As much as we love them, toddlers can be quite unruly and difficult to handle. How are you supposed to deal with your kid? Put too much pressure on them, and you are at a risk of squeezing their personality out of them. Let them too relax, and they are likely to bring your whole home down with their antics. Parents that are new to the game have to walk a very thin line. Confusion is understandable – and so is a bit of desperation.
Worry not. In this article we will explore the five best tips to get your toddler back on track. We will show you how to put them to sleep and most importantly, why it is in your best interest to do so. Let's start with the why.
Toddlers are going through a marathon of development, both on the intellectual and on the physical level. Sleep is of paramount importance in order to restore themselves and keep up the pace. In other words, when your kids sleep well, they wake up happier, more alert and better equipped to explore the world. That being said, no one likes extremely controling parents. You should not enforce your rules upon your kids. You are not a janitor and they are not your prisoners. Instead, we encourage you to gently encourage them to build up a sleeping routine. This way, they will build up the habit of valuing sleep and seeking it whenever they need it. There is no doubt about it: This will prove invaluable to them in the latter parts of their lives. Here's how you should do it:
The most important thing you can do to successfully put a toddler to sleep is to work out a specific schedule and stick to it. Predictability is your friend. We are creatures of habit, and toddlers even more so. If they are repeatedly put to bed around 21.00 pm, for example, sooner or later they will learn to associate that time with sleep. Now, understandably, not all families work like that. You might or might not be a "schedule" family so this might seem alien to you at first. Trust us. As soon as you see your kids wanting to head on to bed by themselves you will start to appreciate scheduling a lot more. We would also encourage you to set a specific wake up time. The important message you need to get across is that sleep follows a pattern: We go to bed in order to wake up rested. And we wake up to go about our everyday activities.
This might seem counter-intuitive but it works. If your kids nap during daytime, is it not natural that they will have trouble going to sleep at night? We do not wish you to take this to the extreme and become a tyrant like figure that kicks their kids awake whenever you found them napping. Keep it reasonable. When they need the nap, let them have it. If they are just being lazy, well, perhaps you should engage them with some kind of activity to keep them occupies. Hopefully, by nightime they will be tired enough to actually need the sleep. If you manage to pull this off the right way you'll cut the nights of living, waking hell in half. Both you and the toddler will end up sleeping better at night – and with any luck, wake up the appropriate time next morning.
A quite common problem goes as follows: The toddler, feeling restless and unable to calm down, starts crying for attention during the night. Maybe they need a song, a hug or a story. Our natural instinct as parents is to run towards our distressed child. Well, unfortunately, as sweet as this may be it encourages more of the same behavior. Instead, we propose that you gradually try to delay gratification. Wait a little before you go running. This might be as little as 5 minutes, at first. Slowly yet steadily, you should dissociate sleep with your presence. While you are at it, try to communicate to your child that it is not worth their while to call for you. Don't stay too long, nor be overly cuddling and playful.
The pre-bed routine is just as important as having a fixed schedule for the actual bedtime. Find out what soothes the toddler and encourage these activities just before they go to bed. This might be reading, or quiet play. Certainly, they should not be leaping around or playing something competitive when your goal is to relax them. A great idea is to encourage other healthy habits pre-sleep. For example, you could encourage your kid to have a nice, warm bath before they head over to bed. In any case, try not to be too abrupt when you actually tell them to go to sleep. The goal is to have as seamless a transition as possible.
For all our rules and advice, one thing is certain. You know your kids better than we ever could. Always keep in mind that you should remain flexible. If something does not seem to be working, or produces the opposite results of what you wanted it to do, then stop doing it. For example, your kid might hate bathing before bed and prefer to bathe at morning. You should not force it upon them. Be firm, guide them towards the right direction and encourage good behavior but do not become a tyrant. Your children should love you, not hate you.
If you follow the aforementioned 5 tips you should be well on your way to getting your toddler back on track. We say this with certainty: Their sleeping patterns will improve, they will be better rested, more energised and vibrant and, naturally, so will you, the parent.