Written by Paul Trevino
Setting up a sleeping routine for your toddler is tough. When they’re small, babies want to sleep with their parents; they’re extremely attached to the mother, meaning that you’ll have difficulties putting them to their own bed. However, it’s not something impossible to do. The secret is to understand them and attempt to make the transition step-by-step.
Step 1: 12-18 months
During this period, you should expect your toddler to want to walk a lot. Frequent walking, or attempt to walk is something natural. In some cases, the urge to walk happens at night. You shouldn’t ask yourself why they wake up. In most cases, toddlers wander around the house at night because they have a hectic routine during the day.
You could read them a book, or play them a story to soothe them down. From a child’s development point of view, it’s a tricky age. Your toddler now realises that if his eyes are closed, you will leave. Music and storytelling will help them fall asleep peacefully. Teach your toddlers how to drift off, and be there when they fall asleep. He must know he’s not alone.
Step 2: 18 months – 3 years
After 18 months, your child’s sleeping issues may start earlier. Most toddlers have an insane amount of energy. They never want to go to bed. Their imagination runs wild around this period and they’re eager to play all the time. You should be prepared.
Toddlers should be in bed by 9 pm. Otherwise, they’ll be sleep-deprived, and they won’t want to go to bed at all after that hour. Soothe them or read them a story before bedtime. It’s very important to have patience, and try to instill them a sense of responsibility. It will also help later as they grow up.
Step 3: 3 – 6 years old
By this age, your child should sleep all alone. Some won’t want to do that because they crave attention from their parents. Others are terrified that if they fall asleep something bad will happen. Talk to them and explain in detail you’ll be by their side all the time. After they’ve fallen asleep, check on them to see how they’re doing.
Do the “I’ll be back trick” for a few weeks to see how it’s working. After 2 weeks, expand the timeframe to 10 minutes, and then 20 minutes. A lot of toddlers are very attached to their parents – that’s okay. But you need to set some boundaries early on, otherwise your kid will want to sleep in bed with you several years in a row.
Step 4: Negotiate at 6+ years
If you haven’t had much luck teaching your toddler to sleep alone by the age of 6, you should adopt another strategy: negotiation. Don’t use sweets and treats to bribe them. This is a very bad habit and you won’t be able to handle it forever. As an alternative, you should offer them something else.
For example, you could tell them that if they behave, you will take them some place nice the following day; or that you’ll spend the day together, doing something fun. The options are endless because the child now has the ability to understand what they want. There are special cases when the toddler is still terrified after being left alone in the room. Leave the lights or the TV on; their favorite childhood toy can also help soothe them.
Regardless of your child’s age, sleeping problems should be seen as common. It is important though to be consistent. Talk to them about the importance of sleep, and tell them that 8 hours of sleep every night helps them be healthy and energised. Use tricks to get them into bed, like bedtime stories or an educational movie. If you’re persistent, you’ll see in time that everything will work out just fine. Don’t forget to reward your toddlers for good behaviour; this will motivate them to sleep alone at night, and not whine all the time that they’re afraid.