Solving Your Child’s Sleep Problems
“My toddler doesn't walk—she runs, jumps and climbs all day long. I get tired just watching her. So I thought that when her head hit the pillow, she’d be sound asleep. Not such luck. I’m at my wit’s end because when she doesn’t sleep—neither do I.”
Mom of 3-year-old
Every child is different, so there is no “one perfect solution” to childhood sleep problems.
You fill your child’s bedroom with all the comforts you can think of like toys, decorations, a big-girl bed with a comfy mattress, cozy blankets and a pretty nightlight. So when your child has trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep, you may wonder, “What are we doing wrong?”
Once children find the independence given them by being able to walk, they explore the world beyond Mom or Dad’s lap. However, with independence they need to learn to stay safe—and learn self-control. Independence and self-control don’t always click in a toddler’s mind.
Then comes vulnerability because the parent can’t always be there to rescue the child, which causes the child to start looking at the world with more caution. This is when sleep problems can develop. Now the child is no longer in a crib and can get out of bed and wake others in the household.
Children who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, have not learned how to self-soothe for themselves. The still look to their parents for coddling and soothing when they feel afraid. With parental involvement like picking up the child, or even taking her to the parent’s bed, the child becomes dependent on the parent to be able to go to sleep.
With the child having more independence in choosing what to eat, what to wear and what to play, it’s time for the same child to be more independent when going to sleep. Toddlers learn quickly to push and test boundaries and parents to get their needs met. It’s the parent’s job to adhere to healthy boundaries and expectations. Children seem to feel more comfortable if they realize someone (the parent) is in charge, so parents need to set limits.
A Non-Sleeping Child = A Sleep-Deprived Parent
Sometimes when bedtime becomes a real battleground with the child throwing tantrums, the parent needs to be reminded that this child is safe, loved, and not neglected…and, this too, shall pass. If the parent gives in to the screaming, the child learns: ”If you cry loudly or a lot, you will get what you want. And eventually you will get your parent’s attention if you cry long enough.”