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  • Jessica Berk

Why is Sleep Training Your Toddler Just NOT Working?

Sleep training your toddler isn’t working? I can tell you why.

Once your kid is three, four, or five years old and out of the crib, sleep can get crazy. If you haven’t been able to get your toddler sleeping well, you’re probably missing this ONE key element. 

Read on to learn exactly what to start doing to help your toddler sleep.


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


Sleep Training for Babies

When your child was a baby, sleep training was all about wake windows, self-soothing and a feeding schedule. You may have done the Ferber Method, where you check on your sleeping little one at timed intervals or Cry It Out where you don’t return at all, or one of the other popular methods where you shuffle your way out of the room. 

And these worked! Because they were just babies.

Babies don’t have the big emotions and vocabulary of toddlers. Babies aren’t trying to assert control or starting power struggles in an attempt to be heard. Babies stay put in the crib and can’t run out of the room or try to crawl into your bed.

Suffice it to say, if you’re using a baby sleep training approach that doesn’t take your child’s maturity level into account, it’s simply not going to work.

The Importance of Involvement in Sleep Training

Your bigger kid is growing and trying to be more independent. They’re working really hard to assert some control over their little life. Think about things from their perspective. They’re constantly being told where to go, what to wear, when to eat, when to leave. And they just want a chance to be heard! That’s why so many encounters end in a power struggle.

“Put your shoes on.” “No.” “Time to leave the park.” “No.” “We’re having pizza for dinner.” “No.” “Time for bed.” “No.”

We have to adapt how we interact with our bigger kids if we want the day to go smoothly. And the same is true for bedtime. When we allow them to feel heard and have some input into the routines in their day, things are much more likely to go smoothly.

This is the missing piece if you’ve been struggling to sleep train your toddler: taking their level of maturity into account.

The Role of Communication in Helping Your Toddler Sleep

There are 3 things I teach parents to do with their toddlers and preschoolers to create great sleepers. These tips really lean into using the child’s maturity to benefit the sleep training process. I teach all of this in detail inside my sleep course, Sleep Tight Without a Fight:

1. Involve the child in creating a great bedtime routine Give them a say in what happens before bed. Just brainstorming with them and giving them some control goes a long way toward getting their cooperation when it comes to bedtime. This is one of the most impactful exercises I teach inside my sleep course.

2. Clearly explain the sleep changes that will be happening. You’re the parent, you decide on the plan. It should make sense for you and the child and reflect your parenting style. Then you explain, over-explain, role-play and use questions and answers to prep your child for the changes.

3. Repeat step 2 for consequences/rewards associated with the new sleep plan. You explain, over-explain, role-play and use questions and answers so your child has a clear understanding of your expectations. Parents often miss being crystal clear with kids about what our expectations are. 

If you need help with any of this, I teach it all inside my sleep course, Sleep Tight Without a Fight.

A word of caution about giving your child control while sleep training

I like to think of parenting as being the bumpers at the bowling alley. You know, the sides that pop up to prevent the ball from rolling into the gutter every time. Bumpers are boundaries we hold for our kids, so we keep them rolling towards where we know they need to go - whether that’s leaving the park to get to music class on time, sitting down for dinner or heading to the bathtub. We need to give them a sense of control WHILE holding boundaries. 

Yes, our big kids have BIG emotions and they always want to be the boss. But they also have under-developed brains, haven’t mastered logic or language, and have no impulse control or sense of time. We parents have to walk the fine line of giving our kids a little bit of control while providing the boundaries and guardrails that will keep our kids moving forward so they can get the healthy sleep we know they need. 

When it all clicks

When everything clicks, happy families email me that their family is not only sleeping much better, but the child is SO proud of themselves. I absolutely love hearing that. 

This is what Katie sent me…

Our son Oscar was in a total regression after transitioning him to a bed. It’s not our first time sleep training him but the techniques here were exactly what we needed now that he is almost three. We are so proud of him sleeping on his own in a big bed and even better, he is proud of himself ❤️” - Katie D. (PIC)

If sleep training your toddler has been an epic fail, I bet it’s because you haven’t been using their maturity level to make the process easier. 

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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