I often get mums messaging me via my online chat in the middle of the night from overseas. This desperate message came from a mum in the UK and she’d sent it at 4 pm Sydney Australia time which was 3 am UK time.
I get it. It’s lonely in those early hours of the morning. You think no one else is up except you and your baby and toddler who won’t go the f**k to sleep. You’ve had it. You’ve had no sleep at all. And you can’t see yourself getting any sleep from then till 7 am. You think I might as well just give up, it’s just not going to happen.
“Hi, I have a toddler who refuses to sleep the whole night. It has come to the point that I’m lucky if he falls asleep at 7 am! As sometimes it can be 11 am and he STILL hasn’t slept. He has just turned 2 and I also have a newborn so the lack of sleep is killing me. Please help if you can I’m desperate.”
I replied back and said please contact me I can help you. Really I can.
One day passed and still no reply.
Maybe she went to every website and posted the same thing? Maybe she got an instant reply from a chatbot? Who knows.
Then this message came through from Karina in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“Hi, Karen. just wanna appreciate everything you put on your blog. now I know why my 9-month-old is catnapping, eats very little of solids, wakes at least 5 times during the night to FEED. You just opened my eyes! thank you so much! Can we just do an email consultation?”
Non-nutritive breast feeding and baby sleep regressions
Babies need a nourishing-fat diet for good sleep
When I first started Nurture Parenting 8 years ago next month I had no idea when I started blogging if anyone was actually listening to me and reading my blog. I started this blog as a way to help my sister with her first baby. And I just hoped I helped others along the way. Nowadays I have parents from over 90 countries read my blogs every single week!! It blows my mind and makes me so happy.
So, just know if you send me a message in the middle of the night I do read them and I do reply. If I’m on an overnight helping a family you may not get a reply until the following day but I will always reply. At the end of the message is Karen and not an automated chatbot. And I do care about you and your baby or toddler who isn’t sleeping tonight.
Nurture Sleep Program
Here is a typical toddler sleep problem parents tear their
hair out over!
I had a consult last year and I think I still have 1 follow up question. Please let me know if I don’t…
We have now reached the toddler (22 months) bed stage and sleeping has gone out the wedding.
A few weeks back my daughter started hating the cot and was hysterical at the thought of going to bed (we have never experienced this). On one occasion she climbed out of the cot so I took the side off and made a toddler bed.
My toddler continues to hate going to bed and needs me to lay with her. Or wants to lay with me on the lounge. This is happening for night and day naps. We go through hours of her fighting sleep until she eventually falls asleep playing or watching a movie.
Even when asleep, she is restless and constantly changes positions and moves around (I know this as most nights she ends ups up with me).
I know I need to preserve and get her to stay in her bed but any tips would be good.
As you’ve found moving out of a cot is challenging. Was she wearing a sleeping bag when she climbed out? Sleeping bags usually manage to stop the active jumper/climber.
Impulse control and temperature control are big issues in children under 3 years old. They can climb out of bed 50 x because they’re 2! My sisters little one did this when she moved to a toddler bed at 2 yo.
Keeping her in a toddler bed vs. moving back to the cot I’ll let you decide.
Keeping her in the bed you’ll need a safety gate on her room and to remove all items from her room for safety. I’d try a mattress on the floor rather than a bed, usually more successful because of fall risk. If you use a bed you’ll need a bed rail to keep her safe.
Use Magic Presence to settle and resettle. It will take up to 2-4 weeks to get on top of this situation and get her sleeping through the night.
Your toddler is now aware she is a separate individual and she loves to test the boundaries. She’s learning about cause and effect e.g. if I do this what will mum do? It is a toddlers job to be oppositional and they are certainly an expert at this job description!
Assert Free Will
She begins to understand she is separate from you and can exert some control over her world. One powerful way she can do this is by defying you. You say, “Please do this,” and she replies, “No!” Being able to assert free will is helpful as it motivates your child to want to make things happen. Being independant builds her confidence. The key is to find ways to show your child how she can be in control and make her own choices in positive ways.
Temperament and Defiant Behaviour
Some children will always be more defiant than others. Those with a strong temperament have got a head start in this skill. Children whose emotional reactions are big and intense, as well as children who are more cautious and timid, may be more oppositional than children who are temperamentally more easygoing and flexible. The reason being their lack of flexibility to change. For example getting strapped into the car seat, delay tactics at bedtime and trying new foods.
When it comes to your child I’d like you to think about the following:
- What activities or events set off defiance and trouble for your child?
- Why do you think these activities cause oppositional behaviour?
- How do you respond to these episodes of defiance? How do you manage it? What does this do to change things? What doesn’t help? What have your learned from these situations?
What to expect at different ages and stages
Birth to 12 Months
Babies are not defiant because they purely act on impulse so do not possess these skills and lack self-control. The best way of managing their behaviour is to redirect and divert if things are challenging e.g. trying to climb the stairs or play with an object which is not safe.
18 to 36 Months
This is a typical scenario I get sent about 2-3 year olds.
Hello Karen, We need some behaviour management strategies for Hugo (2y 8m). Recently, he seems to have reached a new level of defiance and independence which we love and encourage but sometimes some things aren’t a choice.
How do you apply the “time in” technique during the day as we often use consequence more so or is this better?
Also how to go about it when he refuses to brush his teeth etc. His bedtime routine is a struggle at the moment – dinner/dessert, upstairs for a bath/shower, pjs, teeth, book /song and bed is the current routine. We are finding he’s recently starting digging his feet in with all of the night time routine and its becoming a negative experience, when it used to be one we loved together. Hubby and I both usually do it together, so he tries to play off each of us so to speak. So, we’d love that relaxing routine back with some positive strategies! 😀 Thank you!
This is my A to the above scenario
Children who have difficulty accepting change are usually more oppositional. These are the ones with a strong personality and also the very timid, quiet children.
Anticipate the kinds of situations that lead to defiance from your child and help him problem solve and cope in advance e.g. using the 5 minute rule and transition statements (see below).
How to reduce toddler tantrums – the 5 minute rule
Time in or as I call it Quiet Time
Quiet Time can be very useful in teaching your child to calm without needing to use Time Out. It helps your child learn to manage their often overwhelming emotions without needing to discipline or use consequences.
Quiet time is sitting your child next to you on the sofa or on your knee in a firm embrace facing away from you if they cannot keep still. Set the timer and allow 1 minute for each year of their age. For a 2 year old the timer is set at 2 minutes etc. Once they are calm and in control of their emotions they can get down and go about their day.
Another method of dealing with tantrums in younger children looks at holding your child in a firm embrace. You will know if this is the way you want to go or whether you prefer the ignoring concept. The Australian Psychologist, Dr Louise Porter uses this concept and calls it ‘Bringing the child in close’.
Alternative To Time Out
Once Hugo complies with your instructions use labelled praise to get this behaviour on repeat.
Empty praise vs. labelled praise and effects on resilience in kids
Respond with Empathy and Set Clear Limits
Validate your child’s feelings. Parents often skip this step and go right to setting the limit. But acknowledging a child’s feelings first is very important as it lets her know you understand where she’s coming from, and her feelings matter. (Keep in mind it’s not the child’s feelings that are the problem, it’s what the child does with her feelings that is the challenge.)
It’s this first step—empathy and validation—helping start to calm them down. Labelling your toddler’s feelings helps her learn to be aware of her emotions and to manage them. Keep your language simple and direct: “I know you don’t want to put your PJ’s on. It’s difficult to go from playtime to bedtime.” When you skip this step, children will “pump up the volume” or escalate their behaviour to show you—louder, harder, and stronger—just how upset they are.
This is often when tantrums start.
After validating your child’s feelings:
The key is to pay as little attention as possible to your toddler’s protests. Ignoring the behaviors you want to eliminate is the fastest way to be rid of them. (The only exception to this rule is if your child is being physically hurtful—hitting, slapping, punching, and so on—in which case you calmly but firmly stop the behavior and explain that he can feel mad but he cannot hit.)
How to get rid of irritating behaviours
Mini Dictator Mantra’s To Diffuse The Most Tricky Situation
Here are my top 10 favourite phrases to see a tantrum off at the pass. Guaranteed to keep you calm and in control. Print out and pop them on the fridge and in no time these will be second nature to you. These are phrases I teach parents of testing 3 and 4 year olds to manage the strongest of temperaments and most defiant mini dictator!!
- When and then – “when your hands are clean then you can have your dinner”.
- Can I help you? – when you can see your little one struggling to do something and getting frustrated this can diffuse their building tanty. It pu’s them in control and owning the power so avoiding the power struggle which happens when any well-meaning parent wants to help.
- “It is totally okay to feel angry—I would too. When you can, find some words to tell me so I can help you find an answer/get what you need.” This validates their feelings and demonstrates empathy with how your child is feeling. It gives words for emotions and allows them to calm down when the’re ready. It says your feelings are important and I want to help you.
- “Asked and answered,” or “You asked, and I already answered.” This says I heard you and that’s it…end of discussion. It cuts things off and can stop a situation escalating into a behemoth of an argument.
- “It is okay to be mad, but it is not okay to be mean.” This is a great one to stop your 4 year old when they say classics like I hate you. It validates the anger but doesn’t allow them to say truly mean things to their mum. Gold. Remember and use this and you should find those mean words will be used far less.
- “I see you are mad. It is not okay to hurt, break or throw.” If the child continues to ramp it up, try this: “Is this worth losing ____ over? I am here to help you calm down so you don’t lose ____.” – Use a consequence that is reasonable, age-appropriate and the child has been forewarned about when everyone is calm. It’s a good idea to make a calm-down plan so adults and children know what steps to follow when anger bubbles over. Use these elements in your plan/house rules:
a) a key-word to remind you of your plan like “freeze” or “stop,”
b) an action to let the “anger bubbles” come out like jumping 10 times,
c) clapping your hands, count backwards from 11,
d) remind yourself to breathe,
The family can agree that if the plan or house rules isn’t used and hurting, breaking or throwing keep happening, then _____ will be the consequence. Reassure your child you will help him/ her with the calm-down plan. This strategy works best when all members of the family agree to use it.
- “You do not need to eat, but you do need to sit at the table with the rest of the family.” This takes the pressure off and 9 times out of 10, they eat. Food and eating is a behaviour I advise never having a battle over. This ends in disaster and a big stand off. It leaves the choice with the child exactly where it should be.
- “Mummy and daddy feel so good because we were able to sleep because you did such a great job of staying in your bed all night long. Thank you so much!” Children want to make us proud and help parents well-being. It’s important to let them know when they’ve done a good job and connect the activity to the praise (labeleed praise).
- There are four steps/ phrases to handling frustration: a. Show your child you see his or her upset (helps your child feel important). “You threw the car—I see you are upset.” Put a hand on your melting-down child and softly say, “I know, (name) I know.” b. Use a feelings word. “Your brother took your truck and now you look angry. Is that right?” c. Pause – waiting is important to allow the child to process d. Help your child move into rational thought by asking a question that focuses on problem solving or to find some words to explain. “Do you need a 1) Break, 2) To try again, or 3) Help?”
Ta-da! I hope you loved this list as much as I loved putting it together 🙂
Empty praise vs. labelled praise and effects on resilience in kids
How to reduce toddler tantrums
Toddlers are designed to push boundaries and it comes naturally to these cute little mini dictators. The danger as their parent is you forget to maintain your boundary or limit setting. Until the toddler’s boundary becomes the new status quo. Then you are in for a whole heap of trouble and pain. I liken the toddler to a mini dictator or CEO, they want to be an adult before they’re a child. And they will do everything in their power to get exactly what it is they think they need.
In order to follow rules and understand limits, children need to develop self-control.
Self-control and self-regulation are complex skills beginning to emerge in the early months. They become increasingly consistently apparent between four and five years old. Self-regulation takes many years to fully develop — and adults may struggle with this skill from time to time! Limit setting starts at 0-12 months not when you hit testing times with a 3 year old!
Developing Self-Control 0-12 months
Babies naturally act on their thoughts and feelings over which they have no conscious control. They are unable to reflect on or think about their behavior. And they can’t stop themselves from acting on their impulses.
The baby needs your help to develop some self-control and will gradually learn about and gain some self-control across the first year. One of the most important factors in developing self-control is the ability to soothe and calm when upset. Initially this skill is provided by their caregiver by cuddling, rocking, talking calmly, feeding and putting a dummy in their mouth. The parent attempts to understand the baby’s facial expressions, non-verbal body language communication and cries to help in meeting her daily needs. The sense of being loved and understood gives babies a foundation of safety and security and is essential for coping with feelings in a positive healthy way.
What You Can Do Now To Help Your Baby Gain Self-Control
- Stay calm – demonstrating you can manage your emotions is essential in being able to teach your baby the same skills. This helps her feel safe and then she knows you are avaialble to help her (not dealing with your own emotions and calming down). Modelling self-control is an essential part of helping her work out how to calm herself.
- Provide basic tools – teach your baby basic calm techniques, at 8 months plus help her find her comforter or pacifier to help calm herself. Once you give it to her you are creating learned helplessness and she will not attempt to help herself longterm.
- Demonstrate self-help techniques – show your baby how to calm himself, provide a teething rusk or teething aid such as Sophie the Giraffe to help him whilst he is teething. Show him acceptable ways of helping himself rather than chastising him for ways you don’t want him to use e.g. biting your finger.
Daily Routines Help Develop Security and Self-Control
Routines are events which happen at the same time each day and usually in a particular order. They acat as a cue to help the baby know what is likely to happen next. They create security and decrease cortisol and help a baby navigate change and challenging situations.
How you can help
- Determine if there are any particular times of day your baby has a meltdown. Is there a common denominator e.g. around mealtimes or nap times? Organise trips at the baby’s ‘best’ time of day.
- Use baby massage, reading and soothing lullabies to help calm your baby from activity time to a restful nap.
Get in tune with your baby
Does your baby have a very definite strong personality and temperament and are they resistant to change? Working out your baby’s ‘type’ can help you manage them much better.
A baby’s temperament can have an impact on a care- giver’s ability to meet the baby’s needs. Temperament refers to a person’s characteristics or traits that are biologically based and consistent over time. It influences how we respond to people and our surroundings.
Temperament characteristics shape how easily babies and toddlers are able to manage their feelings and impulses, especially traits e.g.
- Intensity to particular situations
Children who have a more negative mood, are intense reactors and/or who are not very flexible or adaptable may have a more difficult time developing self-control.
They tend to get upset more easily and will probably need more help from you the parent to calm down. This doesn’t mean their temperament is somehow “wrong” or “bad.” But because their reactions are so strong, it may take more time to learn how to manage intense feelings and responses.
I kept telling myself that his sleep would improve
How You Can Help Your Baby With Impulse Control
Help your baby learn to self-soothe and calm herself, the more in control she feels the happier she will be. This is a skill which has to be taught and it won’t just happen by chance. Allow your baby to have a voice, to be allowed to cry and express herself. The key thing is you help her with her emotions and avoid letting her cry alone. This is why teaching babies self-soothing skills early is the key to good emotional health as a child and an adult.
Observe your baby and try to understand her feeding and hunger cues. Study her verbal and non-verbal communication, what is she trying to tell you? Once babies feel heard and understood they become much calmer.
In a future blog I’m following on from this with helping the 12-36 month old manage their emotions and limit setting.
Attunement and getting your groove on with baby
Parents of children with eczema
Parents of children with eczema were once advised their children should ‘avoid wearing wool at all costs’, for fear the rough and prickly fibre may irritate their skin and exacerbate the itch further. However, according to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), there is now new evidence wearing superfine Merino wool may actually be good for eczema.
What is eczema?
Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition which dries up the skin. It causes redness, itching, and skin cracking which sometimes leads to bacterial infection. It is often related to allergies and can be worsened by temperature changes, particularly heat.
More than 25% of all children are born with some degree of eczema. If you have eczema or are a parent of a child suffering from eczema, you will understand how painful it is to watch your child endure the discomfort of a flare-up.
Many People think of wool as being itchy…or is it?
For years, dermatologists and doctors have recommended eczema sufferers avoid wearing wool for fear the wool might exacerbate need to itch further. But herein lies the problem.
The problem with this advice is it fails to distinguish between different types of wool fibres, of which there are many. Some wool fibres can indeed be coarse and hard, leaving an itchy feel against the skin.
However, superfine Merino wool is different.
What is superfine Merino wool?
Wool fibres come in a range of different diameters (thicknesses). The thicker the wool, the itchier it feels against the skin.
Merino wool is different to regular wool because it comes from the Merino sheep, selectively bred and highly regarded for producing the softest wool available.
Superfine Merino wool is even softer. In technical terms, superfine Merino wool has a low micron count (18.5 microns or less) and is lightweight (170-150gsm). Therefore, superfine Merino wool will feel like the softest of the softest wool on your skin. It is this miracle wool which has been used in the study to effectively debunk the myth.
In 2016, 40 children under the age of 3 who suffered from eczema were invited to participate in a study conducted by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI). Half of the children wore 100% superfine Merino wool for 6 weeks before changing over to cotton, with the remaining half starting with cotton before switching over to superfine Merino wool.
The researchers found that when children switched to superfine Merino wool after wearing cotton they showed a significant decrease in eczema severity, whereas, for the children who started wearing Superfine Merino wool and then switched to cotton, their eczema actually worsened.
“We found that wearing superfine Merino wool led to an overall greater improvement in eczema when compared with wearing outfits made of cotton,” said Associate Professor John Su.
Prior to this, studies performed in the 1950’s used coarser and heavier wool garments. This resulted in cases of itching and discomfort for eczema sufferers and has been a major reason leading health professionals and dermatologists to advise sufferers to avoid wool altogether.
However, we now know that is not the case and the difference lies in the quality of wool. For eczema sufferers, regular wool that is coarse may cause itching and irritation. Superfine Merino wool, however, is not only comfortable to wear but also beneficial to alleviating eczema symptoms.
Why is superfine Merino wool sleepwear superior to cotton for eczema?
For eczema sufferers, symptoms can be greatly exacerbated by heat and sweat. The type of fibre worn against the skin can play a large part in increasing or reducing symptoms.
Superfine Merino wool has the unique ability to transfer and wick moisture and heat away from the body as it sweats, helping to keep the surface of the skin dry and less irritated.
Cotton, on the other hand, readily absorbs and holds moisture. This means sweat is absorbed and will sit longer on the surface of the skin, increasing the risk of irritation.
Superfine Merino wool is also unique because it contains lanolin, which gives it natural and powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. This helps to keep the skin clean and avoid infections.
Superfine Merino wool, suitable for eczema sufferers
Given the research results by the MCRI, we now know superfine Merino wool can help alleviate the symptoms of eczema. If you have a child with eczema, choosing to clothe made from superfine Merino wool to be worn against their skin will help reduce irritation and ultimately be more comfortable to wear.
Hello Night Kids use 18.5micron superfine Merino wool for all their Pyjama sets.
Hello Night Children’s Sleepwear in Merino wool
Managing eczema in babies and children