Over the past few months, I’ve received a lot of questions about sleep training older toddlers and preschoolers. This is because there are many parents who have children this age with sleep challenges that may disrupt the entire family. Rest assured that if this is you, you are not alone.
The good news is that, although it is harder to teach a preschooler than a baby, it’s certainly not too late. It just requires some more discipline (in a warm and cozy way) as your child is becoming more physical and verbal and is testing limits. Other factors such as potty training, nightmares, dropping naps and a switch to a big kid bed also have the potential to complicate the situation.
Here are some tips that can help with this age group.
Level with them. You can explain to verbal preschoolers why sleep is important in a way that will resonate with them. For example, “It’s important that you get good sleep so that you can play and have more fun during the day.”
Set boundaries. One tactic that is successful is to include sleep expectations as part of an overall behavior chart. You may already measure how well your child listens, keeps his hands to himself, or uses kind words. You can add “cooperates during nap time” or “stays in bed until morning” into the mix.
Consistently enforce the boundaries. As with most things in life, when you’re looking for results, consistency is key. And with little people who spend a lot of time honing their negotiation skills, if you waver, they won’t take your new rules seriously.
Be patient with your child and yourself. Keep in mind that your child’s sleep challenge didn’t just happen, it developed over the course of time. The process will simply require some more time and persistence on your part as you work to break very ingrained behaviors.