Whether it’s a request for one more drink of water, a lost blankie, or a half-hour tooth-brushing session, toddlers are the masters of bedtime stall tactics. Their creativity and persistence are really pretty amazing at times, and would be adorable if they weren’t so frustrating. With that in mind, here are a few helpful hints to keep the peace and maintain a consistent schedule.Rather read than watch? Click here.
Now one of the most fascinating and interesting things about toddlers, in my opinion, is that they’re just so clever about the way they test boundaries. Here’s an example. You’ve got a three year old, let’s say, who usually sleeps with one special toy and the door is closed all the way. This is the scenario, but tonight, he wants to bring this other friend to bed too. You think, “No, what’s the big deal? Sure, bring that other baby to bed too.” Now he’s taking two toys to bed with him. The next night he decides, “Hmm, that worked last night, let’s try for something else. I’d like to bring a third friend to bed with me.” You kind of go, “All right. What’s the big deal?”, and you let him do that.
Then the next night, “Hmm, those things worked, let me try something else. How about I ask for the door to be left open or another story to be read or an extra drink of water?” You see how this can snowball. That is the way they do it. I always imagine it like they’re little mice biting off little pieces of cheese. They don’t go for the whole big block all at one, they just take little bites. They’re just testing you and you’re giving in. You’re rewarding that behavior.
Then they push a little harder and a little harder and a little harder. I’ve had clients that have come to me and they tell me the scenario and they look at each other and go “I don’t know how we got here. We’re up at 3:00 am giving him blueberries because that’s where we are right now.” If they rewind that back, they’ll see that it all started with one little request that you gave in to and then more and more and more until blueberries at 3:00 am.
I want you to keep an eye on that. That really with toddlers it has to be black and white. There is no room for gray. It has to be two stories every single night. You never deviate from that, no matter how many times you’re asked. It has to be only one baby to bed, the door can’t change. The light can’t be left on. Nothing can change.
The good new is that that makes them feel more secure. Knowing that you’re the leader, you’re the boss, you’re the parent, they are the child. It helps them see where the division line is between your will and theirs and they really like it. They like that reassurance, even though they test, they like to see that things don’t change. It makes them feel more secure. You can understand that. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
If you’re ever thinking, if this thought goes through your mind, “Ah, what’s the big deal?”, stop there. It is a big deal. It doesn’t feel like one to you, but I promise you that it is a big deal to the child and it will become a problem in the long run.
Now as the child gets older, then there is a little bit of room for gray if you skip the story or you let them have a little something special one night before bed. They have the ability to understand that that is a unique occurrence and it’s not the norm. With toddlers, I am sorry, there’s just no room for that. You have to stay strong and not give in and don’t give them any cheese.
Thanks so much for watching. Sleep well.
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