Sleep Coach’s Corner: The Importance of Consequences

The Importance of Consequences

As a pediatric sleep consultant, I’m used to getting questions about sleep from tired parents. And because my job has everything to do with children, I often lend an ear to nervous first-time parents and provide gentle guidance. In addition to being a “baby whisperer,” I’m also a “parent whisperer,” which is why I want to discuss the importance of consequences in parenting.

The hot stove analogy

When was the last time you purposely placed your hand, palm down, on your stove’s hot burner? You haven’t, right? You don’t put your hand on a burner because, at some point, you learned that you’ll get burned. In other words, you know there will be a negative consequence to your action.

Whether you learned about the hot stove by being told or through experiment, you understand the importance of consequences. As a sleep consultant, most people associate me with newborns and infants, when I actually work with a lot of parents of toddlers. Toddlers are curious little creatures, so when I’m called for help sleep training a toddler, it’s often because curiosity and testing the boundaries of independence are ruling behavior. It’s normal.

Establishing routines and setting boundaries

One of the greatest lessons we can teach our children – apart from love – is that actions have consequences. Teaching consequences is all about establishing boundaries. If you’re wondering where I’m going with this, hang in there.

Whether it’s sleep training a toddler or teaching parents how to sleep train a baby, my approach is to establish a routine around naps and bedtime. A consistent pattern provides predictability and structure – after a couple weeks, your little one knows that it’s bedtime when you begin your routine (and acts accordingly). By teaching a consistent sleep routine, you’re essentially setting expectations and creating boundaries.

Toddlers are some of the greatest boundary-testers, and they’ll try to push each and every one of them, especially bedtime. They’re developing a sense of self and are experimenting with autonomy, which often comes out around bedtime. And because this boundary-pushing behavior often surrounds sleep in toddlerhood, I’m called in for help.

Where consequences come in

Working with parents on sleep training a toddler is partially about setting and establishing a routine and partially establishing consequences. And if this sounds harsh, look at it this way – your toddler isn’t able to set their own boundaries, so you have to do it for them.

Since many little ones have transitioned to a toddler bed by this age – or have mastered the art of climbing from their crib – getting out of bed during the night is a behavior that needs to be curtailed by enforcing consequences. And how you treat getting out of bed at night is the framework for how you’ll guide your toddler’s behavior by establishing consequences to their actions.

Applying consequences

As with anything, change takes time. You need a set routine to apply consequences to your little one’s actions, and it will go a little like this:

Give a warning. Tell your toddler what they’re doing wrong and let them know what the consequence will be if they continue to do what they’re doing. For example, if they’re getting out of bed, let them know that you’ll have to close their bedroom door (this is if you tend to crack the door).

Apply consequences. It could be closing a cracked door or simply not engaging with your toddler when they get out of bed at night. Your toddler will learn that it’s not fun to get out of bed at night if mommy and daddy don’t play or snuggle with them. For other daytime behaviors, you may enforce a time out spot as a consequence.

Be consistent. The only way to learn – anything – is through practice or repetition. Remain consistent in boundary-setting and applying consequences. It may take a week or two of closing the door or quietly steering your toddler back to bed, but they’ll get it eventually.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to be consistent with your routines and responses. So many times, I have Philadelphia area parents – who I’ve worked with previously – sheepishly call me back. More often than not, their little ones are struggling with sleep because the parents relaxed or dropped the routine. It happens – a lot!

If you need to start from scratch or require a bedtime routine refresher, give me a call! Book a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation today.

Staying Sane With Kids During Quarantine

baby girl sleep at home

If you are one of the many families finding themselves at home more than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve likely had your share of ups and downs over the months. While many families have enjoyed the additional family time, cabin fever is taking its toll. Here are some tips for staying sane with kids during the quarantine. (more…)

Toxic Stress and Infant Sleep Training


If the first thing that comes to mind when you think about infant sleep training is hours of endless, pitiful crying, then this is the blog for you. It may help to know that you’re not alone in thinking that sleep training is stressful for your baby. Still, it’s my goal to help you realize that the splashy headlines about sleep training do not apply to your situation. We’re talking about toxic stress and infant sleep training today. (more…)

How To Sleep Train A Baby: Potty Training Edition


Ah, yes. You’ve come to the point where your little one is sleeping well, but it’s time to potty train at night. No more diapers, no more training pants, we’re talking about how to sleep train a baby to get through the nighttime potty training phase. Don’t panic, we’ll get through this together.

Day training

If you’re just at the beginning of the potty training journey, look away, focus on the days, and come back and read this in six months or so. Both you and your little one have enough to handle with the daytime milestone, so you want your baby to become a daytime potty pro before even thinking about tackling nights. For now, nights are business as usual. Carry on. (more…)

Infant Sleep Training: Is It Safe?

baby sleeping on crib

The first thing you’ll notice about the title of this post is that it specifically states infant sleep training. Now, if you were to ask me if newborn sleep training was safe, I’d respond by stating that newborns just need to be and grow, and not to worry about sleep training. However, the age in question pertains to infants, so the short answer is yes, infant sleep training is safe. Let’s take a look.


Parents and Sleep: Why the Holidays Aren’t Always Full of R&R

If you watch Saturday Night Live (SNL), you likely remember the brilliant skit from last year, featuring Matt Damon and Cecily Strong, called, “Best Christmas Ever.” The SNL skit features two tired parents sitting down on Christmas night, enjoying a glass of wine and recapping the day’s events. From the early wakeup to hosting family, they recap the day fondly, despite it being hellish and stressful. The skit is funny because so many American parents can relate. Let’s take a look at why parents don’t sleep over the holidays and how to avoid slumber pitfalls.

Holiday cheer

It’s a well-known fact that those who do imbibe tend to ramp up their alcohol consumption between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Unsurprisingly, lists holidays that fall between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve as three of the top ten times of drinking throughout the year, in terms of consumption.

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a couple of drinks over the holidays, especially when celebratory get-togethers abound, the real sacrifice is a good night’s sleep. Why some adults may equate consuming alcoholic beverages with socializing and relaxation, the reality is that those beverages aren’t doing them any favors in the sleep department. Simply put, consuming alcohol before bedtime disrupts sleep.

You sleep how you eat

Cookies, pies, stuffing, mashed potatoes, fat-laden dips — from parties to heavy meals, many Americans indulge over the holidays. Just as alcohol consumption before bed disrupts sleep, eating heavy, rich foods — and eating late — can be a GI disaster when it comes time to sleep. In fact, many of the foods commonly served and consumed over the holidays — low in fiber and high in fat and sugar — are the perfect recipe for a disastrous night of sleep.

Think about the number of meals and parties you attend each holiday season — how many of them offer food? What you eat affects how you sleep, and food choices you made at an afternoon get together can come back to haunt you when it’s time to get some zzzzzs. If you want to feel rested over the holidays, try not to overindulge or stray from your normal diet too much.

And then there’s the stress of it all

Parents find themselves juggling to get everything done even outside of the holiday season, so when the holidays come around, stress mounts. Buying gifts, planning dinners, hosting friends and family — there aren’t enough hours to get it all done! And when time runs short for holiday preparations, parents often dip into the overnight hours. Protect your sleep, fellow parents — you need it!

With a reported third of Americans reporting stress levels on the rise over the holidays, it’s no wonder we don’t feel rested! So, instead of succumbing to the stresses of the season, arm yourself with tools to fight holiday stress. Practice the self-care we often speak of, but rarely follow through with — there’s no better time than now.

Instead of staying up all night to assemble that Barbie Dream House, remember that your own sweet dreams are what will help you make it through the craziness of the holidays. Wishing you a wonderfully restful holiday season, fellow parents — you’ve got this!

Don’t Begin Sleep Training for Little Ones on Holiday

If you need sleep training for your toddler or infant sleep training, the holidays may not be the best time to start. It’s hard enough keeping up with all the festivities let alone learning how to sleep train a baby. You and your precious one will both be tuckered out and you may be setting yourself up for failure. You’re better off waiting until the celebrations are over and then looking for a sleep coach for your baby.

How to Sleep Train Your Baby: Is the Pacifier Bad?


As a pediatric sleep consultant in Philadelphia’s Main Line, the most common question I get — whether in-person or via email — is an obvious one: how to sleep train your baby. What many people don’t realize is that the answer varies depending on the variables, which include everything from the baby to the nursery setup. Today I’m tackling a common sleep training question: is the pacifier bad?


More of My Favorite Things: A Sleep Gift Guide

While you won’t find me frolicking in a dirndl dress in the Alps, I am singing the praises of some of my favorite sleep-related things. Perhaps the number one concern with new parents, and certainly one of the most contentious new parent topics, babies and sleep are big business. From a thousand-dollar bassinet — that boasts the ability to sleep train your baby — to melatonin, desperate parents turn to these gadgets for the promise of help.

Unfortunately, I’m the bearer of bad news. Most of the baby sleep products on the market — including the two above — are gimmicky or promote lousy sleep habits, which you want to avoid. However, there are some sleep products that I swear by and recommend to my clients — take a look:

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