The Missing Ingredient to Getting Your Toddler to Sleep Through the Night
It seems like every parent goes though this problem at some point during the infant or toddler years. If you are dealing with a child who won’t stay in bed, or wakes up in tears throughout the night, then I really hope this article helps you.
If you read the conventional advice on parenting, you’ll see very reasonable advice. Usually it goes something like this:
- Be consistent.
- Get your kid to bed earlier rather than later.
- Don’t let your child fall asleep while nursing or rocked. Have them fall asleep in their own bed.
- Don’t “give up” and bring your child into your own bed if you are not in a habit of co-sleeping.
- Put your child to bed when he or she is showing signs of drowsiness, but not already asleep.
What’s the Missing Ingredient?
If this seems really simple to you after reading it, you have my permission to laugh out loud. Here it is: Your child has to have an emotional feeling of comfort from his own bed. If your child feels comforted, warm, cozy, loved, and safe in his or her own bed, sleep issues go away completely.
Yes – completely.
I was reading “The Good Child Guide” by Dr. Noel Swanson the other day and he makes a great point very early on in the book when he says that children do what they do because they WANT to.
If you are a Tony Robbins fan, you know this better by the terminology “pain” and “pleasure”. People seek pleasure and they avoid pain. Their behavior consistently targets these desires. When I started learning about NLP and hypnosis in the late 1990s, Tony Robbins was a huge source of my learning.
When a child won’t stay in bed it is because he either feels that he is missing out on pleasure (playing with Mom and Dad, or doing something fun), or he feels that being in his own bed is painful (scary, boring, cold, etc).
Your job is to fix this problem.
Let’s talk about the “pain” problem first. It’s unlikely that your kid is too cold unless you aren’t dressing him or her properly. If your child is old enough to feel bored in bed, then maybe it’s time for the mid-day nap to stop. But these are NOT the big issues most parents face.
Most “pain” comes from the child being scared or somehow emotionally uncomfortable. You need to take this pain and turn it into pleasure. You want your child to feel so comfortable and safe in bed that he simply LOVES the experience (just like we adults do).
How do you do this?
Establish a routine of preparing your child for bed. Get in the habit of doing things that are calm, relaxing, and enjoyable for your child prior to bed. This sets up an “anchor” so that your child will be in the right frame of mind when going to bed.
Spend “cuddle time” with your child in bed. Snuggle together, talk about things, or read books. This maintains the comfortable state that we talked about above.
Tell stories to reinforce the comfort. This is where the magic happens. You need to learn how to tell stories that have embedded messages in them. I often told my daughters a story about a little bunny rabbit that had fun playing all day, and enjoyed crawling into his comfy bed at the end of the day, snuggling with Mommy and Daddy.
Use “future pacing” in your stories. Future pacing is a way of having your child imagine something that will be happening in the future. In this case we’re talking about the NEAR future, i.e., the next morning! If you are telling a story about a little bunny rabbit, talk about how the bunny lies in bed and feels happy about how much fun he’ll have in the morning when the family has breakfast together, or whatever else you want to put in the story.
Language and Delivery is the Key
If there is anything I want you to really understand, it’s that you need to help your child feel the pleasure of sleepy time and take away any pain. If your kid won’t sleep through the night, or won’t go to bed at all, then you are dealing with an emotional problem. You can’t solve it with logic. You have to solve it by addressing the emotional issues. You need to be involved in the solution by helping do things, and talk about things, with your child, that make him feel comforted and safe.
If you do this, good sleep will follow. I promise.
My audio course, Talking to Toddlers, shows you many more language techniques to solve this kind of problem. I think you’ll find it to be an incredible resource.
I also think Kim West’s website is worth looking at for sleep issues.
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