Close the door and let her cry. You need to “teach” her.

Photography: HADAS Images | www,hadasimages.com

By Sofie Thomson

Last week I wrote a blog about infant sleep and the importance of responding to the needs of our babies.

I decided that I would follow that blog up by writing about toddler sleep.

I mean, is there anything more exhausting than an almost two-year-old refusing bed time or a three-year-old needing to pee 486 times before drifting of to snooze land?

I don’t think so.

So, here is my advice for how to help a toddler sleep…

Hear the need your toddler is expressing!

Yes, just as I suggested that we should listen to our babies, I truly believe we should make sure we also listen to our toddlers.

If they need help to fall asleep, be there. If you find them stalling at bedtime, try to figure out a way to help them feel more happy about getting ready for sleep.

I found myself holding my children until they were asleep, singing and stroking their little cheeks. As they grew I also found relaxation exercises really helped to prepare for sleep.

When my oldest was 18 months old she was going through a really difficult developmental leap.

She was really struggling to wind down and relax enough that she was able to go to sleep. I remember spending hours cuddling her. She would twist and turn and almost whimper from exhaustion as she wanted to drift off to sleep but couldn’t find the peace to do so.

I remember feeling frustrated and even angry at times. Not with her really, but from the utter helplessness and not knowing how to make it better for her.

At this point I was told that the bedtime resistance displayed by my toddler was my own fault as I hadn’t “taught” her to “self soothe“, and many insisted that I still had a short window of opportunity where I could teach my child that bedtime was bedtime and that I was the “boss“. I just had to leave her to “cry it out“.

Just leave her to cry, alone, in a dark room. Scared and unable to understand where I had gone and by doing so breaking the trust that we had built together. There was no just about it.

Just leave her to cry, alone, in a dark room. Scared and unable to understand where I had gone and by doing so breaking the trust that we had built together. There was no just about it.

Every time someone shared this opinion with me I internally questioned it. I mean to teach means to guide, right?

How could I possibly TEACH my daughter to sleep if I was separated from her, waiting in another room?

All I felt leaving her to cry would achieve, was her learning that regardless of how much she cried I wouldn’t listen to her and I wouldn’t help her because of what time the clock showed.

I would demonstrate that I only offered parental love and support between 7am to 7pm.

And that just feels wrong.

I have to admit that I find the idea that we need to teach our children how to sleep ludicrous in the first place. I’m a firm believer in empathy and guiding them in the direction of healthy sleeping habits but I believe this to be achieved more efficiently if I’m actually there to help them when they need it. Holding them, stroking their precious curls and inhaling every second of this very small part of our lives.

I’m a firm believer in empathy and guiding them in the direction of healthy sleeping habits but I believe this to be achieved more efficiently if I’m actually there to help them when they need it.

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