I have massive respect for those of you who are surviving lockdown with young children!! Thankfully, my own children are grown up but one of my daughters has a three month baby and a toddler of 22 months to look after. As her husband is a key worker, the responsibility falls largely to her until he comes home. My daughter is a highly experienced nanny so you may think that coping with an occupying two small children all day is a breeze. But, when you have a toddler who is prematurely at the terrible twos stage, who sleeps on the floor and won't sleep through the night; and who gets frustrated because he hasn't got the language to ask for what he wants without screaming, hitting and throwing everything in sight, even the most experienced of us would find it hard to cope!!
Sounds familiar?! What I have noticed is that when I have searched the experts to find some magical cure for all of this, there is lots of conflicting advice out there and none of it takes in to account the individual child. As a child psychotherapist, I am well aware of most of the advice given; but, whatever the so called experts say, there is no magical cure for every child.
Sleep Deprivation for mother and toddler
Take sleep, for example. If your child is screaming and banging the bedroom door every night, what is the best method to use, when the gentle approach won't work and when the screams get even louder when you go in to the room? It is quite overwhelming for a new mum to know what to do and can be very hard to manage every night, with anther young baby also needing to be fed. All mothers expect sleepless nights but sleepless nights without any respite and none during the day because of lockdown is hard on the mental wellbeing of even the most stable and grounded mother!
My grandson was the most angelic baby and none of this could be anticipated. How my daughter has handled it has been amazing. My grandson had to go in to his new room and a new bed earlier than planned because he began to throw himself over the cot and it was dangerous. With a new baby to contend with, the timing wasn't ideal and he certainly let everyone know it! He would only fall asleep on the floor when he was exhausted and would wake up several times a night screaming until he fell asleep again - always on the floor!
My daughter could not see an end to it and looked everywhere and to everyone for help.
I told her to use her instincts in the end. It is hard to know what these are when you get so much conflicting advice. You fail to listen to the one piece of advice that works - your own intuition. She used the method which tells the parent to go in to the room after an increasing number of minutes and it eventually worked. This was after trying so many more ways of training.
My grandson still slept on the floor but she allowed him to sleep where he wanted. He would put the teddies to bed and say goodnight to them with his mum but as soon as she left the room, he left his bed. Finally, one day, he slept in the bed!!! Amazing!! There is still some way to go but my grandson's sleep has improved beyond recognition. He has earned lots of stickers and there is light at the end of the tunnel, thank goodness.
Dealing with my grandson's tantrums is a work in progress and my daughter hasn't cracked that one yet. One thing that you do need to do is to be consistent whatever method you use for discipline; and for sleep for that matter. Consistency is the key at any age but when you have a challenging toddler, it is even more important.
The toddler is trying to assert his/her independence while wanting to be close to his/her mother (it is most often the mother but can be any caregiver, of course). The child can't regulate his/her emotions and needs his/her parents to help him do this over time. Tantrums are extremely trying; but hitting and throwing are dangerous and cannot be tolerated, even more so when there is a young baby in the firing line.
The mother has to stand firm and not give in to the toddler for the sake of peace. A clear message needs to be given - that you will give the child attention when s/he stops the behaviour. It will work in the end even if it feels like you want to give up at times and that, although you love your child dearly, you secretly begin not to like him/her.
Remember that it is the behaviour that is not acceptable, not the child him/herself.
The 'Naughty Step' is a great method for some children but it won't work for every child, as my daughter has found out. My grandson found it funny when he was told off, which made the situation even more alarming. It was very important to deal with this at this stage before he learnt that he could get his way every time and disrespect his parents later. I advised my daughter to look her son in the eye at his level (which she does anyway) and lower her voice significantly when she told him off, to make the tone clearly different from the voice she uses when she praises him. It was not so easy but she did do this and my grandson began to listen, even if he protested first. Now she has to persevere and he will eventually resist and act out less.
You may not believe it but my grandson is a gentle, loving, kind and fun little boy when he is not in these states!!! It just goes to show that you can get through the most difficult times, if you use your intuition are consistent and if you persevere.
Please do ask questions, comment and I shall reply.
Thank you for reading.