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Bedtime and Toddlers...


Everyday routines can be hard when you have a toddler whose growing independence craves the safety of the routine, but often responds negatively to it. His outward need for control thwarts his inner need for regularity.

Daily routines like eating and sleeping should include steps and cues that comfort the child and help him feel secure because he is aware of what comes next. He needs our consistency within the context of the setting even if he is not willing to comply. We are the adults and we set up the environment and create the limits. Parents often have a hard time allowing the child to become independent, and add to the bedtime challenges. Dr. T Berry Brazelton states,” when sleep problems occur it is likely that parents and child alike are having difficulties believing that the child can make it alone.”

Bedtime is often the worst time for us to be consistent and follow the routine we set up. Parents are tired too, and just want their child/ children to go to sleep!

Let’s look at the steps that will help your child to initially go to bed, then to stay in their bed and finally to actually sleep in their bed all night.

  • Bedtime:

Every family is different, but all children need a routine to cue their body that they are about to go to sleep, and give them time to process. Children respond the most positively to things they can anticipate and understand. From the time your child is a baby you have put in place these steps that lead to bedtime. Below are some possible ones to use.

  1. Bath time (relaxing time together) short massage after bath…

  2. Milk, water or small snack time (bottle until 12-18 months).

  3. Classical or sweet music on as you put PJs on and brush teeth

  4. Read book (s) have a limit on how many

  5. Tuck into bed or crib with favorite transition object ( blanket, stuffed animal or doll)

  6. Turn on night light or turn off light, maybe turn on a CD that is environmental noise or classical music…

  7. Parent gives hugs kisses and then leaves the room! J Yes really!

This time may start right after dinner or right after a first board game, puzzle or quiet play time. TV should be eliminated at this time of day, (screen time should be very regulated and eliminated in children under 3.

  • Staying in Bed:

Parents create a routine with the words they say and the things they do. Use the same routine when you need to go into your child’s room when they are crying, or if you need to walk him/her back to bed after she/he come out to get you. Relax and stay matter-of- fact. (children will respond to your agitation).

When your child is just crying in bed or crib: try to wait 5 minutes or so before rushing in, remember that children rouse several times a night and may find a way back to sleep on their own. ( We don’t suggest you let your child “cry it out”).

But if it continues: remind them it is time for bed, maybe try again with the transition object, hugs and kisses and comforting words, and then leave once again.

Be consistent and as best you can have NO EMOTION. It will help. Be prepared for several nights of repetitive words and actions. Make sure everyone is on the same page; consistency is key.

  • Staying in their own bed and sleeping through night

If your child climbs into bed at night with you, treat it the same way as you would when they are crying and coming out of their room. If you have made the decision to have your child sleep in his/her own space, then follow up with the same routine.
Help your child go back with you to their bed. Repeat the routine; music on, transition object, tuck in, hugs and say what you have said before and …. Go back to your own bed. If this is too much for the first night then maybe YOU can sleep next to their bed. The most important factor is that they stay in their bed ALONE for the night.

If sleeping with you had been a nightly occurrence, time and repetition will be factors. Be prepared for a sleepless night or two. ( Just remember: It is harder when they are 5 than when they are 3J)

Some words of advice: Be a Thinking Parent and plan for this change. Sleeping alone can be a difficult adjustment for everyone.

  • If there is a bottle, and you want to wean that or end it all together, it might be easier to get rid of the bottle before working on the night time challenges.

  • Make sure that during the day your child is not getting too much sleep ( long naps).

  • If you are helping your child move from a crib to a “big boy/girl bed”, have a special trip to the store and buy fun sheets and pillow cases and maybe a special stuffed animal to prepare your child. Create a book with pictures of your child following the routine, or find one that is all about sleeping in a bed, Llama Llama Nighty- Night, by Ana Dewdney, or Bedtime by Elizabeth Verdick are good ones to try.

  • Encourage your child with words of praise and support. Tell him that you know he can do it.

  • Children want to cooperate with us, but we have to support their efforts. Soon they will be sleeping through the night in their own bed!

Sharing and the World of Mine!

Sharing and the World of “MINE”

Kathie Sarles M.Ed.

As parents we want to raise our children to be respectful of others and learn how to be social. We try to model many social norms like greetings, being polite and sharing. We expect that once our child interacts with others that he/ she will begin to follow that model while interacting. Toddlers and preschoolers will fall short of this expectation, and that is due to their social / emotional development. These toddlers are egocentric, which means they feel they are the center of the world and no other perspective is valid.

Ego-centrism is when one thinks about himself, and only cares about his own need, desire and view….. Between the ages of 2 and 7, egocentric behavior raises its head in children, and it subsides gradually as the child grows older. Ego-centrism has effects on the child’s perception. An egocentric person finds it difficult to absorb or acknowledge others perspective or in simple terms we can say he fails to see other’s view.” (

As Jean Piaget says, “The egocentric child assumes that other people hear, see and feel exactly the same as the child does.”

Just like any other acquired skill, sharing is learned through play and repetition. Babies begin this process when they make cooing sounds to their parents and their parents coo back. Several months later your baby may give you a toy, but expect it back right away. He feels secure through your positive interactions over time that you will give it back. If another child takes that block however, it may be grabbed back, or held tight. If your toddler has a few words you might hear a loud, “Mine”, as he takes that toy back. Although parents rush to help with this situation, it is typical and developmentally appropriate for a baby or toddler to think everything is his. He sees it, he wants it, it is his/hers. He is developing his sense of identity and autonomy which is what we want our children to do. They begin to have strong feelings of ownership of themselves and their possessions.

When can we expect our children to share? Sharing happens slowly and within the context of play with others .Children with a developmental delay may have a more difficult time with this than others, so it is important to know your child’s abilities and take that into account. Also,If your child has had no structured play time with other children then it might take a bit longer. You can be their “play partner” for some of the day however, and take turns playing with a toy that is motivating. Encourage an older sibling to play using with their brother or sister including turn taking in that play. Using the words, “my turn”, and “your turn”, can help with cueing that it is time to share the toy or activity. If your child has a specific toy that is his “lovey” or special toy, respect that and do not expect any sharing. Keep it in a safe place away from other children and do not ask your child to share that toy. If we respect their possessions they will be more willing to do the same with ours and eventually with other children’s. Remember to be patient and model what is appropriate. Leaving children alone to play and share when they are not ready to do so will only cause aggressive behavior and apprehension around playing with other children. Be present or have two of the same toy out if you are not able to help with the play.

Learning to share is a very gradual process. First the toddler must have positive feelings of ownership and consistent relationships with loving adults. Then she must understand the objects are permanent, that they continue to exist even when they are out of sight and that they return unchanged. Finally, feelings of empathy develop as the 2 year old becomes more aware of other people’s feelings. Only then can she experience the pleasure of sharing with friends can bring.” ( Carla Poole , Early Childhood Today)

Although it may be difficult to hear your child scream “MINE” or see her snatch a toy away from another child, it is typical in the early years. Knowing what to expect and then modeling and repeating the appropriate actions will help both you and your child get through it. Expectations need to be developmentally appropriate; sharing is not a skill that is usually mastered until children enter Kindergarten.

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