Once your child is no longer safely confined in a crib – and this includes children who are still sleeping in cribs but are able to climb out – you have to think strategically about safety.
Parents often think that confining a child to their room once they are able to get out of bed independently is somehow “mean.”
I couldn’t disagree more.
If there is a fire – god forbid – in your house, you want to know FOR SURE that your child is contained in their room. Having a terrified preschooler wandering the halls in that scenario is incredibly dangerous.
A much more likely scenario is that your child will leave their room and go looking for you, or go get some snacks, or go watch on a device. None of these are ideal from a safety or sleep perspective.
As you may have read in my blog post a couple of weeks ago, children are likely to sleep better and longer when they do not have free reign of the house. Knowing there’s nowhere to go often leads children to sleep longer.
Some children are patient, compliant little people who will wait for you until you open the door in the morning. If you have one of those, great!
If not, consider a baby gate, door knob cover, Door Monkey or lock on the door.
I promise you are not being mean. You are keeping your child safe and well-rested. You are still allowed to respond to their calls for attention. Keep a baby monitor in there if you like. Just make sure it’s up high and out of reach.
Which reminds me: in case it wasn’t already, everything in the room still needs to be bolted to the wall. Dressers and bookshelves are especially dangerous.
I also suggest removing all toys except for stuffies and books. Make the bedroom really boring. Any toys that must be kept in there should go in the closet, ideally locked or up high. We want the room to be as conducive to sleep as possible.
You should continue using blackout curtains and white noise.
And in case I wasn’t clear above, your child should always sleep with their door closed, and so should you. For fire safety reasons. And also because you don’t your child monitoring your every move around the house, staying up late while you anxiously tiptoe around.
Just start out with the rule that everyone sleeps with their doors closed. It’s much easier to start off right than fix a problem later.
If you’d like help corralling your Little Wanderer back to their room for better sleep, schedule a free consult and see how you can achieve your goals in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
PS If you have a question you’d like to see answered in a blog post, please email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org I’d be happy to address it and I am sure lots of other parents have the same question as you!
Remember how we were all making New Year’s Resolutions (or themes) just a few short weeks ago? Feels like ancient history, right?
I’m coming back to exercise after nearly a week off due to a horrible throat infection -- and after a couple of months of health issues that have been sapping my energy -- so while I am normally a religious exerciser, I am suddenly feeling a huge dread of working out. It’s so hard to get started and so easy to find excuses after a week off. I mean really, what’s one more day???
I’m proud to say that today I did finally take the plunge and my mood is soooooo much better as a result. That was my driving reason to start – I was just so cross without my daily dose of endorphins. My children, unfortunately, bear the brunt of that. Which isn't fair to them. But feeling grumpy like that isn't really fair to me, either. Not when there's a (relatively) easy solution.
If you are not a frequent exerciser, I get it. The days are so short and so filled already.
I’ve got a couple of life coaching tips for you today to help you over the hurdle to starting: "dread sprints" and “ridiculously easy goals.”
The concept behind dread sprints is that if you know you are going to do something you really don’t want to do, you might as well get it over with first thing so you don’t spend all day dreading it.
(Glennon Doyle calls this “worst thing, first thing.”)
Let’s say you have to go to the post office today to mail a package. This is the sort of task I would totally dread. You could either get it done at 9 am, when the post office opens (and when there’s no line, I might add), and spend your day feeling deliciously accomplished, or you could wait until 5 pm, close to when it closes (and there’s much more of a line), and spend an additional 8 hours dreading the task you have already committed to doing.
That’s an additional 8 hours of unnecessary suffering.
Wouldn’t you rather get the dread over with and enjoy a day of delicious accomplishment? (Credit: Brooke Castillo at the Life Coach School.)
The other idea comes from life coach Martha Beck, in a book I read many years ago, called the Four Day Win. Ridiculously easy goals set the barrier to success so easy you can’t justify not achieving them.
For someone who wants to start exercising, a ridiculously easy goal might look like putting on your walking shoes and walking one block. Or some other distance that takes a ridiculously short amount of time. Two to five minutes. An amount of time so short and so easy that you can’t come up with a reasonable excuse to avoid it.
(If you can come up with an excuse to avoid it, make your goal simply putting on your walking shoes. Go step outside onto your front step. Breathe deeply three times. Come back inside. That’s it.)
For one of my clients who wanted to organize her life, we started with her ridiculously easy goal of just clearing off the kitchen table and wiping it down after every meal.
Another client – who wanted to lose weight – made her goal having a clear kitchen counter every night after dinner. This small feeling of accomplishment fueled her energy to attack other, more ambitious, goals.
Beck recommends taking 3 weeks of fulfilling your ridiculously easy goal before making it harder. Personally, I don’t necessarily have a set timeline… I think you just keep achieving your ridiculously easy goal until you feel the desire to make a slightly more ambitious goal. Take it as fast or as slow as you want.
When in doubt, make your goal easier.
As for me, I made my ridiculously easy goal a little different, since I have a decades-long history as a person who exercises. So my goal for right now is 30 minutes a day of exercise BUT at as low of an intensity as is necessary to get me across the finish line while still feeling good. I don’t break a sweat. I barely even breathe hard. But no matter. I am moving my body, and that’s what counts.
If you find that your brain tries to discredit your win, correct that pesky brain immediately. That "perfect is the enemy of good" mindset keeps us from ever trying to reach our goals. Our brains think it's safer to not even try than to try imperfectly. Our brains are dead wrong about this.
And then I record my accomplishment in my exercise spreadsheet, because I am a data nerd and seeing all those little cells filled in with workouts is a lovely dopamine hit to my toddler brain.
If you want help achieving your own (not so ridiculously easy) goals, I can help. No matter what the goal. Schedule a complimentary life coaching session (scroll down past sleep coaching to life coaching) and experience the transformation.
“hi Abby, happy new year. I hope you are well. I am enjoying your email series.
We have a new challenge with Gabe. He has learned to climb out of the crib. I don’t feel it’s safe transitioning to a toddler bed because then he can wander around all the time and I also don’t feel safe leaving him for bedtime and he is on a bedtime strike most nights. I thought about pushing his bedtime later but that’s not good for his rest.
He also still shares a room with his 6 year old sister who goes to bed later than him.
What do we do with this toddler behavior? This wasn’t an issue with my daughter as far as I can remember.
I love this question because so many parents come to me after things have gone terribly wrong with the transition out of the crib.
Oftentimes, after the transition, parents find themselves sitting in their child’s bedroom for long periods of time at bedtime, or even lying down with them at bedtime and multiple times throughout the night.
It’s so much easier to prevent problems than it is to fix them… though don’t despair if you are already at the place of needing to fix them!
My first piece of advice is: climbing out of the crib doesn’t have to mean the end of the crib! Try talking to your child, sternly, first. Explain to them that it’s not safe to climb out of the crib. With my older – and very compliant – child, I explained that if she continued to climb, I would have to take her crib away to keep her safe and this would make her very sad.
To my amazement, this actually worked!
So definitely try that. Just because a child can climb out the crib doesn’t mean they definitely will.
Similarly, just because they can climb out of the crib doesn’t mean that you should move them.
I generally counsel parents not to move their children to an open bed before age 3-4 years old unless they are engaging in seriously dangerous behavior. (My friend Amy’s daughter Eleanor taught her two year old brother, Leo, how to stand on top of the bars of the crib and then take flying leaps into the crib. This was a case for getting rid of the crib immediately!)
Oh, and one more thing on this point – a new baby arriving at your house is not a reason to move your toddler to an open bed! Trust me, the last thing you need with a newborn at home is a toddler wandering the halls. Use a pack n play or borrowed second crib for the new baby until the older child is fully ready for a new bed.
When you do decide the time is right to make the switch, please don’t use the words “big kid bed.” Most toddlers and preschoolers have some serious ambivalence about growing up. Sometimes they want to, other times, they want nothing more than to crawl back into the womb. Using the language of “big kid” is too much pressure.
If you are able to continue using your child’s crib and just take the side off to convert it to a toddler bed, great, do that. That will feel nice and cozy to your child (hopefully).
If you are moving to a toddler bed, put the new bed next to the crib and leave the crib set up for a few extra days.
If you plan to move straight to a twin bed, I suggest putting your toddler’s crib mattress on the floor next to the crib first and let them make a gradual adjustment. Let them sleep on the crib mattress if they want to.
If your child decides they want to go back to the crib for a few days, that’s fine. Let them.
In the meantime, keep the twin bed in the room and use it for bedtime stories. That is a nice way to build pleasant, low-pressure associations with the bed.
I promise they won’t want to sleep in the crib forever.
In my next post I’ll talk about safety and thinking about turning your child’s room into a giant crib, once they are out of the actual crib.
PS If you have a question you’d like to see answered in a blog post, please email your question to email@example.com I’d be happy to address it and I am sure lots of other parents have the same question as you!
PPS And if you are struggling with a nighttime wanderer, you are not alone! Schedule a free sleep consultation and we'll get you sorted out in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
"We recently started locking our son's door from the outside after lights out.
We felt guilty about it for a night, because we felt like we were locking him in prison.
But the truth is, it’s not like he was able to leave his room at will before he knew how to open the door, or when he was stuck in a crib. So this really isn't any different.
And a psychologist friend told us that it was actually bad for our son to keep rewarding his nightly “escapes” from his room with attention. It was giving attention to the very behavior we wanted to get rid of.
We also learned that if there is ever a fire, the safest place for a child to be is actually locked in his own room, where his parents, or god forbid the fire fighters, can find him. If we didn’t know where he was, that would be terrifying.
Amazingly, after just the first night with the lock on his door, he started sleeping so much better. He falls asleep quickly at night, doesn’t wake up all night, and wakes up happy in the morning. We leave some dry Cheerios and a cup of water in his room and he will cheerfully look at books until we come get him.
I can't believe we ever worried about traumatizing him with a lock on his door. He is so much better rested now, and we are all happier as a result."
-- recent sleep consult (who put the lock on her son's door before her sleep consultation)
Are you struggling with a small Houdini who escapes from her room every night? Is everyone in your family feeling tired?
There's hope for you, whether you choose to use a lock or not. (We can talk through the pros and cons of each option.)
Schedule a free sleep consultation today and let's get your family the sleep you deserve in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
If you do, you're not alone.
I, too, have a really hard time with people being wrong about me. And judging me unfairly as a result.
Or god forbid, not liking me or my choices.
I have always admired people who are not people pleasers, people who just do what they want and don’t give a damn if others don’t like them as a result.
This is not me. (I wish it was.)
This is a problem for two reasons: one, because I can’t control what they think. Much as I wish I could!
And two, it means I may not live my most authentic life in an attempt to control what others think. See above re: this strategy is often not effective.
This came up for me in my own life when I decided to quit my nurse practitioner job in Brooklyn and move to Mexico with my two kids.
My parents were already gone at that point, and my siblings were generally supportive, if not overly invested either way.
But even the judgment of people I barely knew, for example, in my single parents community, bothered me. One person said it would be irresponsible for her to make such a move because she was very focused on maxing out her retirement accounts while her child was young. She didn't say it, but I assumed she meant she also thought it was irresponsible of me to make this choice.
This wasn't even a close friend of mine. Nor a person who I particularly admire. And consciously, I scoffed at her opinion. But if I truly didn't care what I thought, why would I have spent energy defending myself against it, and why would I remember her opinion now, 5 years later?
That said, It’s easier for me – though not easy – to ignore those negative opinions when they from people who aren’t close to me.
But right now, I’m really struggling with what I think a couple of people close to me are thinking about a big life change I am making. I desperately want their enthusiastic support… and I’m not getting it.
And that's really hard for me.
I've spent two months arguing with the invisible jury that resides in my head. Arguing that they should be supportive, that they should be enthusiastic. Just because it would make me feel better.
I know this sounds kind of crazy "on paper" but I think most of us do this. It's called having "a manual" for others, a set of rules of how we would like others to act so we can feel comfortable.
My manual says that others shouldn't give advice -- because it makes me feel really uncomfortable to receive unsolicited advice -- and they should be supportive of my choices, because that is what I do for others.
Unfortunately, other people often have their own manuals, and aren't interested in consulting mine.
So the only thing left to work on in my own brain.
I don't want to like their lack of support. I still wish I had it.
So instead I am focusing on the sadness and anger that comes up when I think about not having their support.
but what I am working on is dropping into my body and just noticing and acknowledging the sadness that is coming up for me.
This isn’t toxic positivity – I’m not pretending to like it.
And I’m not trying to feel better by controlling their behavior – although I would definitely love it if they decided to change their words and actions!
So instead I am choosing the considerably more challenging but ultimately more liberating option of just allowing myself to be sad and angry.
This sounds easy but it's taken me at least 2 months of resistance to remember to do this.
And now I am trying to let go of my story of how they’ve done me wrong, and instead just saying, “wow, I’m sad. Of course I’m sad. They are really important to me and I wish things were different.”
Then I pay attention to my body, letting go of the story of why I am sad, and I just notice the sensation. “I feel sadness bubbling like a big cauldron in my chest. It feels like it will never stop.” (Brain “helpfully” offers up “you’ve been sad about this for two months, you’ll never stop being sad.”) “Shhhhh, brain. I hear you. Let’s stay in the body. The cauldron is big and it’s blocking up my chest and it’s heavy and hard, like it’s made of iron.”
After two months of fighting sadness, two minutes of feeling sadness and just allowing it, I feel a slight shift. It’s not all rainbows and daisies, but it’s not quite so heavy anymore.
I’ll keep coming back to it in the coming hours and days. I'll keep practicing allowing the sadness. I'll keep reminding myself that it's safe and even helpful to do so.
Human brains are terrified of negative emotions. We think we’ll just curl up and die if we feel them.
But the opposite is true. When we allow those big, scary emotions, we liberate them. They don’t disappear, but they loosen their power over us.
Whose thoughts are holding power over your emotions? Do you imagine your parents' disapproval? Your partner's annoyance? Your child's thoughts that you are "mean"?
You can't change what they think, but you can change how you react to their thoughts.
Want some help figuring this out? Schedule a complimentary life coaching session and I'll show you how you, too, can experience this transformation.
As for me, just a few days after trying this, my emotions about these loved ones have dropped by at least 80%. I think about them still but they get so much less air time. I am spending my energy on other, more profitable, ways to spend my time.
The Importance of An Early Bedtime
Emily Oster, renowned statistician who analyzes data on all things pregnancy and child-related, recently did a review on a number of sleep interventions.
And as a recent client emailed me to point out, my “methods really are backed by science!”
(If you haven't worked with me yet, you may not yet know how often I encourage an earlier bedtime.)
The studies that Oster reviewed showed that children with earlier bedtimes sleep longer, on average, by 47 minutes per night.
That’s a big difference!
So if you are struggling to get your little one to bed earlier – and I know that the struggle is real for working parents – know that succeeding in doing so makes a big difference in their sleep and your evening relaxation time.
The difference is especially pronounced in high school students, who typically have trouble falling asleep early enough to get the sleep they need. Despite that struggle, students in the experimental group with a newly imposed early bedtime got an average of 72 minutes extra sleep per night. Given that more sleep correlates with better grades and fewer car accidents, this research powerfully calls for change in adolescents’ typical habits.
And adults: I know a number of us struggle with getting to bed early enough too. So while Emily Oster didn't discuss earlier bedtimes for you, I think it's fair to presume an earlier bedtime can be helpful for us as well... especially if you are prone to "revenge procrastination" -- staying up too late doing mindless things like scrolling on your phone to get more "me time." Consider sufficient sleep a great gift to yourself.
If you need help getting that earlier bedtime to stick, regardless of your child’s age, schedule a complimentary sleep consultation and find out how your whole family can sleep better, guaranteed.
You’re Worried That If You Don’t Respond To Her Cries, You Could Harm Her Attachment To You
You’re a loving parent who wants the best for your child. You’ve read allllllllll the books. You participate in parenting groups on and offline. You’ve done the research.
You just want her to be happy.
You also want you to be happy and you’re exhausted by responding to every call and cry.
But you fear that not responding could harm her attachment to you. You don’t want her to grow up to be a dysfunctional adult because you weren’t there for her in early childhood.
So you keep on trudging back and forth to her room every night, responding to every request, every cry, every demand.
And then you feel guilty because secretly, you’re feeling resentful.
You don’t want to resent your kid. You love your kid. More than life itself.
But you also deeply need a break for yourself.
I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to choose between setting limits and having a child with a secure attachment to you.
You can have both.
In fact, in the early days of attachment research, Donald Winnicott coined the term “good enough mother” because his research showed that children actually benefit from parents who “fail them in small, manageable ways.” Children actually do better with parents who aren’t 100% available. Children need practice with managing small adversity in order to successfully handle the larger challenges in life.
Attachment parenting – not based on the science of attachment theory – might have you believing the opposite, that you need to be at your child’s side 24/7.
But the opposite is true.
Boundaries and small separations are actually good for your child.
They give your child an opportunity to practice independence while also getting her biological needs for sleep met, both of which lead to increased happiness and independence.
Still, the struggle to break free from the cultural pressure to be instantly, constantly available to your child is real. It’s hard to believe it’s okay to leave her crying. It makes you feel terrible.
I get it. And I’m here to help.
I can help you work through your discomfort so you can take care of yourself and your child without guilt.
Schedule a complimentary life coaching session to learn more about a life with guilt-free time for yourself.
Check out this great article by a fellow single parent by choice about the importance of sleep training for her along with the challenges associated with sleep training solo.
In short, she says that sleep training alone is a lot harder to do but also even more important because for many of us, there are no breaks. It's all on us.
I got interviewed about why the typical recommendation for the non-breastfeeding parent to sleep in a different room won't work the same for single parent families.
If you are making big changes in your life, changes you want to make, you might think that would feel good, liberating.
And maybe it does feel good a lot of the time.
But at least in my experience, it feels like absolute sh*t a lot of the time.
Life coaching has led me to create new boundaries in my life with people I love. And right now, it’s sucking.
No one ever thanks you for creating said boundaries. People want us to stay the same.
Right now, I’m doing a lot of sitting with pain. Coaching helps me to sit with it. It encourages me to lean in and feel it. Because resisting the pain never works anyway. It’s like pushing a beach ball under water: it just takes a whole lot of energy, and it ends up flying up out of the water anyway.
People make it sound like setting boundaries is easy. You just tell them what your new boundaries.
I’m here to say that setting boundaries is really hard. It’s simple, but not easy. You have to learn to sit with a lot of discomfort, if you’re a people pleaser like me.
If you want support setting and holding boundaries, set up a complimentary life coaching session (scroll down past sleep coaching). You’ll learn how to endure the short-term discomfort in order to achieve long-term gain, a life that is more authentically yours.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.