So your toddler has started making excuses each night before bed lately – toilet, water, biccie, milk, another bedtime story, song, pat my back, repeat. Sound familiar? This is a really common problem for people with toddlers because all of a sudden they realize that they have an influence over what happens by asking for certain things. They know that if they ask for something like a drink, you’ll get one for them. It’s trial and error for them. They know that if they ask for a jump on the trampoline, you’ll refuse. They know which buttons to press. They know what we’re going to do. They also know that by the end of the day, we’re tired and we’ll just do whatever it takes to get them to go to sleep.
If 5 minutes of patting is going to buy you silence once she goes to sleep, then you’ll do that. However, once we get started with doing stuff like that, it takes longer and longer to get them to sleep. You just started out with a couple of little requests and now it’s snowballed into something much bigger. All of a sudden we’re doing 50 different things to get this little one to sleep. It’s a very common situation, but difficult to tackle because dealing with toddlers is really tricky. They make quite a fuss if they don’t get what they want!
The plan of action
My best advice would be in two parts. First of all, you need to develop a strategy as to what you’re going to do once she’s in bed and you’ve met all of her needs. What’s your plan when she wants more? Are you just going to shut the door and leave her? Probably not. That’s a bit harsh. How are you going to keep her in the room? Are you going to keep a baby gate on the door, or are you going to have the door shut, or what’s the plan there? Are you going to sit in the room with her and reassure her, or are you going to leave and come back at certain periods, or what are you going to do? You need to have a solid plan as to how you are going to deal with that.
Then the other thing: When you put her to bed, you need to establish with her that you’ve done all of the things. “You’ve had your food. Do you have a full tummy?” “Yes, I’ve got a full tummy.” “Great. We’ve read two books. Here’s your drink. Here’s your night-light. Here’s your …” whatever it is – all of the things. “Here’s everything. Have you been to the toilet?” “Yes, I’ve been to the toilet.” “Great. You’re fine. It’s time to go to sleep.”
Then when you do whatever you’re doing to settle her you can remind her. “It’s okay. Everything’s okay. You just need to hop back up into bed.” We’ve established and we’ve had her admit that everything’s fine. She’s got everything she needs. You really want to be on the forefront with that, making sure she’s admitted that she’s got everything she needs. “There’s the water, and everything’s cool.” Then just sticking to your guns with whatever it is that you choose to do, to reassure her from that point. Staying really strong, and just sticking to it. Like I said, it doesn’t necessarily mean leaving her alone. It just means following through with your sleep plan and being really consistent over the following four or five nights, to see if there’s an improvement.
Something else also that can be really useful at this age is a product called Dino Snores. You can download them on iTunes and the Android equivalent of iTunes. You can download it, or you can buy the CDs. It’s like a meditative relaxation story that the child listens to and you can play it through an iPod or a CD player. They listen to this story. It goes for 35, 40 minutes. It’s very soothing and slow and calming. You’d have trouble not going to sleep with this. It goes for 35, 40 minutes and then it’s another 40 minutes of white noise sounds. That’s another idea that you could use, to have her lie down and listen to her fairy stories. It might distract her enough that she focuses on that instead of all of the requests.
It really is a matter of making sure that you labor the point that she’s got everything she needs and then following through with whatever sleep training technique you’ve decided.
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