How to sleep train a spirited 2 year old?

Valerie - posted on 04/30/2012 ( 11 moms have responded )

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SLEEP TRAINING a "SPIRITED" TWO YEAR OLD:

Our daughter turns two this Friday and has had some sleep issues since a double ear infection (2x) in December 2011. Since February she needs me to sit in her room with her until she falls asleep and wakes 1x in night for a bottle then goes into bed with me. HELP. I have baby #2 coming in July and I really want my daughter to be able to sleep on her own and get back to sleep in the night without me. We have used Ferber method many times before but since she started jumping out of her crib in January, we have stayed in the room. I am worried that moving her to toddler bed (which we must do for safety), ending co-sleeping in the night and the bottle, AND making her cry it out ala Ferber (and gate at door of room) is a lot for a babe to deal with. I think I am more worried about the cry it out method and how she will react (she is so much older and aware now). She is spirited, strong-willed and emotional. I will remove all in her room that is dangerous but still know she will try to tear it up or possibly act out by hurting herself. I have tried the chair by the bed but never actually got to the point of moving it out of the room...I assume she will react in the same way once I am gone. If anyone has tried this method I am curious what happens once they cannot see you. We also need to get my hubby back in the routine...it's been mommy only for a while now.
Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you! Signed, One tired mama

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User - posted on 05/03/2012

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Right, everyone has their own opinion. I notice you did not give any other advice though Barb Rubin. What would you do? Saying you disagree but not saying anymore does not really help. I was just speaking from my own experience and giving my opinion, which she can take or not take. Obviously when you do this you have to be attentive. I would stand outside my son's door and listen to what he was doing, it's not like I would leave the house and run to the store while he's in there crying by himself. But Barb Rubin what I think would be more helpful instead of simply saying it's a bad idea is to offer your own advice as that's what she was asking for to being with.

User - posted on 05/01/2012

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I read that whole Ferber method but I couldn't remember the steps and didn't have the energy to keep going back and looking. So I just did it how I thought would work and after much trial and error we've found a way that works for both of us. Lol A couple things I've learned though: don't dawdle around your daughter's room after you put her to bed. Tell her good night and you love her then leave. Go check on her if she's hysterical or panicking, you'll figure out how long that is based on her reaction. When we first started this I would go check on my son 5 or 6 times before he would go to sleep, now it's usually not at all. Also, when you check on her make sure she can't follow you out, if she tries just lay her down in bed tell her good night, you love her, whatever and leave quickly.
And don't give into her tantrums, that will make it worse. There are times when my son is throwing a fit I will just put him in his room and tell him he can come out when he feels better. Sometimes I think he just needs to be alone but he doesn't understand how to do it himself. Cause after he's done crying I'll go get him and he will be in such a better mood. Anyway these are just a couple things I've done, but I'm far from a perfect mom. You just have to do what you think is right and listen to yourself, which is hard to do when so many people have different ideas and they all think they are right. Just have faith in yourself :)

User - posted on 05/01/2012

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How old was he which time? haha It's kind of a work in progress. When we moved him to a big boy bed he was about 1 1/2. I would go in, do our bedtime thing and then shut the door. He fell asleep on the floor a couple times but after 3 or 4 nights he went to sleep on his own. Then we did it again this last winter and he was 2. He had been sick and then we went on vacation so he was sleeping with me for about 2 months. After we got home we let him cio again and now he just goes to sleep on his own. I had a baby in Feb and there was no way I was gonna have 2 kids in my bed at night :)
Some days for nap he'll play for a while alone in his room (I always have to lock him in there otherwise he will just keep coming out) but then he goes to sleep on his own in his bed.
You could try giving her a bottle with just water in it to help transition, we did that with my son too and then eventually just took it away (that was another cio experience). Although he sometimes will still get sent to bed with a sippy cup especially if mama is tired and just can't deal with him anymore. Sounds horrible, I know.
The biggest thing I've found is getting a routine, any kind of routine. If you do the same thing every single night she eventually will know "Oh that means it's bedtime." I've found if my son isn't taken off guard and you kind of ease into it it makes it easier. Our bedtime routine is easily 30 or 40 minutes long. I find that if I lay down with him, even for just a couple minutes, the next week he will try to get me to lay down again so I just have to leave and let him be. Your daughter will be able to figure out a way to comfort herself, it's just that you've always been there to do it for her so far.
Oh, and my son is a head banger too. I freaked out when he used to do it when he was teething so now he does it cause he knows I don't like it. I ignore it now, although it's really hard, and he hardly does it at all anymore cause he figured out it really hurts! Just make sure if you lock her in her room that there's nothing she can really hurt herself with. I still do go in there if my son is freaking out because I know there's something wrong. I usually will let him cry about 20 minutes, go in and cuddle him, lay him down, tell him nigh-night and leave quickly. Depending on the night I will do that max 2 times and then he's ok and will go to sleep.
It was hard to do and I'm definitely a softie but it just seems like all the other ways leave EVERYONE exhausted. I didn't want to do it, I am a big believer in the attached parenting method but this is the only way that worked for him. Maybe because he is so spirited.
I can't believe your daughter cried for 2 whole hours, what a stinker! :) But she might just be crabby cause she's tired. She needs her rest too!

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Vicki - posted on 05/03/2012

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My boy is also 2... although closer to 3. We've been co-sleeping until now and the last few weeks he's decided to sleep in his own bed in his own room. He generally wakes during the night at some stage and either toddles into us or I go get him. There's been a few nights where he's stayed in his bed all night, I figure this will increase over time and am happy with a gradual transition rather than sudden change. No crying or locking in the room required. If I had another bub on the way I may consider a mattress or camp bed on the floor of my room so he can come in if he needs the closeness but not be right in the bed with us and new bub.



I like to think that he made the decision to move to his own bed because he was confident that he always has our support if needed and he's never been forced to sleep in a particular spot.

Barb - posted on 05/03/2012

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I totally disagree with letting a child cry for so long and definitely disagree with locking a 1.5 y/o in a room alone! Asking for an accident!

Valerie - posted on 05/01/2012

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True that. Thanks. It is is hard to hear my own instincts after a while...totally whitewashed from everything I see, hear, read. But being firm seems to be essential. I am working on that, step by step. Will keep you posted. Thanks so much for the encouragement. :)

Valerie - posted on 05/01/2012

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Thanks Kiki. She does get 2 sippy cups now - one water one milk so maybe both can be water...! Ha. I know i need to ignore the head banging i just hope she doesn't get into the habit...or throwing up....we have a routine now which involves a bit of TV (Caillou - she loves him - ugh) but now she knows and will start playing or doing other things so I am wondering if I should try to nix the TV part of the routine altogether...I think whatever the cue is she will try to get away or play something new to not follow the routine. We usually play, then Caillou with milk, then kisses, to the bedroom 3 books lights out with a timed music bear. I always thought I would be doing attached parenting 24-7 but things are just so different with a "spirited" child. I find I have to be very firm with her or else everything turns into negotiation with a tantrum if I say no. We finally did the CIO method at like 7 mos or so bc no matter what we did, she cried. I am finding it is the same thing now. I pray the Ferber method works and within a few days. I just am running out of options. Did you every try Ferber where you check on them for a gradual amount of time? Thanks again!!

Valerie - posted on 05/01/2012

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Thanks so much for your post Kiki. After last night I am more inclined to do the cry it out thing with the gate. She spent her first night in the "big bed" and when she woke in the night, she tantrumed for, not kidding, TWO hours. I had to keep putting her back in the bed. She just tantrumed for her nap now about 20 minutes of putting her back down. Unbelievable really. So I can see this is a power of wills more than anything and mama needs to win. Hate to look at it this way but after seeing the way she acted for so long...I think I am about at the end of my rope. I tried everything last night, singing, laying with her, finally I left and daddy came in which she wasn't happy about. He finally laid with us and she fell asleep after one more bout of crying. Sorry for the minute details, but this is really wearing on me. I pray that the Ferber thing is going to work and at this point I cannot start quick enough...we are already putting up with so much crying. I just pray she doesn't start banging her head or something.

Thanks again. Good to know the cry it out thing can work on a spirited child. How old was your son when you did it and how long did it take?

User - posted on 05/01/2012

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My son had a lot of problems sleeping through the night too. He sounds like your daughter. He is incredibly strong willed and has quite the temper. I eventually just locked him in his room and let him cry and scream. I put one of those safety things over the door knob so he can't get the door open. If he would start getting hysterical I would go in there but I would not wait for him to fall asleep. It sounds horrible and I felt horrible and it was really really hard not to go in there but it worked. He sleeps like a champ now. As far as the bottle goes, you just have to stop giving it to her. It's your choice. She might want it but it's up to you to do what's best for her and that's not gonna do her teeth any good. When she wakes up at night you just have to keep putting her back in her room (or lock her in there again).
We also have a bedtime routine (which you could just do this if you don't like the idea of locking her in). We read a couple books (I shut the lights off and read with a night light), turn his music on and I also have a fan in there. The white noise seems to help a lot. But do not sit in there with her and wait til she's sleeping, just wait til she's right about to fall asleep and then leave. And if you get into a routine then it will be easy for Daddy to come in to help too.
Good luck!

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