If you've ever heard me talk or write about sleep training toddlers and preschoolers, you've definitely heard me mention "sleep rules".
As children turn two, they begin to understand that they have agency in the world, and are not just extensions of their parents. This developmental explosion very, very frequently comes with a HUGE sleep disruption. It's no longer sufficient to just fix their sleep schedule and choose your sleep training method, like it was with babies. We need our toddler or preschooler to buy in or else they'll take us down. One of the best ways to do this is to establish your expectations via sleep rules.
So - here are the 5 W's of Sleep Rules!
1) WHO are sleep rules for?
I use them with toddlers and preschoolers - including Little Monster! They also apply to the child's parents and siblings.
2) WHAT are sleep rules?
We often forget that very young children don't know what they can and can't do - they are still new to the world and very inexperienced, even if they insist otherwise. Before sleep training, we lay out a set of clear, age-appropriate sleep rules to set boundaries and teach them our expectations.
- "Stay in bed" is always my #1 rule! Short, sweet, and to the point.
- Think about the specific issues you're having and directly address them.
- Naptime, bedtime, overnight, and mornings are all fair game!
- At the same time, don't make too many - five is a great number.
- Use positive language - tell them what they CAN do.
*Example: "Lay in bed" instead of "No running around".
- One of these rules should be something they can already do - give them a slam dunk!
3) WHEN do we use sleep rules?
After coming up with your list, call a family meeting at a time when everyone is relaxed, rested (as possible), and not hungry. Go over your rules with your child and explain why it's important that they follow these rules. They don't have much empathy yet, so they can't see their parents as human beings with their own needs and wants. Any siblings should also be included, both as a member of the family who needs to sleep, and as someone expected to follow the rules (as appropriate).
4) WHERE do we use sleep rules?
Write the sleep rules on a poster during your family meeting. Allow your Little Monster to decorate it. Hang it in or near their bedroom, then review them every night as part of your best- ever bedtime routine.
5) WHY do we use sleep rules?
Reasonable boundaries and clearly communicated expectations ensure that everyone understands the new paradigm. We write them down so our future lawyers cannot argue what was said - the words are there, plain as day.
Reviewing it every night helps toddlers and preschoolers learn through repetition and keeps us accountable - when we are emphasizing the same rules over and over, we have to stick to them, or else why are we even bothering?!?!?
CONSISTENCY IS THE #1 trick in your toolbox - stick to the rules for at least 5 days before making any modifications.
If you're too fried to absorb this, or think "this will never work on MY Little Monster", book a free 15 minute call and let's discuss how I can help your family get on the road to great sleep!