I was looking for solutions to my son’s sleep issues when I came across the book Sleepless in America by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. It sounded like the name of the Meg Ryan movie my life had become. My toddler was waking up intermittently every night and had become extremely cranky and defiant during the daytime. This book struck home and helped me to make the connection—my child’s lack of sleep was affecting his personality!
Could the answer be that simple? I decided to reevaluate my son’s schedule. Upon careful review, I noticed where I could be more sensitive about his sleep schedule. For one, I would occasionally skip a nap thinking a new adventure was more important. Then I would wonder why he was thrashing around and screaming at the top of his lungs as I dragged him along to one more exhibit at the museum. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I had any sense of urgency with this one. The exhibits haven’t changed at the Museum of Natural History in 50 years. Way to go, Wonder Mommy! I care so much about providing my kids with engaging and unique experiences that I neglected how important naptime is.
Using the guidelines outlined in the book, I set out to create a more supportive schedule for him. Reinstate the nap daily; have it around the same time every day; wake up before 4:00 pm, and avoid committing to activities that interfere with our normal routine. Finally, the big one: Create a calming environment before bedtime. I began to enforce a “no television and no sweets after dinner” policy.
The author anticipates his audience will scoff at the rigidity of the rules and routine. He does add, though, that you can stray from the schedule. He only cautions that you be aware of the repercussions: Your child may transform into the Tasmanian Devil. Well, this is a risk I no longer wanted to take!
I implemented a new schedule for my son and got the whole family on board. Within a week, he was eating better and his behavior had improved. Wow! Most of those meltdowns were actually avoidable.
It’s been several weeks now and though we haven’t been completely rigid about the schedule, we have been doing a much better job of sticking to it. Don’t get me wrong—my son still has meltdowns and days when he’d rather fling his peas across the room than eat them. But the frequency of these incidents has drastically decreased. And we are all better off for it.
Do you want your own copy of helpful parenting books like Sleepless in America, plus creative solutions to help your toddler get a good night’s rest? Sign up here to receive updates on Mommy Hacks, my new subscription box service, coming this Spring.
Jamie Parganos started the Wonder Mommy blog to create a community for moms to share their stories and support one another. She is also CEO and Founder of Mommy Hacks, a subscription box service designed to help you win at parenting. Before founding her companies, she worked as a program director in the New York City public school system. A mom who wears many hats, Jamie is also a professional singer. She lives in NYC with her partner and two children, ages 3 and 6 months.