as crazy as it sounds, children feel MORE secure and MORE loved, when there are clearly defined limits. They feel confident in our abilities and that reduces their need to test them.

Think about this; who would you trust more to fly you through a storm?  A pilot that was nervous, skittish, and indecisive or, one who was confident, had a concrete plan and was secure in their decisions?

Our children are the same way. If they see you as a nervous pilot, they are going to be nervous travelers who are going to question your every move.

Solution

Take some time to think about what is holding you back from enforcing limits around bedtime and through the night. Then find ways to deal with that fear.

If your child’s potential to tantrum is scaring you, then seek out and research parenting experts that can put your mind at ease. If you’re worried about others’ opinions of your parenting style, then this isn’t the time to post your intentions on social media.

If having no plan is scaring you, then let’s work together to create one that suits your family.

Whatever it is, consciously acknowledging and accepting what is preventing you from getting your child on a solid sleep routine is an important step towards seeing success. Don’t let fear stop you from what needs to be done.

Spend Quality Time Together

Sometimes parents find themselves feeling guilty at bedtime. It can stem from many areas, but a common one is when a new sibling enters the picture.

We can’t avoid it-newborns require a lot of attention.  And it’s normal to worry that the older child may feel displaced, left out or ignored.

However, when parents allow guilt to dominate their decision making at bedtime, problems can emerge.

As the stalling begins or the requests are made, parents feel obliged to honour them which they hope shows their love. Unfortunately this leads to reinforcing the very patterns they are hoping to change.

Solution

To get out of this loop, first focus on spending quality time with your little one during the day. It doesn’t need to be long, just twenty minutes of dedicated one-on-one time can help strengthen your bond.

It also doesn’t need to be complex outings; just sitting together and reading a book, taking a walk, doing a puzzle, or playing with toys is enough to strengthen the bond between the two of you.

But quality time, means quality time.

Be present in the moment. Focus on them without any interruptions. Put away the electronics. 

They are little people, but like us, they like to talk, share, complain to an active listener. They don’t always need you to solve their problems, but they do need to feel like they are being heard.

Second, when you are talking with your child, don’t shy away from discussing how having a new sibling makes them feel (or whatever the issue is). Listen and empathize. It’s normal for the older siblings to not love the changes, and like us, they want to feel validated.

If they say they hate having a new sibling, empathize; “Yes, having a new baby in the family is hard.”

Although our gut reaction is to try to convince them that they don’t really mean it, by empathizing, we allow space for their feelings and show them that we respect and  honour what they’re going through.

Crystal Clear Expectations

Have you ever had a boss reprimand you for not doing your job properly, even though expectations were never clearly explained?

If so, then you can relate to how your toddler may feel about bedtime.

Many parents mistakenly assume that their child knows what is expected in the hour leading up to sleep. But you know what they say about assuming. 😉

Sometimes parents aren’t really sure either, and this is like a personal invitation for a power struggle to develop.

Toddlers can find our triggers quite easily, namely the  “Big Three”;

  • saying they are hungry/thirsty,
  • needing the washroom and
  • needing love (hugs, kisses).

Children can sense the indecision, and as soon as that door is cracked open, the pleading and negotiation begins.

Solution

So, what does your perfect bedtime routine look like? Does your child know this? Have you ever specifically told them what you expect? If not, now is the time to start.

Begin by having a short, positive, and encouraging conversation about sleep; why your child needs a good night’s sleep, why *you* do as well (it’s important for your child to understand that mommy and daddy need rest, too) and how each member of the family can help support each other in achieving this.

Clearly and with love, communicate your expectations around bedtime for your child so they always know what to expect. Ask for their suggestions too, which encourages and empowers them to take ownership of their sleep routine.

Talk about how bedtime should go and what each person’s job or responsibility is such as;

  • Dad finishes up the cleaning the kitchen
  • Mom starts the bath,
  • Kids pick up four toys each and then brush their teeth
  • Have bath and start wind down routine
  • Read two books
  • Cuddle for five minutes
  • Parent leaves room by 7:00pm

Make this into a fun chart and post it where everyone can see and follow it.

Remember to only commit to what you feel comfortable doing though, because it’s vitally important that you are able to follow through.

If bedtime is 7:00pm but your toddler has taken fifteen minutes getting their PJs on and there is only time for one book, then one book it is.

Will there be protests? You bet.

But that’s normal, so take it in stride. Don’t take their protests personally or engage in a power struggle. Empathize, encourage them to move faster tomorrow, but don’t go back on your word. The more consistent you are in following the expectations, the more they will be too.

Watch the Clock

If you go back and read the opening scenario, you will see that as the night routine moves along, the child continues to shows sleep signs, but yet is hyper and energetic. This is a classic over-tired sign in toddlers and preschoolers.

When children become exhasuted, their body will begin to produce extra stimulant hormones to fight the fatigue. This is why in theory they should be tired according to the clock, yet are doing cartwheels and somersaults in their bedroom.

Solution

Avoid creating a sleep debt like the plague! Sleep debt/exhaustion/sleep deprivation; different terms to describe the same thing. Kids that are over-tired. You can read more about how over-tiredness impacts children here.

The culprit?

A bedtime that is too late.

Most two and three year olds, can only handle about four hours to four and a half hours of awake time after their nap has ended. Meaning a mid-day nap that ends between 2-3 pm, places bedtime by 7:30pm at the latest.

However for children who have been chronically over-tired, they may benefit from an even earlier bedtime for awhile.

Moving bedtime earlier helps to capitalize on how the brain cycles through sleep. Since there are more deep NREM sleep cycles in the first part of the night (the kind the body needs to rid itself of the sleep debt), early bedtimes provide more opportunity for this restorative type of sleep.

Children whose bedtime is too late, lose out on the maximum amount of this deep sleep because the brain doesn’t replace it later on in their sleep cycle. Even if they sleep in (which is not common unless extremely sleep deprived), the quality of sleep is not the same.

You Can End the Toddler Bedtime Battles!

You really can. Don’t be scared of your child’s big emotions. Change your mindset, face your fears and put a plan into place that gives your toddler structure and limits. As crazy as it may sound at first, one of the most loving things you can do as a parent is to say “no”.

Sleep is essential for your child’s development (not to mention your sanity), and by allowing them to get to sleep more independently, you are taking care of their most basic and fundamental need.  You got this!

Have a question about your toddler’s bedtime routine? Feel free to ask it during one of my FREE Q & A sessions on the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook Page, most Wednesday nights between 8-9pm CST.