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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. Grab your headphones, it’s time to get comfy!
Listener Marlena dropped into the Slumber Party to ask a very common question that will be coming up at the end of the summer, which is how does my preschooler start kindergarten and keep sleeping?! There’s actually a lot of things that we need to think about in this episode. And Marlena’s question was great. We jumped right in. So let’s jump right in today. Okay, Marlena, are you there?
I’m here. Yes.
Thank you. Thanks for, for picking up on my topic.
Well it’s funny because you, you had messenge, messaged me. It turns out – this did not happen this way. I feel like, uh, well, sorry, I’m getting everywhere! But my last few questions have been from past clients, but that’s not really on purpose.
I have a number of people who weren’t past clients, but I think, what I’m trying, what I’m trying to do with my podcast is just get past the basics, sleep training questions and a lot of people, um, can probably find those answers on their own. And then there’s like just really interesting questions from people who are already sleeping. So I think that’s kind of how it worked out. But you were a former client, I worked with your little button when she was like, what, two and a half?
Just, just turn two yeah, almost two and a half. Yeah,
yeah, yeah. It’s so crazy. And, and now you had messaged me and you were like, what do you think about kindergarten? I’m like, Oh my God, how, why, what’s happening? But you know, actually vote kindergarten and I get asked this every September. So I think it’s really worthwhile doing a podcast on it.
Yeah, it’s pretty intense and I’ve experienced some intense times as well. So go ahead and jump into your, your question.
Yeah, for sure. So, I think, my daughter who’s three and a half now, we just brought home a newborn about three months ago and if, kind of, you know, big life changes and bringing a newborn home is any insight into how those big life changes affect toddler sleep. I’m anticipating a, the kindergarten, start to be a little bit of, you know, a little bit wacky in her sleep, again, we, we really underestimated the, the sleep changes with her because with working with you in the past, we got on such a great track with her, that I was like, okay, our sleep problems are, are done with Julia, let’s bring on the new one. But, apparently they’re not done. How naive of us?! So, no, I’m just, I’m just questioning, you know, now she’s a little person, she’s not a two year old who, you know, read a couple books, put her in a sleep sack and say night night. She can get out of her bed and she can have a full conversation and she can lengthen bedtime as long as she wants or as long as we let her I guess. but it’s like what’s that level of, is it sleep training? Is it, you know, setting those respectful boundaries with, you know, with a three and a half year old. That’s a bit of a challenge. So, yeah, my question I guess is more just how do we guide her back to her, her good sleep patterns. When we kind of gone off the rails with our big life changes, if that makes any sense.
Yeah totally! So this is really, when you’re dealing with an older child, I think you hit the nail on the head. We’re trying to instil respectful boundaries because it’s not about teaching them the skill anymore. They have that skill. They know how to use it. It’s almost like, you know, when a child knows not to touch the hot stove, but they do it anyway because they know better, but they, they really want to test what happens when they do it.
And so it’s really normal and age appropriate to experience those boundary testing moments with your child at this time. So I want to say that you know, right off the top, that it is really normal. But it’s also what they want from us is the boundary to be set. So when they’re pushing, it’s because it’s an unclear boundary or something they just want clarification on. so if you see that, you know, so number one, you just had a new baby so we can talk a little bit about that. That’s a huge change. And suddenly, you know, she goes from being top dog most amount of attention possible to having to share those resources. So one way she can get some more of that attention resource is through pushing boundaries and waking at odd times and doing all these things. But at the same time, she wants your attention, she does not want you to falter from being the grownup because the moment you say, “okay, I will just do whatever you want,” that also feels icky and unsafe. So kids want their parents to be like, “no, this is what it is.” The moment we say, “okay it’s, it’s okay sometimes”, children internalize that as they might need to be in charge. So two things happen. They don’t like that. That’s a stressful experience. But number two, you might start to see them wanting to be in charge in other areas. So it’s okay to say no. It’s okay to be like you go back to your bed. Is she, she’s in a big girl bed.
She, she is. Yeah. Yeah.
Yeah. And so that’s good. That transition went well. Cause I remember part of our work was putting back into a crib and I was like, I promise you she’ll go back to her bed!
Well we put her in a toddler bed way too soon and you put us back straight in line with that. So anyways…
At the very least it just buys you time until she understands. And now she does, which is good!
So what I would do is, I’ve talked about this before, you need to have a set of rewards and consequences while you’re going through a learning phase. And consequence can be a scary word when you are talking about children because, you know, I guess how I like to think about it is, something that’s natural. So I’m not like asking my kid to sit in the corner when they’ve done something that we haven’t.. because that makes no sense. Like why, why are we doing that? But things like, you know, when my kids leave the room at night, I tell them I’m going to have to shut their door because it’s not safe for them to be out and it isn’t safe, it’s really not safe for any child, I would say under the age of seven to be out and about roaming the house on their own. And so in order for everyone to feel safe, , you might have to shut the door and I think it’s okay to have that conversation before your consequence might feel different. There might be, you know, she’s like playing around, we might need to take away her, you know, toy. She has a stuffy, we, it needs to make sense to you. So some sort of natural consequence, that doesn’t involve screaming, yelling in a tantrum on the parents part. And I say that because I like, I literally had a tantrum on Friday night.
Yeah yeah for sure!
So stuff happens when we have those reactions. It just doesn’t help the situation. So a set of consequences then we will also want to have some rewards in place. And you know, a big reward for kid is, for kids is your positive reinforcement. Sometimes, you know, the thing is, there’s criticism of rewards because they’re not permanent and they’re not forever. It’s also teaching children sometimes that, you know, in order to do the right thing, you get a reward or you have something. My thought process here is that this is a temporary way and very obvious way to show a positive reinforcement when your child was doing something right. And so you can explain that longterm, this is just while she’s learning and you can say these things. “While you’re learning this skill, I would like to reward you with some rewards. But after you know this skill, then we’re not gonna do those rewards. And if you don’t follow our family rules, then there may be a consequence and this is what that looks like.” So I think it’s nice to have that balance and have that end point and have that discussion. But rewards and consequences are really key for every situation. Now the big life change you’re referring to is kindergarten, and a lot of people experience challenges with regards to that around this time, and I, myself, experienced some pretty hardcore sleep stuff. So the big thing for everyone to know. So how, how old will your lady be at, at the time?
Yeah, so Jules will be four at the end of June, so she’ll be just over four years old. Yeah. Yeah.
Okay. There’s a considerable number of three-year-olds entering kindergarten which is very challenging because a lot of those kids still need, and I would say even four year olds still could use a 20 minute nap. And so is she napping right now?
Yes! She still naps, we still enforce nap time.
And honestly it’s, it’s needed for a lot of kids still. So that honestly is the biggest, change and the biggest hurdle that you’re going to face is a lack of naps and that combined with the most amount of stimulation they’ve probably ever had in there lives.
For sure yeah.
Not even just the environment, but, um, you know, I read this great article about how children for the first time have to like sit down, follow a set of rules. It’s not daycare where you’re essentially like playing all day. There’s like lessons they have to pay attention. There’s social dynamics. There’s.. Their whole body is like doing things it’s really never had to do before. So, you know, that combination is pretty lethal. It can leave some kids, pretty tired, pretty grumpy. Now I use, I’m gonna use my example because I know it’s not, like I was, I was thinking about whether or not to share my story because it turned out Winnie had sleep apnea, which I think was exacerbating some of these things. She’s had her tonsils out and things are a lot better. But I know just from this work that her reaction is pretty similar to a lot of others. But basically in the first week of school, she came back and she was like a rabid animal. She came, I’m not even exaggerating. I know that sounds horrible. But she came home and then like, “I need to go to bed. I need to go to bed,” and then would go to bed and then come down and be like, *rabid animal noises* And then she would fall asleep for 20 minutes and get up and literally thrash her body around. By the time we did get her to sleep, she was up every hour on the hour for the first three days of kindergarten.
And this is not a child, she was like, I want you to sleep with me. I’ve never slept with her ever. I mean, I slept with her recently after her surgery and that’s it.
It was very strange, but it was, she was very, like, her brain was on fire. So we have to understand that that is a possibility.
I, I don’t think that we should be enforcing consequences or rewards at that stage. What I would do is prior to the work or prior to kindergarten, I might for the first week before, set up your routine chart before bed. “This is what we do before bed. This is what we’re going to do for school.” Make it visual, make it, somewhere that everyone can see in the house and then continue to go through those routines. And then when you have school, it’ll be really comforting to go through those if your child is having a hard time like that, which is usually the worst of it to be honest. I would just go in and comfort them and, and sit with them until they’re calm. It might be a rough few nights, but it’s worse for them. Um, going in comforting, soothing, loving them up. And then, and then on repeat, eventually she went to sleep. Exactly. One of the, that was actually helpful for us for awhile was taking a stroller or a car after school. So when we did pick up, she would fall asleep immediately, and so that would take off some of the sleep pressure in the afternoon. So even like a 30 minute nap on the go can be really helpful. And just making sure that, you know, their nutrition is good, they’re eating well, they’re eating well at school. They are feeling good before bed. All of these things are really important. It’s one of those things where like the four month regression, nobody escapes it, right? There are some kids that are, just have like lower sleep needs who just go right through it. But for most people there’s a bit of a transition and push back at that time and that would be super duper normal.
Right, right. Okay. Yeah, it sounds quite similar to what we’ve been experiencing with the new baby, of her waking up five times a night wanting to tell us she loves us and wants a hug or wants to give the cats a kiss because she’s just trying to stay awake and she wants our attention. So it all sounds very similar to what we’ve experienced. So it’s comforting to know that we’ve kind of been doing, sort of the right things. I’ve definitely learning some things right now, but my husband definitely kind of gives into her wanting him to lay with her and we would never do that. And like you said, you know, it was never something we did. We did sleep training with you before, and it worked really well. We had a great routine and then, you know, a big life change kind of happens. But it, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s remembering that it, it’s going to happen and it does end and you know, one day they won’t even want us in their bedrooms, so they won’t want around.
Yeah, I had a, yeah, I had a whole thing with Winnie where she wrote, “right! Right.” She came downstairs with a pen and a paper and she goes, “Write? You do not deserve!” And I was like what? Do not deserve? Who said that to you? Like I don’t think I’ve ever said that. And it turns out she wanted it to say Do Not Disturb! Oh, okay. Well that’s a relief cause I don’t know who’s been telling you you do not deserve things..
Yeah, for sure.
Yeah. So she’s five. So something to look forward to!
If you know she’s getting up a lot in the middle of the night and she’s… What you have to remember at some point, this is a disadvantage to her to be up that frequently in the middle of the night in terms of sleep quality. So if you’re finding that, you know, while she’s up five or six times, we’re up, you know, more with her than I am with the baby, then I think it might be time that you think of some of those rewards and consequences. Because part of that will be a really great bonding experience with you when you get to reward her and when she does the right thing.
Which she will do the right thing. And so then it becomes this awesome thing where like, “Oh, you’re a big girl,” you know, um, we use the door open technique in our house. You know, “we’re gonna leave the door open for you because you’re a big girl, but if you come out, we’re going to have to close it.”
And then kind of just re-marketing and repurposing door opened or closed. And if you read that now, by the time you get to kindergarten it won’t be such a like big thing. It’ll just be like maybe a few days to get back on track.
Yeah. Actually, we from training with you before we actually have the hatch light and so we’ve trained her. She doesn’t actually get out of her bed. She screamed for us, which I don’t know what’s worse. Right? But it’s true. She’s waking us up more. I mean she’s better now. It’s been three months so it has gotten better. But she was waking us up more than the newborn was like I, it was, it was, it was crazy. But I think that the hatch light really did kind of set that tone of “you do not get out of your room until this light is blue.” However she’s screaming for us to come in. So it is that rewards and consequences just, it’s just different. It’s just cause you keep waking up and screaming versus getting out of your bed. So yeah,
And as long as the consequences as well is like pre discussed with her, it’s not really a wake up and also be like “you’re doing this!!” She needs to understand because she will, the first few nights you’re going to be like, “okay, if you do this, I’m going to do this.” And she’ll be like, “but really?” She’ll test it! So it’s almost like, you know when I am working with clients of toddlers, I’m like look, the first few nights are just shenanigans. Don’t expect any progress. They’re going to just push back and that would be really normal. And then once they discover like, “Oh I’ve done this enough times and they are exactly doing what they said they were going to do, I’m bored.”
Right! I’m tired! I’m bored and I’m tired! I can’t keep waking up like this.
And when you are interacting with them, I talk about being like robot parent, so you’re like having long drawn out conversations. Keep to a script. “I love you. You’re going back to bed. Here’s your consequence. I love you.” You know, being a robot means we’re not too high and we’re not crying. We are simply just being a robot parent and being very boring. Hug, kiss, goodnight, repeat.
Right. Okay, great. That’s good. I definitely had some, some low moments in my parenting with getting a little too emotional..
Oh totally, but it’s going to happen. Like I, I have, my girls are older now, three and five and they will just fight to the death and I’m like, “Whhhyyy! I made her for you and yet you’re fighting!” Yeah, yeah. Things happen. So it’s not to say like never do these things. If you can avoid it during a training process, it would just be really helpful for you.
For sure. Definitely.
But it happens. We’re human and I think our kids need to see us being human, seeing that and being like, “Hey look, I cried. I was feeling sad. I’m back and I’m okay and you’re okay or I yelled and I shouldn’t have yelled and I’m really going to try not to do that anymore.
I agree. Definitely. That’s something that I, that I do often. Not that I yell often, but when I do, I try to recognize and make her realize that, you know, mommy was wrong. I shouldn’t have done that. And I’m sorry. It’s not the way to act. So yeah, we’re human, but then recognizing it and explaining and apologizing, I think is huge, so yeah,
100% exactly. Yeah. Well do keep me posted in September and let me know how this all goes. Give yourself one to two weeks of transition time, maybe even longer, earlier bedtimes as well, are helpful while they’re super duper tired, so, and don’t be afraid of that. Like they’re not going to get up at the crack of dawn if they do start getting up at the crack of Dawn, it might be a sign that it’s time to move bedtime back up.
Right, Okay, cool. Awesome.
Thank you so much, Marlena. Goodluck!
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Thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Slumber Party. If you’re ready to help your little one get the sleep that they need and get your night’s 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!