toddler whisperer answers your questionsWelcome to the first you asked and she answered installment of The Toddler Whisperer. (aka, what happens when you age out of the baby whisperer and you still need OMG HELP!)

Note from Dresden:

I told you this weekend that today would be coming, so before you dive into this post feel free to take a pause and catch up so you know what’s about to happen. This will be a kinda, sorta, regular-ish guest post that happens and I hope everyone enjoys it. Please leave your questions for the TQ on the post from Saturday.

While the Toddler Whisperer gives true and genuine advice it is also given in a way like a good friend would give it to you, with humor, with a wink, with whiskey. It is given with the assumption that you are not an idiot and that you love your child. I have found her advice to be like giving you a fantastic pen to connect all the dots. Enjoy!

potty training

My son pee potty trained very easily – practically did it himself. As far as poop? It’s not happening in the potty. I’m trying not to stress about it, but I’m so not a fan of cleaning up. Any advice for the next phase of potty training?

Oh, poo… so often the final frontier…. Ok, to begin with, your son will not always poop in his pants. I swear. If he is still pooping in a diaper, then once you’ve taken a deep breath and stocked your liquor cabinet, then it is time to “run out” of diapers. Make sure you tell him, clearly and matter of fact-ly,that this is going to happen. And that when the diapers are gone, he’s going to poop on the toilet and that if he needs help, you’ll help him.

Then get your washing machine ready, put on your game face, and go for it.

My guess, since he’s got the whole pee-on-the-toilet thing down, that this is nothing more than habit. Because it is so easy to get in a power struggle with your kid, the trick here really is about how to frame the situation so that you, the adult, don’t engage in a power struggle. You want to make as much of it as possible his issue, not yours. Although, obviously for the sake of sanitation, you do have to help with clean up.

On a more practical level:

  • if he has any sort of schedule, or gives any Poop Warning Signs, use those to your advantage and (calmly!) take him to the toilet.
  • explain things – not just the chat about how he’s going to poop on the toilet now, but things like how sewers work, or sanitation, or germs or digestion or all of the above. Don’t do this as a way to coax him to the toilet, but just casually at other times, so he knows *more*. Kids are smart. They like to know things.
  • have his clean clothes were he can get to them himself, so that when there are accidents, you can do the bare minimum of poo-cleaning and then you can leave the rest to him. This really will help with your ability to be calm in the face of poopy pants, because you will get to walk away and leave him to take care of his own shit. Not literally.
  • flush it. Or, rather, dump it in the toilet and have him flush. Poop goes in the toilet. If we say it to kids, we have to do it.

This is one of those things where there is no easy fix. You can’t just snap your fingers and have it be done with. There’s no magic phrase or perfect reward or ultimate bribe that will make it just happen. You just have to buckle down and get through it. And then one day, he’ll have it and you’ll have forgotten that it was hard.

sleep and toddler

My 4yr old falls asleep in his bed in his room but he doesn’t stay there. At some point in the night he makes his way to my bed. How do I get him to stay put?

Duct tape. Or what was that thing Joan Crawford’s daughter claimed was used on her brother until he was like 25? Just kidding.

For real, I am a fan of the (almost) silent return. This means, though, that you have to wake up enough to get up yourself and walk your kid back to his room. It might mean that you lose sleep yourself for a little bit – no, I won’t commit to how long : ) – in the process.

As with most things, you’ll get farther faster if you let your kid in on what’s happening. In the car or at a meal are two great times to discuss such things. You can touch on how important sleep is to everybody (insert things like waking up refreshed, having enough energy to play/work/whatever, growth, all animals sleep, blah, blah, blah), and then explain that when he gets up in the night and comes to your bed, it makes it hard for him and for you to get enough sleep, so you’re going to help him to stay in his own bed all night so everybody can get enough sleep.

Then you outline The Plan to him, which you’ve already clarified for yourself and anyone else in the house who might need to know what’s going on. You might – I’d say should – get his input on some parts, but only on the parts that are negotiable. For example, your son could come up with ideas about what he could do to self-sooth in the middle of the night, like telling himself to have sweet dreams, or remembering a nice thing that happened that day.

When you take your kid back to his bed in the night, you want to minimize interactions. Obviously, you still want to be kind, in your sleep-addled state, but you don’t want it to turn into Fun and Games Time. So keep talking to the bare minimum (“it’s time for you to sleep in your own bed”) or don’t talk at all. If you child tries to engage verbally, say something like “it’s sleeping time now” just once and then don’t talk anymore. Tuck him back into his own bed and then beat it out of there. Chances are, you’ll have to do this more than once. Prepare yourself so you can be consistent.

The Plan, as you might explain it to your 4 year old:

“Nighttime is the time for sleeping in your own bed, so we can all get enough sleep. If you wake up in the night, you can __(insert self comforting measure of your choice here)___ and then you can close your eyes and go back to sleep.
If you come into my room, I’ll take you back to your room, so you can lie down and close your eyes to go back to sleep.”

And then you do it. Night after night. Until it takes. This is one of those situations where you are reinforcing your child’s trust in you. You said that this was how it was all going to go down, and so you owe it to your kid to stick to your word. I promise that one, if not more, of those nights you will want to throw the towel in. But don’t. Your kid is trusting you to do what you said you were going to do.

Who is the Toddler Whisperer?

Meet my dear, dear, seriously dear and amazing friend Starrhillgirl
She is a certified Montessori teacher for ages 0-3. She has been teaching a class full of toddlers in Central Virginia for close to million years. She believes that toddlers are not evil but if treated with kindness and respect can learn to mix drinks and dust the baseboards.

If any of her advice was at all helpful to you please let her know.
And keep your questions coming!

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