Parents who have taught their babies great sleep skills from an early age are often surprised when their toddler suddenly starts waking in the night or refusing to follow their bedtime schedule. It’s common for toddlers to start testing their boundaries, and this week I’ve got some tips to help you deal accordingly.
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Hi. I’m Dana, welcome to this week’s video. Today I want to talk about a really popular question that I get asked a lot. That is somebody has a baby who sleeps well. They’ve done the training, they’ve gone through the process for months, this child slept beautifully. However now this child is a toddler. We’ve hit the eighteen-twenty month age range. All of a sudden this great little sleeper has turned into all kinds of problems. The question is why? Now, this is so common, that’s the good news. All children go through this phase. It’s usually in the toddler phase. It’s what I call testing the waters. That’s when you’ve got a little person who’s doing a whole lot of changing and developing. They’re understanding that they have some autonomy, they have some free will.
They can do certain things that get you to respond in the way that they want them to. This is all dawning on them at this age. They start thinking, “Hmm, I wonder if I do a little bit of protesting here at bedtime, what will she do?” They test it. You put this child down. You wave night-night. You leave the room. He’s in there yelling or crying or chatting loudly, just to see what kind of reaction he might get. Then if you go in because you’re thinking, “Well something must be wrong because he never does this.” You go in and you give him a cuddle and you do all this talking to him. You say night-night all over again and you leave the room. Hmm, now he’s thinking, “That was kind of fun. I got a visit from Mommy. I’m going to try some more.” More crying, more talking, more protesting, in you come because you’re very concerned that this is abnormal behavior.
You give them lots of attention and a cuddle or two. Now two weeks later he is taking an hour to fall asleep. You’re going in there repeatedly to offer assistance or assurance and do whatever. You’ve got a big problem. The good news is, this is common. There’s nothing wrong with this child. Obviously you’re going to make sure he doesn’t have an ear infection or could he be sick. You’re going to rule out all those things. If everything looks good and there’s no real reason why he’s doing this, then you’re going to tell yourself, “He is testing the waters. Dana told me he would do this.”
You really have to monitor your response. Now for some toddlers even just a quick visit from you every ten minutes is rewarding enough that they’re going to keep up the behavior. Especially if you’re going in there and giving lots of extra attention. The first step would be to just absolutely minimize your attention. If you want to go in every ten minutes it’s basically just to say it’s nighty-night. The door goes closed again and you leave. That might help solve the problem because that might not be rewarding enough to keep up the behavior. However, it may be. If you find after a few days he’s still doing this, we’re not making any progress. Then you’re going to have to reduce it even more.
For some toddlers it means you just have to say, “It’s nighty-night and you need to go to sleep now and I’m not coming back.” I’ve had to go through it with all three of my kids as well in the toddler phase for a few nights. “I’m not coming back, you are fine. Goodnight now.” The problem blows over. Again that is the good news in all this too, is that if you address it and you fix it. You minimize your interactions. It will blow over because they know how to sleep, they’re good sleepers. They realize, “Okay, well I guess the rules are still the rules. I better go back to sleeping well.” They will, all right. I hope that helps you today. Thanks so much for watching. Sleep well.
If your baby, infant or toddler is having trouble sleeping through the night, help is just a click away! The Sleep Sense Program has helped over 57,00 parents to get their kids sleeping 11-12 hours through the night AND taking long, restful naps during the day. If you’re ready to get started today – I’m looking forward to helping you!
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