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Hi, I’m Dana and it’s time for this week’s question, and it comes from Susan, who is wondering why her great baby, who slept well, has now turned into a toddler, who’s not sleeping well.
And I want to talk just a little bit about toddlers, in general. If you got started on the Sleep Sense Program when you’re child was six or eight months old, and things were going great for months; what most people find is that somewhere, around the first birthday, maybe around the 18 month mark, they start experiencing some trouble. And I call them some boundary pushing, or regressions.
And what a toddler’s doing basically is, is testing boundaries. I mean just because something was a rule yesterday, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the rule today, so they’ll test. My favorite quote about a toddler is that they’re like night watchmen, they’re going around checking all the doors, but they don’t really want to find any that open. So keep that in mind, when you’re dealing with your toddler, is that they will most likely test or push or try the door, but you want to be very consistent with, that door does not open.
And one of the things that toddler’s tend to do are to test boundaries in very subtle ways. For example, let’s say, he always goes to sleep with his bear, but tonight he decides he’d like his bear and his truck. And if you agree to that, because in your mind you’re thinking, oh what’s the big deal, it’s not that big of a deal, I’m going to say yes. Well, now the doors open a little bit, and the next night he might try for, I want my bear, I want my truck and now I want a sippie cup. And if you say yes to that, again the door is budged a bit more, and now he’s going to try for other things. Maybe, now he wants the light left on, or now he wants the door open more, and it’s a push, and a push, and a push, until he finds where the door stays.
So, just be really cautious with that with your toddler. If he starts pushing boundaries in little way, the best way to be is very black and white with your rules around bedtime. Nothing changes, ever. Its two stories every night, it never changes, its one trip to the bathroom every night, that never changes, its baby in bed, that never changes. And then you’ll find that you sail through the toddler years, much better then someone who gives in to just these little demands, okay?
And another popular area of boundary pushing for a toddler is when a new baby arrives. And you know, I can remember going through it with my children, you feel a bit guilty that you’ve brought this new person into the family, and you’re definitely considerate of your toddler’s feelings, and how he might be feeling a bit insecure or a bit threatened, and wondering what his role is now in this family. And where he’ll often start pushing those boundaries, is at bedtime. And because parents feel guilty, they’ll often give in to those demands. Maybe bedtime gets later, there’s extra stories now, all of sudden, and you do that for a few nights and you can find that the whole situation just spirals completely out of your control.
So I really want to caution you that if you are having a new baby that you hold on so tight to your consistency around bedtime and you do not budge. If you feel guilty, then plan a special outing with your toddler, or make time during the day where it’s just mommy and toddler, or daddy and toddler, so that he’s feeling secure during the day and then you hold on tight, at night.
And to be honest with you, he’ll feel better if you do. Toddlers don’t really like boundaries to shift and change too much. So by hanging on, you’ll show him that you’re still the boss, you’re still a good leader, the boundaries are staying the same, and then the regression will pass fairly quickly.
Okay, so keep that in mind, toddler years come for everyone. So I hope that helps a bit. Sleep well.
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