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.

I May Be a Sleep Coach, But I’m Also a Mom

mom and baby

As a sleep coach for babies, my advice usually revolves around how to sleep train a baby and other pediatric sleep issues. Today, however, I want to focus on the moms out there. Parenting presents unique challenges, and in my area of expertise, when you throw sleep deprivation in the mix, well, channeling patience seems a foreign concept. How do you handle things when you’re pushed to the edge?

Loud and clear

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been known to yell a time or two when my girls have pushed me to snap. Whether it’s bickering or boredom, when I lose my cool, I feel guilty afterward. And while raising my voice often grabs their attention, I know that it’s not the way to handle things. And yelling definitely doesn’t help problem-solve in these situations.

Sometimes I just need to step back and take stock of the situation. For example, when I work with parents to teach how to sleep train your baby, I approach crying babies and chaos in a calm, relaxed manner. Can you imagine if I came into your home guns blazing? Yikes! And the reality is that problem-solving sleep issues as a sleep coach for baby isn’t much different than being a parent to my own children.

Stress and your children

When you were pregnant, did you ever have someone tell you that if you’re stressed during pregnancy, you’ll have an anxious and stressed baby? Well, studies have shown that stressed moms affect their children, even out of the womb. In fact, a 2014 study in Psychological Science showed that infants somehow experienced a transfer or negative emotions when their mothers were exposed to mild negative stressors in separate rooms. Those babies were able to sense that their mothers were stressed and experienced similar feelings. Researchers call this stress contagion.

Keep calm and carry on

To build more of a case for calm, a 2018 University of California-Riverside study showed the relationship between calm parents and calm kids. So, as your little ones grow older and you find yourself yelling for them to “calm down,” stop for a moment and think about what you’re putting out there. This study is really an argument for practicing what you preach. Plus, keeping your calm under pressure is healthier for everyone.

I’m not saying you should ignore the inevitable stressors in your life, but if anything, be more mindful about how you respond to those stressors because your children are watching. And when you find yourself pushed to the edge with your children because “She’s looking at me!” take a moment to center yourself before responding. You’ll be in a better position to help problem-solve a situation with your children when you’ve got a level head.

So, when you find yourself sleep deprived because your little one isn’t sleeping through the night, instead of losing your cool, schedule a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation with me. You’ve got this, mama!

How To Sleep Train A Baby: The Daycare Dilemma

Split Nights with Twins

So, you’ve decided to finally tackle your little one’s sleepless nights and inconsistent napping. Learning how to sleep train a baby is challenging in itself, even before you take daycare into account. If you’re suffering from the daycare dilemma, this one’s for you.

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Split Nights with Twins

Split Nights with Twins

This blog is for all of my twin parents. One baby is a lot to handle in the early months, but multiply that, and you’ve got your hands full. So, what do you do when your darlings start experience split nights? Well, apart from panicking or losing your mind, consider using some of the strategies below.

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My Baby Wakes At 3 am: Is It Time To Start Sleep Training?

baby wake 3am

“My baby wakes at 3 am—is it time to start sleep training?” If you’re asking yourself this question, the answer is likely yes. But you’re not going to start at 3 am. Here’s the thing. If your baby—and your family—is suffering from middle-of-the-night awakenings, no one is getting a healthy night of sleep. In this instance, I’d say it’s time to make changes to ensure that everyone in the family gets healthy nights of sleep. Let’s take a look (more…)

Help! My Baby Wakes At 3 am Every Night

infant sleep coach

Being a new parent is exhausting in and of itself, but when your baby wakes at 3 am every night, it runs you completely ragged. The effects of sleep deprivation are dangerous when it becomes chronic. So, let’s take a look at why your baby is waking so early each morning and what you can do.

The science of sleep

You’re likely already familiar with the circadian rhythm in relation to sleep cycles. To regulate those rhythms, the human body releases melatonin and cortisol. Melatonin relaxes the body to get it ready to sleep, and cortisol acts as a stimulant to wake the body. As perfectly constructed as the human body is, a predictable cycle is easily disrupted.
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What Is Sleep Sense?

cute baby sleeping - sleep sense - gift of sleep consulting

As a Philadelphia-area pediatric sleep consultant, I’ve been asked almost every question in the book. Today I’m going to answer one of the top questions I receive: “What methods do you use?” The short answer is Sleep Sense™.

The Sleep Sense™ program

Authored by Dana Obleman, after countless hours of trial, error, and research, Sleep Sense™ is a complete system designed with easy to follow steps. The Sleep Sense™ program helps your little one learn and build the skills needed to independently sleep through the night. (more…)

Safe Sleep Tips: The Sleep Sack

baby sleep sack - gift of sleep

If you’ve spent any time on my blog or my Facebook page, you’ll know that I’m a proponent of the sleep sack. And while you might find it strange to be talking about this as the summer heats up, but think about it—do you sleep without any covers? I didn’t think so. The sleep sack is a safe way to make your baby comfortable when they sleep.

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