Handling Unwanted Advice Get Your Toddler to Cooperate Should Babies and Toddlers Watch Television? Potty Training—Get Ready, Get Set, Go Quick Facts About Potty Training Potty Training Readiness Quiz Moving from Crib to Bed Firstborn Jealousy 8 Sleep Tips for Every Child p.1 p.3 p.5 p.8 p.9 p.10 p.12 p.14 p.16
These articles are reprinted with permission from author Elizabeth Pantley. For more information, please see her website at www.pantley.com/elizabeth.
Handling Unwanted Advice
By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of Gentle Baby Care
“Help! I’m getting so frustrated with the endless stream of advice I get from my mother-in-law and brother! No matter what I do, I’m doing it wrong. I love them both, but how do I get them to stop dispensing all this unwanted advice?” Just as your baby is an important part of your life, he is also important to others. People who care about your baby are bonded to you and your child in a special way that invites their counsel. Knowing this may give you a reason to handle the interference gently, in a way that leaves everyone’s feelings intact. Regardless of the advice, it is your baby, and in the end, you will raise your child the way that you think best. So it’s rarely worth creating a war over a well-meaning person’s comments. You can respond to unwanted advice in a variety of ways: Listen first It’s natural to be defensive if you feel that someone is judging you; but chances are you are not being criticized; rather, the other person is sharing what they feel to be valuable insight. Try to listen - you may just learn something valuable. Disregard If you know that there is no convincing the other person to change her mind, simply smile, nod, and make a non-committal response, such as, “Interesting!” Then go about your own business...your way. Agree You might find one part of the advice that you agree with. If you can, provide wholehearted agreement on that topic.
Pick your battles If your mother-in-law insists that Baby wear a hat on your walk to the park, go ahead and pop one on his head. This won’t have any long-term effects except that of placating her. However, don’t capitulate on issues that are important to you or the health or well-being of your child. Steer clear of the topic If your brother is pressuring you to let your baby cry to sleep, but you would never do that, then don’t complain to him about your baby getting you up five times the night before. If he brings up the topic, then distraction is definitely in order, such as, “Would you like a cup of coffee?” Educate yourself Knowledge is power; protect yourself and your sanity by reading up on your parenting choices. Rely on the confidence that you are doing your best for your baby. Educate the other person If your “teacher” is imparting information that you know to be outdated or wrong, share what you’ve learned on the topic. You may be able to open the other person’s mind. Refer to a study, book, or report that you have read. Quote a doctor Many people accept a point of view if a professional has validated it. If your own pediatrician agrees with your position, say, “My doctor said to wait until she’s at least six months before starting solids.” If your own doctor doesn’t back your view on that issue, then refer to another doctor - perhaps the author of a baby care book. Be vague You can avoid confrontation with an elusive response. For example, if your sister asks if you’ve started potty training yet (but you are many months away from even starting the process), you can answer with, “We’re moving in that direction.” Ask for advice! Your friendly counselor is possibly an expert on a few issues that you can agree on. Search out these points and invite guidance. She’ll be happy that she is helping you, and you’ll be happy you have a way to avoid a showdown about topics that you don’t agree on. Memorize a standard response Here’s a comment that can be said in response to almost any piece of advice: “This may not be the right way for you, but it’s the right way for me.” Be honest Try being honest about your feelings. Pick a time free of distractions and choose your words carefully, such as, “I know how much you love Harry, and I’m glad you spend so much time with him. I know you think you’re helping me when you give me advice about this, but I’m comfortable with my own approach, and I’d really appreciate if you’d understand that.” Find a mediator If the situation is putting a strain on your relationship with the advice-giver, you may want to ask another person to step in for you. Search out like -minded friends Join a support group or on-line club with people who share your parenting philosophies. Talking with others who are raising their babies in a way that is similar to your own can give you the strength to face people who don’t understand your viewpoints.
Get Your Toddler to Cooperate!
By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of Kid Cooperation and Perfect Parenting
Toddlers and preschoolers require finesse to gain their cooperation, because they have not yet reached the age at which they can see and understand the whole picture, so simply explaining what you want doesn’t always work. Robert Scotellaro is quoted in The Funny Side of Parenthood as saying, “Reasoning with a two-year-old is about as productive as changing seats on the Titanic.” (He must have had a two-year-old at the time.) You can get around this frustrating state of affairs by changing your approach. Let’s look at two situations – first the typical (Titanic) way: Parent: David! Time to change your diaper. David: No! (As he runs off) Parent: Come on honey. It’s time to leave, I need to change you. David: (Giggles and hides behind sofa) Parent: David, this isn’t funny. It’s getting late. Come here. David: (Doesn’t hear a word. Sits down to do a puzzle.) Parent: Come here! (Gets up and approaches David) David: (Giggles and runs) Parent: (Picking up David) Now lie here. Stop squirming! Lie still. Will you stop this! (As parent turns to pick up a new diaper, a little bare bottom is running away) I’m sure you’ve all been there. Oh, and by the way, David is my son. And this was an actual scene recorded in his baby book. Like you, I got very tired of this. And then I discovered a better way: Parent: (Picking up diaper and holding it like a puppet, making it talk in a silly, squeaky voice) Hi David! I’m Dilly Diaper! Come here and play with me! David: (Running over to Diaper) Hi Dilly! Parent as Diaper: You’re such a nice boy. Will you give me a kiss? David: Yes. (Gives diaper a kiss) Parent as Diaper: How ‘bout a nice hug? David: (Giggles and hugs Diaper) Parent as Diaper: Lie right here next to me. Right here. Yup. Can I go on you? Oh yes?! Goody goody goody! (The diaper chats with David while he’s being changed. Then it says, Oh, David! Listen, I hear your shoes calling you – David! David!
The most amazing thing about this trick is that it works over and over and over and over. You’ll keep thinking, “He’s not honestly going to fall for this again?” But he will! Probably the nicest by-product of this method is that it gets you in a good mood and you have a little fun time with your child. When you’ve got a toddler this technique is a pure lifesaver. When my son David was little I used this all the time. (I then used it with my youngest child, Coleton, and it worked just as well.) Remembering back to one day, when David was almost three, we were waiting in a long line at the grocery store and I was making my hand talk to him. It was asking him questions about the items in the cart. Suddenly, he hugged my hand, looked up at me and said, “Mommy, I love for you to pretend this hand is talking.” Another parent reported that she called her toddler to the table for dinner a number of times, when he calmly looked up at her, chubby hands on padded hips and said, “Mommy, why don’t you have my dinner call to me?” And suddenly, the peas on his plate came to life and called out to him; he ran over to join the family at the dinner table. A variation on this technique, that also works very well, is to capitalize on a young child’s vivid imagination as a way to thwart negative emotions. Pretend to find a trail of caterpillars on the way to the store, hop to the car like a bunny, or pretend a carrot gives you magic powers as you eat it. It’s delightful to see how a potentially negative situation can be turned into a fun experience by changing a child’s focus to fun and fantasy.
Should Babies and Toddlers Watch Television?
By Elizabeth Pantley, author of Gentle Baby Care and Kid Cooperation
So much television programming is aimed at young children. Much of it appears to be educational: teaching the ABCs and life skills. When is it appropriate to introduce a baby to television, and what do parents need to know about this topic? A great deal of research has been done on the effects of television on children’s lives. The first step in making the decision is to get the facts. Because nearly all of us have one or more TV sets in our home, and since most of us watch some TV nearly every day, we may not want to hear what research tells us, but these are things parents need to know.
Experts suspect that babies younger than two years old view TV as a confusing array of colors, images, and noises. They don’t understand much of the content. Since the average TV scene lasts five to eight seconds, your baby or toddler doesn’t have enough time to digest what’s happening. Cartoons and many children’s shows are filled wit h images of violence. If you find this hard to believe, surf the TV on Saturday morning. The realism portrayed in today’s cartoons has moved light years beyond the Bugs Bunny type of violence. Many children’s shows almost are animated versions of adult action films. Research shows that exposure to this type of programming increases the risk of aggressive behavior and desensitizes children to violence. Babies and toddlers have a very literal view of the world. They can’t yet tell the difference between real and pretend, and they interpret what they see on TV as true life. Research has demonstrated that many young children believe that TV characters actually live inside the TV set. This can confuse young children’s understanding of the world and get in the way of their learning what’s right or wrong. It can paint a picture of a frightening, unstable, and bewildering world, and your little one does not yet have the faculties to put what he sees into proper perspective. Television watching can be addictive. The more that children watch, the more they want to watch. Even toddlers can become drawn to the set. Once addicted, turning off the TV can become a daily battle. Children who watch TV excessively often become passive and lose their natural creativity; they eventually have a hard time keeping themselves busy, and they lose valuable time that should be dedicated to “play” – the foundation of a healthy childhood and the primary way that very young children learn. Parents sometimes unwittingly begin to use TV more and more as a way to keep their children happy and quiet. It takes a strong will and dedication to avoid the easy route provided by this free and easy—yet sometimes dangerous—babysitter. Children experience unparalleled physical, mental, and emotional growth in the early years of life. Time spent watching television is time taken away from more healthful activities that nurture growth and development. Children who watch a lot of television during their early years are at risk for childhood obesity, poor social development, and aggressive behavior. They often have trouble adjusting to preschool or kindergarten. According to a study by Yale Family Television Research, teachers characterized children who watched excessive television as less cooperative, le ss imaginative, less enthusiastic about learning, and less happy than those who watched little or no TV.
You may have noticed that all of these points demonstrate the negative aspects of letting babies and toddlers watch TV, and you’re wondering if there are any positives. There are a few, but I’ll be honest: I had to be very creative to come up with this list, since published research doesn’t demonstrate many good points for putting a young child in front of a television. But we need to be realistic and acknowledge that most of us aren’t going to put our TVs in the closet until all of our children start school. Here are some of the good points of television for children:
Quality children’s programming can teach your child basic academic skills, such as the ABCs, counting, addition, science fundamentals, basic language skills, manners, and even early reading skills. Your child can view things she might not otherwise see in daily life: exotic animals, distant lands, musical instruments, historical places, and diverse lifestyles. Your child can learn about the world beyond her home and neighborhood. Your child can learn basic social skills from watching wholesome programming: how to play with other children, how to use good manners. Using extraordinarily careful selection and restraint, a little bit of television can provide a parent with much-needed down time, or time to catch up on tasks that need adult-only attention.
TV watching tips for parents of babies and young children The following tips may help you minimize the negative and maximize the positive effects of television watching for your little one:
Hold off introducing television—even videos—to your baby as long as possible. If you wait until your child’s second birthday, you can consider yourself incredibly successful in starting your little one off well and with the kind of real-life interaction that is so important for his development. If you decide to allow TV before your child turns two, choose programming carefully, limit viewing time and skip days when possible. (Daily viewing easily becomes habit.) The less watching time, the better! Set a goal, such as no more than 30 minutes or an hour per day, or one favorite show, so that you’ll not be tempted to turn the TV on too frequently. Watch programs yourself before you allow your baby or toddler to watch them. Just because a network markets a show to young children doesn’t mean it will reflect your own family’s morals and values. You will be amazed to discover that many programs aimed at children contain violence or topics that are inappropriate for your child. Don’t assume that your baby can pick out the moral message from a program that features violence or conflict on the way to an important lesson. Pay attention to commercials. Surprisingly, an excellent children’s show will sometimes feature commercials that depict the exact things you don’t want your little one to see! Choose programs that are developmentally appropriate for your child. For you, this means shows that are slow, bor ing, and probably somewhat goofy. But choose programs from your child’s perspective, not your own. Invest in a collection of appropriate and educational videos for your child so that you won’t be confined to network programming schedules when you are ready to let your little one watch something. Watch along with your child when you can so that you can monitor your child’s reactions to what he’s seeing. Invite questions and discuss what you are watching so that you can understand your little
one’s take. Point things out and talk about what is being taught to get the most of out of educational TV. You may even follow up with some lessons afterwards.
Avoid keeping the TV on when no one is actively watching. Many people do this and are used to the background noise the set generates, but your child will almost surely be exposed to programming that is inappropriate for her. Make a conscious decision about how you will use television in your family; don’t watch it by accident or default.
Potty Training – Get Ready, Get Set, Go!
By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of The No-Cry Potty Training Solution
Get Ready If your child is near or has passed his first birthday, you can begin incorporating pre-potty training ideas into his life. They are simple things that will lay the groundwork for potty training and will make the process much easier when you're ready to begin. • • • • • • • During diaper changes, narrate the process to teach your toddler the words and meanings for bathroom-related functions, such as pee-pee and poo-poo. Include descriptive words that you'll use during the process, such as wet, dry, wipe, and wash. If you're comfortable with it, bring your child with you when you use the toilet. Explain what you're doing. Tell him that when he gets bigger, he'll put his pee-pee and poo-poo in the toilet instead of in his diaper. Let him flush the toilet if he wants to. Help your toddler identify what's happening when she wets or fills her diaper. Tell her, "You're going poo-poo in your diaper." Have her watch you dump and flush. Start giving your child simple directions and help him to follow them. For example, ask him to get a toy from another room or to put the spoon in the dishwasher. Encourage your child to do things on her own: put on her socks, pull up her pants, carry a cup to the sink, or fetch a book. Have a daily sit-and-read time together. Take the readiness quiz again every month or two to see if you're ready to move on to active potty learning.
Get Set • Buy a potty chair, a dozen pairs of training pants, four or more elastic -waist pants or shorts, and a supply of pull-up diapers or disposables with a feel-the-wetness sensation liner. • Put the potty in the bathroom, and tell your child what it's for. • Read books about going potty to your child. • Let your child practice just sitting on the potty without expecting a deposit. Go • • • • • • • • • • •
Begin dressing your child in training pants or pull-up diapers. Create a potty routine--have your child sit on the potty when she first wakes up, after meals, before getting in the car, and before bed. If your child looks like she needs to go--tell, don't ask! Say, "Let's go to the potty." Boys and girls both can learn sitting down. Teach your son to hold his penis down. He can learn to stand when he's tall enough to reach. Your child must relax to go: read a book, tell a story, sing, or talk about the day. Make hand washing a fun part of the routine. Keep a step stool by the sink, and have colorful, childfriendly soap available. Praise her when she goes! Expect accidents, and clean them up calmly. Matter-of-factly use diapers or pull-ups for naps and bedtime. Either cover the car seat or use pull-ups or diapers for car trips. Visit new bathrooms frequently when away from home. Be patient! It will take three to twelve months for your child to be an independent toileter. If your child has temper tantrums or sheds tears over potty training, or if you find yourself getting angry, then stop training. Review your training plan and then try again, using a slightly different approach if necessary, in a month or two.
Quick Facts About Potty Training
By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of The No-Cry Potty Training Solution
Potty training can be natural, easy, and peaceful. The first step is to know the facts. • The perfect age to begin potty training is different for every child. Your child's best starting age could be anywhere from eighteen to thirty-two months. Pre-potty training preparation can begin when a child is as young as ten months. • You can begin training at any age, but your child's biology, skills, and readiness will determine when he can take over his own toileting. • Teaching your child how to use the toilet can, and should, be as natural as teaching him to build a block tower or use a spoon. • No matter the age that toilet training begins, most children become physically capable of independent toileting between ages two and a half and four. • It takes three to twelve months from the start of training to daytime toilet independence. The more readiness skills that a child possesses, the quicker the process will be. • The age that a child masters toileting has absolutely no correlation to future abilities or intelligence. • There isn’t only one right way to potty train – any approach you use can work - if you are pleasant, positive and patient. • Nighttime dryness is achieved only when a child's physiology supports this--you can't rush it. • A parent's readiness to train is just as important as a child's readiness to learn. Potty training need not be expensive. A potty chair, a dozen pairs of training pants and a relaxed and pleasant attitude are all that you really need. Anything else is truly optional. • Most toddlers urinate four to eight times each day, usually about every two hours or so. • Most toddlers have one or two bowel movements each day, some have three, and others skip a day or two in between movements. In general, each child has a regular pattern. • More than 80 percent of children experience setbacks in toilet training. This means that what we call “setbacks” are really just the usual path to mastery of toileting. Ninety-eight percent of children are completely daytime independent by age four.
The Potty Training Readiness Quiz
By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of The No-Cry Potty Training Solution
Potty training is easier and happens faster if your child is truly ready in all three areas: physical, cognitive and social. But the big question is: how do you know when your child is ready? If you have never traveled this road before, you likely don’t even know what signs to look for. Take this quiz to find out where your child is on the readiness spectrum. 1. a. b. c. 2. a. b. c. 3. a. b. c. 4. a. b. c. 5. a. b. c. 6. a. b. c. 7. a. b. c. 8. a. b. c. 9. a. b. c. I can tell by watching that my child is wetting or filling his diaper: Never. Sometimes. Usually. My toddler's diaper needs to be changed: Frequently, every hour or two. It varies. Every two to three hours--sometimes less frequently. My child understands the meaning of wet, dry, clean, wash, sit, and go: No. Some of them. Yes. When my child communicates her needs, she: Says or signs a few basic words and I guess the rest. Gets her essential points across to me. Has a good vocabulary and talks to me in sentences. If I give my child a simple direction, such as, "put this in the toy box," she: Doesn't understand or doesn't follow directions. Will do it if I coach or help her. Understands me and does it. My child can take his pants off and put them on: No. With help he can. Yes. When I read a book to my child, he: He ignores me. Sometimes listens, sometimes wanders off. Sits, listens and enjoys the story. My toddler wants to do things “all by myself”: Never. Sometimes. All the time! I think that it's the right time to begin potty training: No. I'm undecided. Yes.
Total the number of responses for each letter: a. __________ b. __________ c. __________ Most answers are a: Wait. Your little one doesn't seem to be ready just yet. Test again in a month or two. Most answers are b: Time for pre -potty training--get ready! Your child is not quite ready for active training, but you can take many steps to prepare your toddler for the future. Gradual introduction of terms and ideas will make potty training easier when the time comes. Most answers are c: Your toddler is ready to use the potty! It's time to start your potty training adventure. Good luck, and have fun! Are you between two scores? Just like any parenting situation, there are choices to make. If your child is hovering between two categories, it's time to put your intuition to good use. Your knowledge of your own child can direct you toward the right plan of action.
Moving from Crib to Bed
By Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution
When your child moves from crib to bed it’s a milestone in his life as well as yours. There is no precise time for making this move, though typically it’s between the first and third birthday. The key to success is to be patient and allow your child time to adjust to the change. Why move a child from crib to bed? If a child sleeps well in his crib, don’t rush the change. Switching to a bed gives a child freedom and brings new issues for parents, such as the yo-yo syndrome or early morning wanderings. The most common reasons to switch: • • • • • Your child learns how to climb. --- Move your child out of the crib when the rail is up to the level of his nipples, since climbing out is more possible. Your child outgrows the crib. --- Don’t assume it’s time! You may think that he’s uncomfortable, but he may be content in his little nest. Your child asks for a bed. --- If she’s old enough, then go ahead and take the leap. Your child is learning how to use the toilet. --- Even if your child uses the toilet during the day, it’s often a long while before bedtime dryness happens. A new sibling is on the way. --- If your little one loves his crib, then ousting him to make room for the newcomer may add stress. If you feel that the time is right then make the change two months or more before your newborn arrives.
What kind of bed should my child move to? There are a number of options for a child’s first bed: o o o Toddler bed These are small, low and child-sized. They have guard rails on all sides, and come in playful designs. Regular bed A common choice is a mattress, box springs and bed frame (with all sides protected from fall-outs). Consider a double or bigger size to accommodate the night-reading ritual. Mattress on the floor A popular choice is a mattress or futon on the floor. This provides your little one with a big-kid bed, but one that prevents any painful falls. Bunk bed Hold off on a bunk bed until your child is 6 years old, when it is considered safe.
How do we make the change? Which approach is best for you will depend on your reasons for making the change, your child’s personality, and the size of his room. Here are a few options:
Big-kid bed hoopla Some children enjoy having an official Big Kid Day party. Set up the bed, decorate the room and add a few sleep-related gifts like books and stuffed animals. One -step-at-a-time Take the mattress out of the crib and place it on the floor in the place as the crib was. This gives your child the same sleeping surface and view of the room as he’s accustomed to. Place guard rails around the sides to create a crib-like enclosure. Keep the same bedding and crib toys. This is a mid-step between the crib and a real bed. The gradual introduction Set up the new bed in the same room with the crib. Allow your child to play on the bed and nap there. Do your bedtime reading in the new bed. This will help your child get used to the bed gradually.
Patience and encouragement No matter which path you choose - be patient. Big steps toward growth often happen in spurts, and your child may be excited to welcome the change one day, but wary of it the next. Maintain your nightly bedtime routine and help your child develop a positive association with his new bed, since he’ll be sleeping there for many years to come.
By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and Gentle Baby Care
Question: Our firstborn is showing extreme jealousy towards the new baby. He’s obviously mad at us for disrupting the predictable flow of his life with this new challenger for our attention. How can we smooth things out? Think about it: Before the baby entered your family, your toddler was told he’d have a wonderful little brother to play with, and how much fun it would be. Then the little brother is born and your toddler is thinking, “Are you kidding me? This squirming, red-faced baby that takes up all your time and attention is supposed to be FUN?” He then “plays” with the baby in the only ways he knows how. He plays catch. You yell at him for throwing toys at the baby. He plays hide-and-seek. You yell at him to get the blanket off the baby. He gives the kid a hug, and you admonish him to be more careful. Is it any wonder that your toddler is confused? Teach: Your first goal is to protect the baby. Your second: to teach your older child how to interact with his new sibling in proper ways. You can teach your toddler how to play with the baby in the same way you teach him anything else. Talk to him, demonstrate, guide and encourage. Until you feel confident that you’ve achieved your second goal, however, do not leave the children alone together. Yes, I know. It isn’t convenient. But it is necessary, maybe even critical. Hover: Whenever the children are together, “hover” close by. If you see your child about to get rough, pick up the baby and distract the older sibling with a song, a toy, an activity or a snack. This action protects the baby while helping you avoid a constant string of “Nos,” which may actually encourage the aggressive behavior. Teach soft touches: Teach the older sibling how to give the baby a back rub. Tell how this kind of touching calms the baby, and praise the older child for a job well done. This lesson teaches the child how to be physical with the baby in a positive way. Act quickly: Every time you see your child hit, or act roughly with the baby, act quickly. You might firmly announce, “No hitting, time out.” Place the child in a time-out chair with the statement, “You can get up when you can use your hands in the right way.” Allow him to get right up if he wants – as long as he is careful and gentle with the baby. This isn’t punishment, after all. It’s just helping him learn that rough actions aren’t going to be permitted. Demonstrate: Children learn what they live. Your older child will be watching as you handle the baby and learning from your actions. You are your child’s most important teacher. You are demonstrating in everything you do, and your child will learn most from watching you. Praise: Whenever you see the older child touching the baby gently, make a positive comment. Make a big fuss about the important “older brother.” Hug and kiss your older child and tell him how proud you are. Watch your words: Don’t blame everything on the baby. “We can’t go to the park; the baby’s sleeping.” “Be quiet, you’ll wake the baby.” “After I change the baby I’ll help you.” At this point, your child would just as soon sell the baby! Instead, use alternate reasons. “My hands are busy now.” “We’ll go after lunch.” “I’ll help you in three minutes.” Be supportive: Acknowledge your child’s unspoken feelings, such as “Things sure have changed with the new baby here. It’s going to take us all some time to get used to this.” Keep your comments mild and general. Don’t say, “I bet you hate the new baby.” Instead, say, “It must be hard to have Mommy spending so much time with the baby.” or “I bet you wish we could go to the park now, and not have to wait for the
baby to wake up.” When your child knows that you understand her feelings, she’ll have less need to act up to get your attention. Give extra love: Increase your little demonstrations of love for your child. Say extra I love yous, increase your daily dose of hugs, and find time to read a book or play a game. Temporary regressions or behavior problems are normal, and can be eased with an extra dose of time and attention. Get ‘em involved: Teach the older sibling how to be helpful with the baby or how to entertain the baby. Let the older sibling open the baby gifts and use the camera to take pictures of the baby. Teach him how to put the baby’s socks on. Let him sprinkle the powder. Praise and encourage whenever possible. Making each feel special: Avoid comparing siblings, even about seemingly innocent topics such as birth weight, when each first crawled or walked, or who had more hair! Children can interpret these comments as criticisms. Take a deep breath and be calm. This is a time of adjustment for everyone in the family. Reduce outside activities, relax your housekeeping standards, and focus on your current priority, adjusting to your new family size.
Eight Sleep Tips for Every Child
By Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution
Up to 70% of children under age five have sleep problems. Sleep issues are complicated and have many causes. They’re hard to deal with because when children aren’t sleeping, parents aren’t sleeping, and that lack of sleep affects every minute of every day for every person in the family because lack of sleep isn’t just about being tired. Sleep has a role in everything -- dawdling, temper tantrums, hyperactivity, growth, health, and even learning to tie his shoes and recite the ABCs. Sleep affects everything. The following ideas are of value to almost any sleeper, of any age. These tips can bring improvement not only in your child’s sleep, but also in her daytime mood and last, but not least – improvements in your own sleep and outlook as well. # 1 Maintain a consistent bedtime and awaking time. Your child’s biological clock has a strong influence on her wakefulness and sleepiness. When you establish a set time for bedtime and wake up time you “set” your child’s clock so that it functions smoothly. Aim for an early bedtime. Young children respond best with a bedtime between 6:30 and 7:30 P.M. Most children will sleep better and longer when they go to bed early. # 2 Encourage regular daily naps . Daily naps are important. An energetic child can find it difficult to go through the day without a rest break. A nap-less child will often wake up cheerful and become progressively fussier or hyper-alert as the day goes on. Also, the length and quality of naps affects night sleep – good naps equal better night sleep. # 3 Set your child’s biological clock. Take advantage of your child’s biology so that he’s actually tired when bedtime arrives. Darkness causes an increase in the release of the body’s sleep hormone -- the biological “stop” button. You can align your child’s sleepiness with bedtime by dimming the lights during the hour before bedtime. Exposing your child to morning light is pushing the “go” button in her brain — one that says, “Time to wake up and be active.” So keep your mornings bright! # 4 Develop a consistent bedtime routine. Routines create security. A consistent, peaceful bedtime routine allows your child to transition from the motion of the day to the tranquil state of sleep. An organized routine helps you coordinate the specifics: bath, pajamas, tooth-brushing. It helps you to function on auto-pilot at the time when you are most tired and least creative. # 5 Create a cozy sleep environment. Where your child sleeps can be a key to quality sleep. Make certain the mattress is comfortable, the blankets are warm, the room temperature is right, pajamas are comfy, and the bedroom is welcoming. # 6 Provide the right nutrition. Foods can affect energy level and sleepiness. Carbohydrates can have a calming effect on the body, while foods high in protein or sugar generate alertness, particularly when eaten alone. A few ideas for pre-bed
snacks are: whole wheat toast and cheese, bagel and peanut butter, oatmeal with bananas, or yogurt and lowsugar granola. Vitamin deficiencies due to unhealthy food choices can affect a child’s sleep. Provide your child with a daily assortment of healthy foods. # 7 Help your child to be healthy and fit. Many children don’t get enough daily physical activity. Too much TV watching and a lack of activity prevents good sleep. Children who get ample daily exercise fall asleep more quickly, sleep better, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling refreshed. Avoid activity in the hour before bedtime though, since exercise is stimulating – they’ll be jumping on the bed instead of sleeping in it! # 8 Teach your child how to relax. Many children get in bed but aren’t sure what to do when they get there! It can help to follow a soothing prebed routine that creates sleepiness. A good pre-bed ritual is story time. A child who is listening to a parent read a book or tell a tale will tend to lie still and listen. This quiet stillness allows him to become sleepy. Work with these eight ideas and you’ll see improvements in your child’s sleep, and yours too.