Updated: Nov 6
I'm not gonna sugarcoat it - toddlers are hard and preschoolers are smart. If you've got a child between the ages of 0 and 10 years, and you're struggling with getting them to listen to you, keep reading!
After completing my first sleep certification program I had an 11-month-old baby. And I also was working with my first 3-year-old client. I had no personal experience with sleep training a toddler.
After a week or two of not seeing enough improvement, I reached out to my mentor and asked for some guidance with this particular case. We were struggling with getting the child to stay in her room during night wakings and her response was, “Tell the parents to close the door until you have compliance.” 😳
Well, that doesn't feel good to anyone - not me, not the parents, and certainly not the child.
In fact, after having my own toddlers, I knew that if I ever closed the door on them it would be a sure-fire way to trigger a tantrum, which is not what we're trying to do here. In fact, we're trying to do the exact opposite - provide a calm, soothing, and connecting bedtime routine so everyone can end the day feeling good and welcome the sleep that comes next.
Here's the thing about toddlers and preschoolers, friend: what you do during the day affects what you're seeing at bedtime and during the night. In fact, how you respond to your child affects all the behaviors you're seeing/experiencing at all parts of the day…bedtime included.
If you know me, you know I wasn't going to settle for anything that didn't feel good to me as a parent. So, what did I do? I got another sleep certification, of course! One that more aligned with my values as a mom and as a parent coach.
I continue to study best parenting practices, read books, and participate in professional development opportunities that make me a better sleep consultant…and a better mom myself.
In this post, I'm going to talk about HOW you can help your toddler or preschooler during the day to see vast improvements with listening at night.
It's imperative that you spend quality time with your child each day and every evening. No phones. Give them your full attention. Spend time doing something led by them - something they enjoy. Become a part of their world, fully, for 10-15 minutes with no other distractions. Let your child lead so they feel fully in control of themselves and the activity. This will help with power struggles later in the evening.
No offense, but if you're "all talk" during the day with no action, your words aren't magically going to have meaning and hold clout at bedtime when you just want your child to GO. TO. SLEEP.
When parents lovingly and firmly guide their children throughout the day, say when they mean and mean what they say, and follow through with what they say they're going to do, it helps a child trust in them. They can feel secure in knowing that you do what you say you're going to do. Yes, they'll likely test this just to be sure, but to more you do what you say you're going to, the fewer battles you'll experience over time.
Seriously, it's all about the relationship you have with your child. Respect them and their autonomy. Help them know that their role in your family is essential.
Consistency is Key
I'm willing to bet that if you can start being super consistent with how you respond to your child during the day, the battles you're having at bedtime or in the middle of the night may soon disappear. If you need more tangible strategies you can use with your toddler, preschooler, or big kid, utilizing something like our signature program, The CHEER Method, will give you access to real-time support as you work to implement strategies to help your child sleep better. And, you'll likely notice that the work we do together will positively impact other areas of your child's day as well.