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  • Jessica Berk

Is My Kid Too Old to Sleep Train? | When To Start Sleep Training

Something I hear a lot of moms say is…"My 3-year-old’s sleep has been a nightmare for over a year. He's strong-willed and WILL NOT sleep unless I'm beside him. Leaving his room causes a meltdown, and he wakes up at 2am every single night. Did I miss the window for sleep training when he was still in his crib?"

Let me bust this myth wide open for you: I think sleep training can actually be smoother with older children. I'll share three reasons why – and make sure to catch reason 3, where I'll show you how sleep training can actually strengthen the bond you have with your child.


>>Watch this blog on my Awesome Little Sleepers YouTube channel! 👇


How to sleep train a toddler

If you’re wondering when to start sleep training, let’s start with this: your child’s need for sleep is more critical than ever. Just because they’re out of the crib doesn’t mean their sleep habits should go out the window. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 25% of kids under the age of 5 don’t get enough sleep.

If the optimal time to start sleep training was yesterday, the next best time is today. Here are three reasons why sleep training older children is not only doable but crucial.

Reason 1: Sleep is crucial for your child’s growth

Research consistently shows that sleep is essential for the mental and physical development of your child. It significantly influences their mood, mental acuity, and memory. And you know exactly what being sleep deprived feels like because you’re likely feeling the impact, too!

Studies link insufficient sleep in childhood with increased risks of anxiety, obesity, attention disorders, and even depression later in life. Even slight sleep deprivation can affect your child's daily functioning. 

I emphasize this to make you aware of how critical sleep is. And the thing about habits – including poor sleep habits – is that the longer they persist, the more ingrained they become. So, if you’re in the habit of...

  • Laying with your child until they fall asleep

  • Allowing them to come sleep in your bed at 2 am, or 

  • Giving in to the endless stalling and begging for “just one more book” at bedtime 

... the stronger these habits get.

But here’s exactly why it’s never too late to sort out sleep issues: 

Reason 2: Your older child can actively participate in their sleep training

Unlike infants, who are passive in the sleep training process because they’re confined in the crib and basically stay where you put them, your older child has strong opinions and determination. They are very verbal with big emotions. They want to call the shots. That’s where the nightly battles stem from – it’s essentially a battle for control. And a battle you may be losing!

This can be turned to your advantage by tapping into their developmental stage and establishing boundaries that resonate with their level of maturity.

By offering them specific choices and using role play, you encourage their involvement in the process. Setting clear new routines and sleep rules helps them adapt and even enjoy it! Believe it or not, the same child who runs out of her room asking for water a million times and seems totally unable to fall asleep without you can start enjoying bedtime and sleep through the night all by herself.

When you use my REST Method, the goal is to foster a sense of achievement and pride in your child (which always surprises parents). When we’re clear with boundaries and expectations, it gives our kids a chance to beam with pride.

And as to why sleep training works great with older kids, as I hinted earlier… 

Reason 3: Sleep training can strengthen your relationship with your child

It might seem paradoxical, especially since lots of families worry that sleep training could harm the parent-child bond. Contrary to those fears, the reality is quite the opposite. Consider this scenario…

Beth’s daughter Chloe always pleads for more bedtime stories. No number of books seems enough, and if not books, it’s endless requests for water or more tuck-ins. Beth tries to appease Chloe, tiptoeing around to avoid tantrums. But after countless efforts to return Chloe to her bed, Beth’s patience snaps. We've all been there: “Enough! You need to stay in bed or you’ll miss Susie’s party this weekend!”

Losing our cool and resorting to threats or shouting is a sign of our own struggle and frustration - basically a parental tantrum. But we’ve all been there. 

It’s disheartening when, despite knowing how tired they are, we can’t seem to get them to sleep. It can feel hopeless. When it feels like the child is manipulating bedtime or turning it into a game, it can breed resentment.

And feeling powerless, out of control and resentful are not the feelings you want for parenting.

Don’t downplay the exhaustion this all brings. Parental sleep deprivation is debilitating. Contrary to the notion that perpetual tiredness is part of parenting, to be your best self and the best parent you can be, you have to sleep.

If this resonates with you, it’s time to consider how this situation affects your relationship with your child. This scenario is more common than you might think.

Megan’s story, which I’m about to share, may strike a chord with you... watch it here.

If you want the instruction manual for how to get your toddler to sleep independently for 10-12 hours at night with no wake-ups, I’d love to help



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