S3E4: Toddler Expert Extraordinaire, Tia Slightham! | Baby's Best Sleep

Voice Over:
You’re listening to the Slumber Party podcast with your host Amanda Jewson, a mom of two girls, a child and infant sleep expert, and general sleep lover. If you’re a tired parent who is desperate for answers or just someone who loves sleep, this podcast was created just for you. Each episode is packed full of tips and tricks to help you maintain your sanity as well as your social life during the early stages of parenthood. So grab your headphones, it’s time to get comfy.

 

Amanda:
I could not wait to have Tia on the podcast to talk about toddlers. They’re everyone’s favorite topic, and they are tricky. Toddlers are funny little people, and really, we are dealing with the first time your toddler understands that A) they’re not a part of you and B) they can say no. Which is terrifying. Tia and I do jump into a good conversation about setting boundaries, saying now, what is healthy, what’s not and some real deal, actual strategies for you to keep your kiddo in their beds. Keep them in their beds! Enjoy!
Welcome to Slumber Party, everybody. It is Amanda Jewson and I’m super excited today because we are with Tia. Tia, it’s Tia Slightham, right?

Tia
Yeah Slightham, exactly!

Amanda
Yes. I Nailed it. I did kind of practice beforehand. I won’t lie. And I also, I’m cheating because I heard you on the Moms That Say podcast. And so you did go through a little bit of a tutorial. So I did cheat a little to make myself look good right now, but it was worth it, I think.

Tia:
Yeah, I like it! Do whatever you’ve gotta do!

Amanda:
Yeah exactly. Tia is a parenting expert and I love everything you have to say it on toddlers. And I was really excited that you wanted to be on this podcast because toddler stuff is really hot with my community. It’s challenging. And I always say, when I’m talking about this age like this is the first time you’re really going to parent, you go from keeping your child alive toe having to make decisions about what kind of parent you’re gonna be about what kind of child you want your child to be. I mean, I think we can only control that to some degree, or if the whole, um and I think I think as well Do you feel like I would love to just jump in because you have so much content here? But I’ve really, really struggled with this age, and I honestly think parents are quite unprepared. I felt unprepared.

Tia:
Well, you’re not alone in feeling unprepared. And that’s where that parenting guilt comes in so strongly because we have our kids. We take them home from the hospital. I remember putting my first son, Hudson, in the bucket, and I’m saying, Okay, you can go home now and I was like, You want me to take him home? What am I supposed to do with him? I remember feeling totally unequipped and then, you’re right, as you go from keeping them alive and basic needs, all of a sudden you’re on stage and it’s up to you to be your child’s teacher, and that’s where we put so much pressure on ourselves. And parenting is not intuitive. People think we should know what to do when you walk out of that hospital room, but it’s actually a learned skill, and it takes time and practice and education to make yourself on and help yourself feel in control and equipped to deal with what toddlers and up you throw your way.

Amanda
Yeah, and that includes a lot of mess-ups, right?

Tia
100%. Yeah, there will be kind of a CZ. You go along and that’s totally fine. It’s what we want to teach our kids. You make a mistake, you do something you’re not proud of. You wish you did something better and you try. You try better the next time. And that’s what it’s all about.

Amanda:
I love that. And I think that again, going back to the I wasn’t prepared on that same note is that no one tells you it’s okay to fail like, we live in a society, I mean, I’m inundated with these messages as a sleep consultant, where there are tears involved in my methodology, I make.. That’s not a secret. But I think we’re inundated with messages that when our children are upset or they cry, that we’re screwing up that were damaging them. So that is always a concern for my clients. It’s, you know, and it’s these are the messages that I think society tells us. And so we feel like especially as our children get into adulthood. We feel like giant assholes when we have to say no and they’re upset about it because these are little people. What like, how do you.. How do you manage? Just like, what sort of advice are you giving parents here?

Tia:
Well, it’s funny you bring that up because I actually had an email this morning from a family I’m working with, and I actually had that. We copy the husband and wife all on the emails, and I got one on email from the wife. And then three minutes later, I had an ad-on from the husband and, you know, they’re not on the same page. And he says, you know, my wife is still under the umbrella of she wants to have compassionate parenting, and I wrote back to them I totally understand and believe in compassionate parenting. But there’s a difference between being compassionate and thinking. You need to give in to every single thing that your child requests or wants because now you’re doing your child a disservice. You’re actually not being compassionate by giving in or worrying if they cry for a few minutes, you’re being more compassionate when you take the time to teach them life lessons in a really positive way that they can learn while still being connected and secure and bonding with you. That’s really what I would call compassionate parenting.

Amanda
And I love this so much, yes, and I follow another parenting guru as well as you, I follow Janet Lansbury, who basically has the same advice that we do our children no service by not saying no. And we have this feeling that saying no and setting a boundary is the best thing for them. Or we’re, it’s like we’re not being compassionate if there is protest. And a lot of what I come up against with parents, when I’m, because I work with this age, too, and I know you do. And I want you to talk to me all about bedtime battles because this is, you know, the meat and potatoes of I’m sure both of our work. But a lot of what I come up against in my consultation time is I will say, “Okay, So then you’re going to say no, you can’t come out of the room” and then the parent will say, “But when I do that, that won’t be a calm situation. They’re gonna be really mad about that.” And I was like, they’re gonna be mad about so much in their life. It doesn’t mean when we’re, when we’re teaching them a new thing that we say to them, you know, you can do whatever you want and we want everything to be really calm. It is okay to have big feelings. I’m almost 37 years old and I still have big feelings. Why am I telling my child that they can’t have big feelings?

Tia:
100% and teaching your child new skills, whether it’s sleep or how does a conflict resolution with kids at school are sharing for toddlers? None of it’s fun. It’s like, you know, training to run a marathon. It is not fun running 26.2 miles. I have done it and it is brutal and that is final in life. But those are the things that create you and build you up to the best person that you’re gonna be. And you are absolutely doing your child a disservice by letting them get away with everything because you’re afraid they might get upset. The trick is learning skills so that you don’t get upset. So you don’t get involved in that game and so that you can stand clear and calm even though your child is not

Amanda
Oh, my God, Yes, like this is the thing right like you did. I mean, it’s kind of funny, but what we’re all talking about in what we’re, I guess not expressly saying is our kids trigger us and we, what I mean, I’m speaking personally. I have yelled at my kids. I do yell at my kids. They push your buttons, they know how they’re supposed to, it happens. We obviously don’t want that to happen all the time. So yeah, like, I think this is where that guilt comes in, right? Because when we feel unprepared and we feel like we don’t have those sets of strategies, your kid is losing it, and then you lose it, and then it’s like two people losing it, and nothing has happened.

Tia:
And then it repeats the next day and the next day and the next day. And then pretty soon you’re not enjoying parenting when really a few simple tools can turn that around for you.

Amanda:
I love it. So I want it, like, I feel like..Tia I just wanna have coffee with you and have this conversation private! But in the meantime, people are listening right now because they’re probably fighting with their child to stay in their room, which is the biggest toddler in preschooler issue autonomy, which is wonderful when children discover that they have it. And it is challenging in a lot of ways overnight because they want to be using this new freedom all the time. And so that could mean, you know, I mean, it’s happened to me with both of my girls with bed transitions. First of all, I want to say, and I think, can you agree with this? Moving to a bed, the transition is not like a two-day process. Would you agree?

Tia:
Yeah, it’s not a two-day process, and if it is a two-day process, it’s usually because your child doesn’t realize they’re in the bed at first, and so they’re really going along with it. But then they realise and then they’re like “AHA!, I can get out of this place” and then you might have your issue. But if you have the issue right from out of the gates, for sure you’re not, you’re not solving it in two days. But I can say if you start from the beginning knowing what your sleep plan is, what your action plan is, then you come at it more confidently and you know what to do if they get out. If they decide to keep coming to your room, if they keep wanting in your bed like what is your plan so that you’re comfortable? Because what happens is we start to get: One night, they come to our bed. One night, we’re too tired to walk them back. One night we lay with them. What happens is we get super gray, and we live in that gray zone, and that’s where your kids are gonna push you and push you and push because they’re begging for those black and white boundaries. “What are my sleep expectations, Mom and Dad. What do you want from me?” And they will keep pushing until you have that plan. So starting with the plan right out of the gate is the best way to make that transition as smooth as possible.

Amanda:
And I would love for you to share, like, some of your top tips. I know. Actually, you’ve developed a course on this, and I would love, you know, if you were comfortable giving, like, a few little snippets of what people can expect from that course or some things like, you know, like I’m gonna buy your course tomorrow. But right now, in this moment, I need a five second tip because I’m gonna, I’m not my best self at 3 a.m. I might be projecting a little bit here, but I am not my best at 3am. So if you could know what are some like high-level things to think about at 3 a.m. or to prepare for.

Tia:
Okay, at 3 a.m. Okay, So what I would first ask is that you are asking yourself, Is my child falling asleep independently when they start the night? Because if you’re playing with them or you are having to their sleep aid, they’re going to be looking for you or that sleep aid at 3 a.m. or 5 a.m. or multiple times during the night. So that is your first thing that you’re gonna have to ask yourself, because until you have that sorted, they are going to keep coming for you. The second thing that I would like you to think about is, whether or not you’re creating some concrete boundaries around being in their room during the day and during the night so that they feel safe in their oftentimes parents are threatening, you know, their kids. Oh, I’m gonna lock your door. I’m gonna, you know, lock the gate. And then what happens is your kids become fearful. So then they don’t want to settle in their room. So what are your boundaries around their room around their comfort in their room, making it a safe, secure place for them so that in the middle of the night when they wake up, they start feeling better going there. In my course, I walk you through four lessons, with some extra bonus modules and a workbook so that you can work through these things. But basically, how it has to start is you’ve got to start one with thinking about, like, what is your dream bedtime routine? In all honesty, it shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes. Start to finish. In a dreamland for me, it’s, you know, you bathe them, you brush their teeth, you do a few stories, you sing a quick song and you kiss them and you walk out. You’re done. You don’t have them coming in and out. They’re not asking for nine drinks. They’re not asking to go potty again, even though you just went. So I walk you through how to create these really concrete bedtime routines that your kids will cooperate and actually do with a couple of secret tools that I have in there that help your child feel independent and confident. So what we need to think about is that not going to bed isn’t just about not going to bed. There are deeper seated issues there, whether that’s you’re in the gray zone of boundaries, whether that’s because you don’t have a sleep action plan, whether you have empty threats or whether your child isn’t feeling capable or getting enough attention. So I just rambled forever there. So I probably gave you too much information in a short time. But in short, based on, you need to kind of have your expectations to start the evening. You need to find your ideal bedtime. So oftentimes clients come to me and their kids are going to bed until 9:30pm or 10pm at night. And there 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, even 10 years old. 10 o’clock is too late. You’re guaranteed bedtime battles. If your child is going to bed so late, they’re overtired. You can not expect them to cooperate or do anything that you want them to do, so I’ll walk you through ideal bedtimes. And then I also walk you through how to set those boundaries and what to do to get yourself out of that Ray’s own and then your step by step action plan, which in this case for big kid beds, um, doesn’t often actually involve as many tears as a crib because you were able to support them and definitely yeah, so I actually talk to that.

Amanda:
That’s a really great point, because I think parents avoid doing like I hate the term sleep training. I just I’m too lazy to come up with a better term, like sleep coaching or sleep assistants, helping them learn how to sleep. But essentially, people don’t want to do that with older children because there’s this horror story playing in their head about locking the door and their children not coming in until the morning. and then you know that nobody wants to do that. But the great thing is that with this, like honestly, I would say from two up communication is our tool. And for a lot of babies who cried during a sleep training process, they can’t communicate their frustration in any other way with you. Do you know what I mean? A child, can I always say, like my kids, I’ll be like, go to bed and they’ll be like, I don’t want Thio and I’ll be, like, go to bed and nobody’s crying about that. But they can just the protest with their words, Not with tears. I mean, I do think that there can be a little bit of a gray zone, like if if you are just to go back. I wrote down your points here because I think they’re excellent. Number one if you’re if you are falling asleep with your child holding their hand, rubbing their back these things seem really innocent at the time, right? They are really like, ‘Oh, who cares? It’s just 10 minutes.’ You know, like I agree. 10 minutes and then it’s 10 minutes plus five times that night. Because if you are, you know, going back to the psychology and, you know, essentially the whole, idea behind the work I do and you do, is that if there is anything helping your child to sleep – rocking, boobs, bottles, I mean, I’m talking about babies. These are things that they absolutely need to fall asleep. Then they, when they wake up in the end, a sleep cycle, they legitimately and behaviorally want the same conditions again. So it, like none of this will work if you are lying with your Children or closely being with them before they go to bed. I know it’s lovely. It’s just like I wish. And I’m sure you wish. This is well, I wish that we could snuggle or kids to sleep, and they stayed there and then everyone had a great sleep. But if those things were still happening, it will. It won’t happen for you. Um, so obviously when you are removing some of that helped asleep, there could be frustrating in. But again, I’m sure with my plans in your plans, you don’t have to leave and shut the door and peace out. I actually suggest probably staying with them for a few days until they figure things out and then slowly removing yourself from that process. Um, but even then, like, I can’t think of any like preschooler, because I think this is a JJ. People are really freaked out like three and four, and there’s a lot of shame we go a still a with my kid or I sleep with them at night. So I’m not gonna get any help, because now they’re 3 or 4 and there’s no help for them. But there is, and it’s really, honestly, I think it’s a lovely bonding process.

Tia:
Yeah, and you know what? That brings up a really good point that parents are ashamed and they don’t want to ask for help because they’re putting so much blame on themselves like “I’ve messed this up. It’s my own fault. If I asked for help, I’m a worse mother than them. I’m not as good at the moms in my mom’s group. Everybody else is saying their kids are sleeping great. No one else’s kids tantrum. Mine are the worst…” and nobody wants to ask for help. And that’s like my mission is helping moms realize that asking for help is a strength. Like if we were all excellent, none of us would have…(inaudible). But I’m not excellent at art. I cannot draw anything. I would have to ask for help and there’s no shame. And this is exactly the same thing. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes.

Amanda:
Yep, absolutely. I make a ton every day. I’m not joking. I’m always like I actually, On Saturday I posted my daughter had this. She was just having a rough time. I don’t even there’s something up this week. I don’t know she’s learning a new skill or just having a tough time somewhere, but she’s in it. She’s in a funk, and we went out on Saturday and she literally cried all morning about random things. So we got in the car, we drove around and I shared my, like, parenting win, I’m like, you know what? driving around she got to pick the music which was so great. I was like, I just want to share this with you in case you’re having this day. And like, literally the end of the day, she had been, like pushing back on everything and pushing back on everything and pushing back on everything. And we go to gymnastics where she begged me to, like begged me. “My friends go to gymnastics. I want to go to gymnastic, I want to…” So finally we’re going. She was like, “I DONT WANT TO GO.” And I was like, “Get into gymnastics” Look, there you go. All my parenting juju gone. But you win some you lose some!

Tia:
You just hit the wall. Yeah, You know what.. How how old is she?

Amanda:
She’s five. She’ll be six in April.

Tia
Yeah, so you know what? So I usually tell parents like if you, like sometimes we just have bad days and so do grownups. Like we just wake up and we’re in a foul mood and it happens. But what we want to start asking ourselves is, is, why is this behavior happening? She’s not just trying to be, you know, unkind. She’s not trying to be a total pain in the you know what? She’s actually working to get her needs met. So I tell parents, imagine she’s wearing this giant sign around her neck when she starts to act up when she pushes back when she’s refusing to go into gymnastics, that says, “Hey mom, help me meet my needs.” So what are these needs? So basically our kids have a basic needs box, and they have an emotional needs box. And if we don’t check those off each and every day, they’ll try and get them met and that’s always through negative behavior because, like we said, we communicate, but at their level, they can’t communicate these feelings. They’re too big.

Amanda:
Yep, and I, it’s funny. So my husband and I actually sat down after that weekend and we just, it was, you know, the week immediately after the holidays, my husband got home. He hopped on a plane. He travelled for a week. So everything was kind of up in the air. And we’re like, you know, maybe she just needs some like one on one time without her sister. Parents only. And so we plotted out sometime in the week, just to have time with her and reconnect. So, you know, in those moments, you’re not thinking that. I just want to say that, like, because, in the moment of her pushing back about gymnastics, I’m just annoyed. I hit my wall, like, literally. I dealt with it for eight hours. I was done and it happened. And then the next day I said, “Look, I was frustrated, and I’m sorry. I’ve had some time to think about it. I think that we just need to hang out just together. You and Mom for a while.” And she’s like, “Yeah, that’s a great idea.” So, it’s not like, when you have those moments they happen but you can totally go and repair them. And what has been really cool because I didn’t have this parenting, this is not the parenting that I grew up with. But what’s really cool about my daughter is I find her being really open with me about these sort of repair processes and even her feelings. So when she came out of gymnastics, she goes, “Are you still mad at me?” And I was like, “Look, Winnie, I wasn’t mad at you. I was frustrated.” She goes, “Well, you were mad at me. You had that face. And it looked like this. And, you know, I could tell.” And I was like, I’m so glad you felt safe to share that with me. And then we just talked it over and it was over, and I was like, Ah, I can get it right. But I am really proud of this.

Tia:
Yeah. And you.. And you apologize for it. You were, you taught her a lesson, that we’re human, we make mistakes and I’m sorry. And I’m gonna try and do better next time. That’s really all you can do. You brought up a point about all day long you were dealing with it. And yes, those days are real. But when I try and suggest to parents is when they’re in those moods, don’t involve yourself. Just completely, let them know, “I am really sorry you’re having a bad day. But right now, that’s not kind to me. And I’m not gonna be part of it.” And then just go do your own thing. Let them be grumpy. But what we teach our kids is that they can’t hit other kids. They can’t, you know, other kids were mean to them. They can’t control other people. We have to also let them know that we can’t control them. We’re not, We’re not controlling our kids – were encouraging cooperation. But what, who we can control is ourselves. So by walking away and letting them know you’re sorry their upset, you validate their feelings. But you also role model to them that it’s okay if somebody’s not being kind to you to walk away. And sometimes that can change their behaviour on the spot because now, that behaviour is not working for them, it doesn’t work for them to be with you because you’re not bothered.

Amanda:
Yes. 100%. So I Yeah, I mean, I’m loving all of this. I feel like it really does connect back to those bedtime battles, because I feel like when, you know, I’ve dealt with it. It’s, you know, 3 a.m. and you say “Go back to bed.” “But I don’t want to go back to bed.” “I’m sorry we’re going back to bed. This is a really safe and healthy thing.” I always asked parents to bring it back to a health and safety concern, right, because this is sleep is not one of those sleep is not like choosing to play with your toys or screen time. Like sleep is.. if you don’t have it, there are health issues involved. It’s, I say it’s just as dangerous as, you know, saying, “OK, it’s OK that you go and play with that chainsaw”

Tia:
Yeah, yeah, 100% and ultimately, 90% of your kid’s behaviour issues, if your child’s not sleeping, you’ve got to start there because you’re already setting yourself up for a miserable day. If day in and day out your child’s overtired. I mean, they are like, out of body, I can’t even classify kids who are so overtired how their behaviour is because it’s literally them begging you to help them sleep. That’s it. Once you get that done, you see a massive shift, and now you can start fixing the little things that you want to tweak and make changes to.

Amanda:
A lot of the behavior kind of comes back. Or like everything kind of comes into play. So once bedtime is sorted, you know, over tiredness for sure is an issue. But you’ll also see once those boundaries around bed are nice and firm, they will stop pushing around other areas because they trusts that you’re the leader in the house. And you know, I do. I think we differentiate a little bit. Like I always say, so in my house you can have the door open when you go to sleep. If you’re coming in and out of the room, I’m going to have to close the door because it’s not safe for my little kids to be out. And so it becomes a trust thing. If you are sitting in your.. If you’re in your room, your door gets to be open. I never leave the night with the door shut or locked, ever. It’s more something that okay, I’m gonna shut it momentarily. Then I’m gonna open it once, you know that I’m gonna do it. And then my kids stay there like, “Okay, I get it.” But I’m just I feel like once my kids know, like I said, this I followed through. They understand that I follow through. And then during the day when they’re like, I want 10 more shows and I say no, and if we keep, you know, arguing, I might have to shut the TV off. They’re like, OK, I get it, cause I know that you, you mean what you say, lady?

Tia:
Yeah, and if they if you mean what you say and you say what you mean, then your kids have trust and when they have trust, they can feel secure to listen to you and they know that you’re doing things for the right reason. When we give in and we sometimes we waver and sometimes it’s two books and sometimes it’s nine books, they don’t know. They don’t know when you’re gonna hit your wall. What day are you gonna start to scream because they asked for an extra book, whereas yesterday it was fine and it’s very confusing. And they’re ultimately just doing their job and we’re kind of making harder for them, and for ourselves, by doing that.

Amanda:
Yes, it’s like, it feels I always give the example of any time is as a young person or a child, like even as a teenager, I would beg my parents for something I knew I wasn’t allowed to have. And then once they said yes, I felt awful about it. It never felt good. It does not feel good to a child to give in. They feel yucky that there, there’s no one in charge. So in the moment when you have to say “I’m sorry, it’s just two books.” I know that in their little hearts are like “Yay!” They really are.

Tia:
And if you can set like like what you said that we might waver a little bit and, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying I’m gonna have to shut your door. But you told them in advance. And so you gave them a choice, which is really important. You gave them that in advance. You didn’t just walk over and say, “That’s it. You’re locked in your room.” They knew that if I did this, this is going to happen and their understanding what their consequence will be based on the choice they decide to make. Same thing with books. If you can set up some concrete bedtime routines. I think the use of age appropriate charts is super important to help put, give kids power and put them in charge, and let them be able to follow along and be be the master of the bedtime routine, you can put on their two books. And when the chart says two books, the chart’s the boss! Well, now you can just say “I’m really sorry. You want a third book? Why don’t you choose it and we’ll get ready for tomorrow night, but the chart says two for tonight.” But now you know you’re sticking to your guns, but you’re listening to them, and they know that they’re being heard.

Amanda:
Amen. Well, Tia, I know that we can talk for 17 years. Where can people find you?

Tia:
People can find me at tiaslightham.com and nobody can spell slightham so hopefully you will drop a link..

Amanda:
Oh, I will. I will

Tia:
And if want information on my course. There’s an entire page with tons of details, and it’s just tiaslightham.com/bfb which is battle free bedtimes. So if you want to post those people can read all about it, they can email me from my website if they have questions. And parents can know that I offer a 30 minute free discovery call so they can sign up for that at any time if they just want a few tips and they want to see if they could make some positive changes.

Amanda:
I love that. It was so, so good talking to you. This is gonna be a popular one. All of my toddler stuff is insane. So, hopefully you hear from lots of parents, because I think this is so important. We’re all kind of, it’s like we all want a baby, and then that baby turns into a kid, and we’re like, “Oh, my God. What? How on?” And that’s where you come in

Tia:
And don’t, don’t suffer day in and day out, like ask for some help. And small changes make really big results!

Amanda:
Yes, absolutely. All right. Thank you so much. Tia. And everyone I’m gonna post all these links in the episode notes, so you will be able to contact you directly. She is amazing.

Tia:
Thank you so much for having me!

Voice Over:
Thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Slumber Party. If you’re ready to help your little one gets the sleep that they need, and get your nights back while you’re at it, make sure to check out Amanda’s signature DIY sleep training courses or work with her directly. For more details head over to BabysBestSleep.com. Don’t forget to hit subscribe, like and review. Happy sleeping, everyone.