Have you recently typed into Google something like, help your toddler sleep through the night?
If so, you’re likely feeling exhausted, burnt out and perhaps a little (or a lot) frustrated. (I know because I’ve lived through it, myself!).
If you’re like how my kid was at this age, if we’re lucky (sarcasm), we may be blessed with stalling, power struggles and tantrums.
And the icing on the cake?
When finally get them to sleep, we will wake a few hours later to their calls. Or worse; appearing silently at our bed like some scene from a horror movie.
Maybe you thought things would be easier by this point, or perhaps, you’re not sure where to begin, but one things for sure-you’d give almost anything to help your toddler sleep through the night.
The good news is that I can help you. Read on….
Does Your Brain Get In The Way?
Imagine if you will…
You’ve decided that tonight will be finally be the end-you’re laying down the law.
No more stalling allowed, no giving in to the 2 AM requests. You’ve talked to your child about her sleep and that both of you will be staying in your respective beds all. night. long.
“That’s it I’m sticking to it”, you tell yourself.
“Tonight is the night my toddler will sleep through the night.”
But then 2 AM rolls around and you hear your toddler start to call.
Your mind starts thinking about how you’re back at work now and maybe she misses you. You feel bad for being away.
The guilt emerges for just wanting to sleep, to have the bed to yourself.
So you reluctantly get up and go to her, only for her to ask you to pick up her blanket.
Which she kicked off.
On the floor.
Two inches away.
Sighing to yourself, you pick it up, and re-tuck her in, and the cycle repeats.
So what’s happened here?
Our mindset has influenced our decisions.
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Minding our Mindset
Our brain is a powerful engine, and with it, our thoughts.
What we think, influences our actions. Even our subconscious thoughts. Without us even realizing it, our thoughts can lead us to repeat the same actions, over and over.
Our thoughts about a situation create our feelings. These feelings lead us to some sort of action or reaction.
In the scenario above, the twinges of guilt were triggered by thoughts. Those thoughts lead to the action of getting out of bed and repeating the very same action the parent wanted to stop.
To solve this, we need to actively think about our thinking.
I know, I know; this is a little deep for an article about sleeping through the night, but it’s true.
I find that roughly 75-80% of the sleep challenges at this age, are fixed because of mindset shifts from the parents.
If you think your toddler can’t sleep through the night, you’re right. If you think they CAN sleep through the night, you’re also right.
What you believe about your kiddo, WILL influence how you react and therefore, your success rate.
If they want water, do you think they are absolutely dehydrated, or simply just wanting a sip? If they say they want a snack, do you believe they are starving, or feel like having a treat? It will influence how you choose to respond, based upon what your thoughts are.
So, the best way to tackle this?
Do some “thought work” ahead of time. Take some time to reflect on your beliefs about your toddler’s sleep, their abilities, your hesitations, your views on protesting, the idea of sleep training, etc.
I recommend writing this down on a piece of paper to help you really see your mindset at the current time.
Some questions to ask yourself are;
- Do I believe my child can sleep through the night, without needing interventions?
- If not, why not?
- What do I believe they can achieve?
- What’s stopping me from helping them achieve this?
- What thoughts do I have when they wake up at night?
- What feelings do I feel?
- How can I align my thoughts, feelings and what I believe my child can achieve?
This takes a bit of work to do some self reflection, but it’s an extremely important factor for success.
So take the time for some internal reflection, before you begin making changes.
Create a Wind Down Routine
Thinking about your mindset is an internal action that helps parents to be consistent.
But, in order for our children to sleep well, we can also influence the external realm, too.
We can help our toddler sleep through the night by creating a relaxing pre-sleep routine that’s repeated before each sleep period.
Remember how I said our brains are power engines?
This is another example of that. The brain is wired to react to cues and in the case of sleep, the wind down routine becomes the cue to send a signal to the rest of the body that it’s time to rest.
Some things to try are:
- Giving a warm bath
- Reading books together
- Talking about your child’s favourite part of the day
- Doing relaxation yoga together
- Practice body relaxation techniques together
- Lying in the darkness and chatting about light and upbeat topics
Over time, the repetition of these simple activities will assist with creating a soothing lead up to sleep.
Setting Expectations For Success
All too often we assume our children know what they should be doing at bedtime, but they can get confused-especially if we’ve been inconsistent.
Set your child up for success by always letting them know what to expect.
- Start with a short and encouraging conversation about sleep.
- Discuss why your child needs a good night’s sleep, and what you can do as a family to make sure that everyone gets the rest that they need.
- Talk about the new expectations for sleep. (See Response Plan in next section).
- Create a checklist or poster together as family of the child’s wind down routine; teeth brushing, stories, cuddles, etc.
- Keep it fun and upbeat! Use things like stickers or scented markers to decorate the chart.
- Be very specific. For instance, write “brush teeth for ONE minute” instead of “get ready for bed”.
- Adding pictures, drawings or even photos of your child on the poster, helps to make it a more concrete learning tool.
Have a Fair, Firm, and Consistent Response Plan
Decide with all caregivers how to respond to bedtime stalling, night wakings and early mornings. For some families, this includes their sleep training method.
Once you decide this, then it’s important to communicate to your toddler in age-appropriate language the changes ahead of time. Usually when you’re making the checklist.
Then, you implement it.
Heads up; Your toddler will NOT follow the plan-at first. 😉
There is nothing wrong with your child, you or your parenting.
If there has been a history of inconsistency, then it’s only fair for your child to expect the same thing will happen-and that’s ok!
Just be prepared for it and stick to your response plan.
Inconsistency, is the #1 reason that parents continue to struggle with their child’s sleep. While it can be hard to stay focused in the middle of the night, consistency is critical for success.
Have Logical Consequences
Want to know a secret to seeing a quick turnaround with your child’s sleep?
It’s implementing something called logical and natural consequences.
These are one of the key components for your toddler to sleep through the night.
These are teaching consequences (NOT punishment), directly related to bedtime misbehaviour .
A = B
For example, if they throw a tantrum in the middle of the night, the appropriate action isn’t to take the toys away, but instead, have them pick the toys up by themselves (or with a bit of help if still young), the following morning.
Or, in the same scenario, another example of a logical consequence may be that the family doesn’t have energy to go to the park the following day because their body didn’t get the rest it needed.
As you can see, these aren’t punishments (which aren’t respectful, and fail to teach or reinforce a concept), but instead a very logical result of the choice the child made.
Over time, this also helps the child to learn empathy for other family members and their sleep needs, too.
By sticking to logical consequences you aren’t just teaching your child the right sleeping habits; you’re also helping them learn to take ownership of their sleep, and to get the rest that they need to be healthy and happy.
Help Your Toddler Sleep Through The Night
Sleep is essential for our little one’s health. It’s also essential for our mental health too.
We can’t be the best parents that we want to be when we are sleep deprived. By following the above points, you can help your toddler sleep through the night and everyone get the sleep they need.
Need help establishing the perfect schedule for your toddler before sleep training?
You can find it in the ebook; Toddler Sleep: Routines + Schedules