Transitions Can be Easier

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There are so many transitions built into a family’s day. For children, this may include the shift to getting dressed, leaving the house, stopping play, finishing projects, cleaning up, coming to the table for meals, going upstairs for bath and settling in bed for sleep. All of these steps can have small transitions within which can be a lot.

Real and consistent warning – Most children transition better when given warnings. It is helpful to use the same language and mean the same amount of time for each warning. When my girls were younger I said, “we are done in five minutes, finish up,” and, “one more minute, do your last thing.” When I said this, I was also sure to say five minutes and mean five minutes. If sometimes it meant two minutes because I was in a hurry, or it meant twenty minutes because I got distracted, the warnings weren’t as helpful. Even before children can tell time, the consistency is helpful.

Additional cues – It can be helpful to build in additional cues. This might be a visual cue like flipping the lights, a physical cue like a transition high-five or an auditory cue like ringing a bell. This is just another consistent signal that it’s time for a transition.

Proximity – If your child tends to ignore or run away at the start of transitions, it can be helpful to stand beside them or even hold their hand just before the transition starts.

Empathy (limit as needed) – This would be saying, “I’m sorry you are frustrated, but it’s time to go upstairs.” When you acknowledge emotions, emotions tend to calm. It’s often helpful to state the limit in a calm way.

Positive directions – This is a reminder to state your directions in the positive. This is saying, “come back and clean up the toys,” rather than, “stop running around.” Here is a full post about positive directions.

Ask their plan or their first step – Asking how they are going to get started can help a child focus on the task and move forward.

Build in choices, challenges and contribution – For going upstairs choices would be, “do you want to walk or crawl upstairs,” or, “do you want to brush teeth first or change into pajamas when you get upstairs?” Challenges would be, “let’s race up stairs. Ready, go!” Contribution would be, “I need a toothpaste squeezer.”

Focus on the good in the next thing – Want your child to stop playing, go upstairs and take a bath? You might focus on how many bubbles they can make with the bubble bath or which toys they’d like to play with in the tub.

Give descriptive praise when it goes well – This would be, “you listened the first time. That is helpful!” or, “you went upstairs so fast. You were super speedy!” You want to reinforce this behavior, so describe the behavior and give it a label. Here is a full post about descriptive praise.

A post on better clean-up times

A post on better morning routines

A post on better bedtime routines

 

 

Ways to Avoid Discipline with Your Children

In my workshops, I teach the steps of positive discipline. This language includes the flexible use of I messages, empathy, positive intent, choices and consequences to best manage behaviors. This framework is meant to guide parents through addressing emotions while curbing behaviors. If you want to learn more about these steps, you can search “steps” or “discipline” on our blog. As much as this is an effective approach, there are several things parents can do to avoid the discipline process. This is especially true for repeat behaviors as parents should be better able to see these coming.

  • Distraction – Two children start to argue over a shovel in the sandbox. If you can say, “hey, look! A puppy!” and it’s over, I think that’s fine. There will be so may times when this doesn’t work, and you’ll need the discipline, but when it does that’s fine.
  • Humor – Say something funny, and it’s over? Okay.
  • Logistics – A mom in one of my workshops said, “it is so difficult every morning to get the kids to stop playing and go down to the foyer to get their shoes on. They can go right back and play, I just need their shoes on.” Solving this with logistics would be moving the shoes to where the kids are playing. If a well placed baby gate solves your situation, there’s no need to work through the steps repeatedly.
  • Schedules – Often, a discipline exchange is sparked by a transition or by having to little time to complete too much activity. For transitions, be sure to give consistent warnings and give children choices and jobs while moving through. For schedules, be sure to plan for the time and build in a little extra for children.
  • Routines – If your discipline happens during specific times of the day like getting kids ready and out of the house in the morning or getting them in pajamas and ready for bed, routines can be a big part of the answer. Decide the time you need to be done, make a list of everything that needs to be done and work backwards. It can be helpful to make a chart with your children by taking pictures of them moving through the routine or drawing pictures of each step. The more consistently you follow the routine the more helpful it tends to be.

The Importance of Sleep Associations

Sleep associations can be a very important thing for helping your child fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Sleep associations are what your child has or experiences in the few minutes before they nod off and fall asleep. For my daughter this is her nightlight, her stuffed animal, favorite blanket, the noise from the fan in the hall and her firm pillow. When sleep associations are a constant, they become habit and help her fall asleep.

Night wakefulness is a normal part of the sleep cycle, in between cycles people rouse a bit. Children gradually learn how to nod back off and basically sleep through the normal, brief periods of wakefulness. It can be an easier process if the child has all of their sleep associations throughout the night. When a child is falling asleep in their own space, with their sleep associations that are constant, such as a nightlight or white noise that plays all night, they are much better able to soothe themselves and continue sleeping during the wakefulness. If a child is held or rocked to sleep and then placed in bed, when they have normal night wakefulness, they are much more likely to fully wake and call out because overtime they are dependent on the rocking as a sleep association to be able to stay or fall asleep. If your children are waking and calling out often through the night, sleep associations may be part of the difficulty and are an easy thing to check.

Bedtime Routine Tips

Here are a few reminders to help with your bedtime routine:

  • Same place, same time, same order every night – The more routine you have, the better. In our house, it was and is bath, jammies, teeth, story, bed. As they’ve gotten older, we changed from us reading aloud for 20 minutes, to us for 20 and them reading in their rooms for 20, and that change is the new steady routine.
  • Avoid TV and rough house play – If there are any bedtime or sleep issues, tv and rough house play have been shown to be too stimulating within two hours of sleep.
  • Finish at least the last 10 minutes in their rooms – Avoid finishing the bedtime routine in the living room and carting them off to bed. Ideally, there is time to quietly acclimate to their own rooms.
  • Manage bedtime power struggles with positive discipline – If they stall through the routine, run amok after bath, won’t stay in bed or stay in bed screaming, learn positive discipline. There are so many techniques that can be helpful in these moments such as assertive voice, choices, contribution and logical consequences. If you are struggling, it is time to learn better ways.
  • If there is difficulty, pick a method and stick with it – There are so many ways to approach building healthy sleep habits. If there is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, the idea is to pick a method and stick with it. From co-sleeping, to gradual move-outs, to check-ins and cry it outs, each method is designed to get children falling to sleep and staying asleep easily. Learn about these approaches, and then pick the one that best fits your family.

6 Ways to Get Kids to Stay in Bed

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I remember with my older daughter Alicen, the night she realized she could get out of her toddler bed, she was up something like 42 times in the first hour. I know, it can be infuriating. There are many options to keep them tucked in at bedtime.

The mantra – This is where you summon your most peaceful self and prepare to take them back again and again. When you do this, you either say nothing, or you say the same thing each time with same tone and emotion. In our house, this was a very flat, “you mut stay in bed.” You also want to strive to take them back in the same way each time. I did, hands on shoulders guided walking each time. Even if they go boneless and sloutch to the floor, you repeat as best you can. The idea here is they are getting out for attention, for a game, and you are not giving it to them. If you choose to do this, you must know that you will stay calm. If you can stay calm and outlast, the next night it is less, and then less again, and then done. If you snap and lose it at time 17 and yell, “I said STAY IN BED!” You have just taught the child, 17 is the goal, that’s when it becomes a game. If you can outlast them, it should be over in a few nights.

A consequence – Using this technique, you let child know, “if you stay in bed, your door can stay open. If you get out of bed, your door will be closed.” If child gets out of bed, you might close the door for one minute the first time and longer on later times. This only works if your child likes to sleep with the door open.

The check-in – This plan reinforces the positive. This is when you say to child at the end of tuck-in, “if you are laying down and quiet, I will pat your back (or come sit with you, sing to you, play with your hair etc.)” Then you leave and just a minute or so later return and say, “you are laying down and quiet, I will pat your back.” When you do, again say and do the same thing each time (or say nothing) and stay less than 30 seconds. Ever so gradually work your way up to longer stretches out of the room. A child who is laying down and quiet for long stretches will likely fall asleep. There are check-in methods like Ferber and Mindell that build this into the regular bedtime routine in a systematic way.

The babygate – We have known many families that when they tuck-in, it’s over. They put the babygate on the door and are done. Child may get out of bed, mill around, call for mom or fall asleep by the door, but it’s still done. Given a night or two they tend to fall asleep in bed. If you are going to do this, the room MUST be child-proof (dressers attached to walls and all).

The stay – This is the family that finishes the bedtime routine, tucks-in and then stays. The first week, you might sit on the edge of the bed with your hand on their back. The next week, sit on the edge of the bed with your hands in your lap. Have a comfy chair because the next week, you move a foot away. Gradually, week by week, you move yourself out of the room. The trick here is to do this with little to no talking. If you engage in conversation easily, this may not work for you. There are gradual move-out methods like Brazelton that describe this in detail.

Tickets – As children are four years old and older, tickets may be an easy answer. The idea is to give the child two tickets (small, cut out, construction paper rectangles) with each ticket representing one request or time to get up. If the child needs a re-tuck, one ticket. If the child needs a drink of water, one ticket. When the tickets are gone, the child stays in bed. Not quite sure why this one works, but often it does.

To learn more about ways to keep them in bed and about other bedtime routines and sleep issues, join me on Wednesday Sept. 24 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. for our workshop on Bedtime Routines and Sleep Issues. For more information and to register, please visit http://www.eventbrite.com/org/283710166?s=1328924.

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