Parents are always asking me the wrong questions about their toddler sleep training problems. And if you’re asking the wrong questions, you’re never going to find any REAL solutions. Let’s use some questions people have DM’d me on Instagram to show you what I’m talking about!
Once you ask the right questions, you can finally start making lasting change.
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Toddler sleep training that works by asking the right questions
As a certified sleep coach for over 8 years, I’ve heard it all when it comes to toddler sleep training problems. Most of the time, parents are coming at the problem all wrong.
Let’s dive into the first question to show you what I mean.
“My daughter keeps running out of her room at bedtime. She’s never satisfied - she needs more water, more hugs. It can go on for an hour or longer. HELP!”
So we know that the child is keeping herself up for sometimes hours past her bedtime by running out of her room and asking for a million extra things. The parent needs help to figure out how to make it stop.
The question itself isn’t bad… it’s just incomplete. And, honestly, most questions come to me this way: totally one-sided, and only reporting on the child’s behavior.
But it’s missing the most IMPORTANT part of the story: how the parent reacts!
The truth is, you can’t control other people, and unfortunately that includes your kids. You can only control yourself. So, while you can’t really make your kid stop doing something, you can control your reaction to what they’re doing.
And the kicker is… your reaction is why your kid is behaving a certain way in the first place!
What’s the whole story with this question? More often than not, in my experience with coaching, the story is that the child exits the room for something and the parents give in a couple times. They allow some more water, offer a final hug, yet get increasingly frustrated as the exits keep happening.
Finally, someone angrily takes the kid back to their own room. There may be some raised voices, followed by usually-empty threats about not doing something fun the next day. And in the end, a parent may end up staying in the child’s room until they fall asleep.
Now that we see the whole story, we can see that the child is getting lots of attention for these bedtime antics.
It doesn’t matter to the child that it’s negative attention in the form of frustrated parents. She’s getting to stay up later, and ultimately she might end up with someone sleeping with her. Naturally, over time, she starts to expect all the frustration in order to get to the final step of getting someone to sleep with her.
In short, take a step back and look at the situation knowing that both the child and parent play a role.
Here’s another Instagram DM question…
“How do you deal with night wake ups and get them back to bed w/o crying & tantrums?”
This question is probably one that you’ve thought about before! But really this question is looking for a Band-aid, not a cure.
Imagine your child is playing outside, then runs in with a cut on his finger. You put a Band-aid on it and send him back out. In a little while, he comes in again with another cut, so you give him another Band-aid and send him on his way. When he comes right back with yet another cut, you have to wonder if you should go outside to look for what’s causing all the cuts!
The cut is just a symptom of the real, underlying problem (the real problem is probably that he’s playing catch with a cactus).
In the same way, this question about night wake ups while you’re toddler sleep training is asking for a Band-aid.
You can Google this question and find tons of articles about using a mantra or not engaging too much with your child overnight. But that information is equivalent to using a Band-aid if you’re not finding out why the event keeps happening in the first place.
What you should be asking is, why the hell is my kid always waking up?
Now THAT’S a good question.
Asking the right questions can help you solve the problem, not just put a Band-aid on it for the moment.
For the answer to THAT question, check out this video.