Nearly all the parents we see at Savvy Tot Sleep tell us they have tried “Everything”. They’ve read all the books, googled every site and can often rival wikipedia in their knowledge about sleep.

So – what’s going wrong?

Well – there are many things that get in the way of a parent being able to teach sleep to their LO. One of the first things to talk about is the way we communicate. You may know that there are two forms of communication, verbal and non verbal. And you may think that verbal communication is more powerful. Not so! Non verbal communication is much more powerful than the spoken word – particularly for little tots. Non verbal communications include;

Facial expressions
Eye contact
Tone and pitch of voice
Gestures through body language and physical distance

When someone says, “No” – it’s not just a verbal command. The whole body will be saying this through facial expression, tone/pitch of voice, hand gesture and posture. They may look cross or angry, raise their voice, raise a finger and lean forward. Conversely when someone says, “Yes” – they will smile, open their arms and lean back slightly. I often see new mums “read” their babies without knowing it. Baby makes a squawk and they seem to know instinctively what baby needs, a bit of attention, a change of position, a burp or a feed.

To receive non verbal communication we must have the ability to look and listen attentively.That’s why we often recommend that parents spend a few days simply observing their child before we even start sleep teaching. Very often parents have missed the tell tale signs that LO is ready for sleep. Parents will say, “He is SO quiet when he comes home from nursery but by the time we’ve had tea he’s got a second wind”. I would say that LO was giving parents non verbal communication that his natural sleep time is soon after nursery!

Equally – when parents are setting boundaries around sleep they need to show it with every fibre of their being and not simply a verbal command. It’s common sense to realise that a positive, upbeat command will get a much better response from LO (or anyone) than a down trodden, “Back to sleep”. But that verbal command also needs non verbal communication to back it up. Remember – as human beings we recieve non verbal communication more powerfully than verbal.

Of course, parental confidence can also be severely depleted by a non sleeper who seemingly has more energy and control than his parents. However tired, exhausted the mantra to keep a parent going is;

“You will only change someone’s behaviour if you change your behaviour toward them”.

And you cannot expect a tot to change their behaviour! After all they are only behaving in the way that they have learned to get a response. Your child is often a mirror of you! If you are confident and upbeat – they will learn to be confident and upbeat too.

The way a parent deals with bedtime and night waking is crucial to the way LO reciprocates. Quiet time (no telly), followed by a calm but speedy bedtime routine gives LO’s strong non verbal cues what you are expecting them to do. Equally night waking (post the need for a feed stage) should offer perfunctory reassurance and clear non verbal signals that it’s sleepy time.

It’s not a bad idea to look at yourself in the mirror to watch the expression on your face/posture when you set boundaries for your child.

I also find that many parents try “pleading” with their child, “Please, please go to sleep. Mummy needs sleep too”. Remember that non verbal cues include the tone of your voice too. Practice this by recording your voice until you feel you have an assured, confident tone.

Setting boundaries around LO’s sleep is the same as setting any other social boundary such as saying, “Please” and “Thank you”. And how many times do we as parents need to remind LO’s to say those two words!