As soon as your little one is old enough to understand the concept of consequences, it’s a good time to start setting some boundaries.
Why? Because toddlers crave structure and predictability! They thrive when they have a clear understanding of the rules, as well as the consequences when they break them.
I know that they can be difficult to deal with when they don’t get their way, but as long as the consequences for breaking the rules are clear and understandable, it can really help to keep them calm and comfortable.
Check out this week’s video and you can see what I mean.Rather read than watch? Click here.
Hi, I’m Dana. Welcome to this week’s video.
I’m gonna share with you today my very favorite quote about toddlers. That is: they are like little night watchmen. They go around checking all of the doors, but they don’t wanna really find any of that open. And that is the heart of a toddler. That’s what they do. They are like little night watchmen.
They check the doors, they test boundaries, they push, right? They test you periodically to see, are these doors gonna open? Nope? Okay, good. Proceed, and on they go. And they just do this in little, little ways, kind of everywhere around sleep, around play time, around interaction with other kids, around food, you name it, this is what they’re doing. They’re testing all of the doors. And what’s hard as a parent is that if we’re tired or just feeling a little bit distracted, we can let these doors open.
And sometimes we just let them open a little crack. But that’s enough, right? Now, this toddler sees, oh, that door opened a crack. I’m gonna keep pushing at that door and see how far this door will open if I keep pushing on it. And where this tends to show up is at bedtime. And they’re so clever and subtle about this. They’re like, I often think of them as, like, mice nibbling cheese, right? They just take a little bite, a little bite, a little bite.
But here’s what might happen. So let’s say for, i.e., for years you’ve been doing two stories at bedtime. That’s been your rule. And tonight out of the blue, she asks for three and you think, you know, you’re kind of tired, you don’t feel like having a fight about it. You go, “Okay, we’ll have a third one.” Maybe those two were short. So you think, oh, what the heck? Let’s have a third. Well, guess what? The door just opened a crack. It did.
Now, the next night she’s gonna ask for maybe another story. And if you say, “No, we only read two stories,” well, that’s not true ’cause last night you read three. So she might have a little bit of a fit around the fact that you now won’t let her have a third story. But she might ask for it in a different way. “Well, I’d like to bring another stuffy to bed with me tonight.” And you go, “Okay, whatever. Go for it, bring another stuffy.” Oops, door just opened a little bit more. Now she’s gonna try for something new. “Oh, well, what if we leave the door open tonight?” Or, “how about we leave the light on?” Or, “how about we have extra kisses?” Or, “how about I have a snack?” Or, “how about I go see what dad’s doing?” And she’s just gonna keep pushing and pushing and pushing until, you know, your bedtime routine is taking an hour and a half and she’s got 600 babies in bed with her and the lights are on and the door’s open, right?
And you wonder to yourself, oh my goodness, how did we get here? If we dial it back, that’s exactly how you got there. So I just want you to keep that in mind when you’re dealing with a toddler, that they’re very black and white. There is not a lot of room for gray in their little mind. And so you have to make sure that your rules, especially around bedtime, stay solid. That there’s never, doesn’t matter if you don’t think it’s a big deal, or you think to yourself, you know, oh, well go ahead or whatever, go ahead, right?
Anytime you hear yourself saying that you need to stop, you need to correct it. You need to make sure that you go back to if the door’s open this much, it’s only ever always open this much, never more, never less. It’s only two stories every night. It’s only one baby in bed with you. These are the rules that have to stay the same because then when she tests, she’ll realize, oh, the door’s still locked, and she’ll go back to cooperating well in your bedtime routine.
Thanks so much for watching today. 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 107,000 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 – I’m looking forward to helping you!
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