We often talk about bellies and babies here at The Motherhood Collective, but today we’ll be discussing issues specific to our 2-year-old to four -year -old children. Setting limits, seeing new behavior and sleep changes those are just a few unique challenges with this age range.
Candy Beers-Kim - has a 2 year old daughter Evelyn, preschool teacher background, Masters focused on non-verbal communication between parent and child, Pediatric sleep consultant
Josie Olson - Works for Light Counseling, 2 girls Gabrielle (11), Giana (8),
Margaret Flynt - Mom of 4 grown children (30, 27, 25, 22), stayed home for 22 years, pre-school teacher, passionate about children and their families
Emily Sales - 2 boys, Licensed social worker-focused on early childhood intervention
We know that children develop at different rates and therefore reach milestones at different times. Milestones include gross motor skills like crawling, walking and climbing, as well as, fine motor skills like holding a spoon, scribbling with a crayon or putting on an article of clothing. Children develop at different rates in regards to their social and emotional growth, too. Our toddlers begin to show frustration and jealousy. The word "NO" takes on meaning. They begin to show affection and imitate adult behaviors/actions. Toddlers also begin to understand simple instructions, respond with gestures or "words", imitate language and develop a sense of humor.
Margaret/Josie/Emily: How concerned are you about children and their specific milestones? Why? Are there any milestones in particular that worry you, things you specifically look out for in the toddler/preschooler years?
Emily-Yes, she worries about milestones. All children develop at certain speeds but all milestones should be met within a certain window of time. She’d rather look at something sooner before it impacts other skills down the road. Example: A child that is 9 months old that isn’t rolling or sitting, that will impact age of pulling up and walking. Or early on making sure the child is engaging with the parents with eye contact.
Margaret/Josie: You work with a wide range of children. Do you see them hitting milestones at different points?
Margaret- As a preschool teacher, looking for skills that will help them as they go in to school. Speech, social interaction as well as gross and fine motor skills. Can be a sensitive topic to talk with the parents about her concerns.
Josie- Social interaction milestone is most important to her. In the early preschool ages, interacting with other children instead of just playing alongside other children. Communication is also important at the preschool age.
Margaret/Josie: Do you think there are any “dangers” we can do as parents by pushing our little ones before they’re ready to hit a milestone?
Margaret- Pushing boys to write early and pushing academic skills. Learning takes place through play!
Josie- If you push too hard, you could incite a child to be ashamed or angry. Let them develop at their own pace.
Emily: What resources are available to parents through the Health Department? How do they go about finding that?
The Infant and Toddler connection is a state and national mandated program. It may have other names in other states. If you or your doctor feels like there might be a delay with your child, you can call and make an appointment for an intake and screening to see what the needs are for your child individually. There are a lot of different types of therapists (vision, occupational, speech, teaching, etc.). Everything is free for the intake because it is a mandated program. Early intervention is better. (Emily is at most café’s so she is happy to talk with mom’s if you have concerns.)
Candy- Children can regress with their sleep when they are going through a major milestone. If the child is sleep deprived, it is very likely that they will hit their milestones later than expected.
Candy: In your opinion, how much sleep should 2-4 year olds get? How can you tell if your child needs more sleep?
Between 12-14 total hours, between 10-12 at night and 1-3 during the day. Hyperactivity can be a sign of sleep deprivation. 7 is a magical hour for kid’s bedtime. Toddlers and preschoolers give us a bigger window for us to see the cues for sleep. Each child is different.
Audience question: 2 year old son wakes up at 6/630 with his schedule while going to day care and would go to bed at 8, but she wants to get his sleep back to 8p-8a. But if he takes a morning nap it throws off the rest of his schedule.
Candy’s answer: Go in to the room, stay by his side, the “Time to Wake” clock that changes color when it’s time for the child to get up. More a family-by-family answer, there isn’t necessarily a one-size fits all.
Periscope Question: Correlation between how much a child eats or doesn’t eat during a day that affects sleep?
Candy’s answer: YES! Blood sugar levels do affect sleep. If the child sits at dinner, a high-protein/high-fat meal.
Emily: Toddler feeding specialist would say that it is important to look at the day as a whole.
Margaret: Preschool teachers need the children to have a good nutritious breakfast, well hydrated, well rested and well loved. Children are affected by how much sleep they are getting in the classroom.
According the National Sleep Foundation (http://sleepfoundation.org/sleeptopics/childrenandsleep/): Toddlers (1-2 years) need about 11-14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. When they reach about 18 months of age their naptimes will decrease to once a day lasting about one to three hours. Naps should not occur too close to bedtime as they may delay sleep at night. Many toddlers experience sleep problems including resisting going to bed and nighttime awakenings. Nighttime fears and nightmares are also common. Many factors can lead to sleep problems. Toddlers' drive for independence and an increase in their motor, cognitive and social abilities can interfere with sleep. In addition, their ability to get out of bed, separation anxiety, the need for autonomy and the development of the child's imagination can lead to sleep problems. Daytime sleepiness and behavior problems may signal poor sleep or a sleep problem.
Sleep Tips For Toddlers:
Maintain a daily sleep schedule and consistent bedtime routine.
Make the bedroom environment the same every night and throughout the night.
Encourage use of a security object such as a blanket or stuffed animal.
Set limits that are consistent, communicated and enforced.
Candy: That list is great. Sleep begets sleep. Days when you miss naps, sleep will probably be off. Aim for 70% of naps in the crib. Very important to have a good bedroom environment. Every child wakes up at night, adults know how to get back in to a comfortable position to go to sleep. If the child can find their own comfortable spot, without your help, sleep will be much easier for them. No sleep consultant will advocate for cry it out. If you nurse to sleep, introduce the lovey while you are nursing for them to associate the lovey with comfort. Consistency is the #1 thing! If the child sleeps well sometimes and not other times, that could be intermittent reinforcement. That the expectations are different each night. A sleep routine and consistency are the biggest things.
Josie/Candy: It’s common for children to develop some bedtime fears; trouble with the dark, monsters, or fear of being left alone. What are some good ways for parents to deal with these bedtime troubles? Are there other common fears we should be aware of?
Josie: Having a bedtime ritual and routine with choices, what book they want to read, what lovey to they want to have. Lavender essential oils can be helpful to create a calm environment. Create a calming environment and empowering them to make choices to face those fears.
Candy/Margaret: When do you know if it’s time to drop afternoon nap? Thoughts on transitioning to “rest time”? When does the need for that end?
Margaret: Even with 4 year olds, usually around 11:30 she will notice that some children really need a rest. It’s different for each child.
Candy: Sleep begets sleep. Between 3-4 is usually the time to drop the afternoon nap but it’s individual. If a 3 year old wants to drop a nap but it is leading to behavioral issues, they might still need the nap. Two to four year olds are learning to deal with a lot of emotions and so they need the time to rest. It’s rare that a child is getting too much sleep.
Audience Question: 4 year old who takes a nap too late in the day and then it messes with bedtime, how do you deal with it?
Candy: It’s a messy couple weeks to deal with the transition. The rule of thumb is to have at least 3 hours between waking up from nap to bedtime but no more than 4. Sleep is a rhythm and when the rhythm is changing it can be a challenge for a couple weeks.
Audience Question: Is there a limit to how long naps should be in the afternoon?
Candy: Ideal nap length would be 1 ½ to 3 hours. If you are approaching 4-5 and then not sleeping at night, that could be something to talk to a sleep specialist. But if doesn’t affect overall sleep, 1 ½ to 3 hour naps are great!
Margaret/Josie: What are your thoughts on adding chores and responsibilities? Are there ways to make chores fun? Age appropriate?
Josie- Giving children chores gives them confidence and autonomy. Child sized brooms and mops, work alongside Mom or Dad.
Maragaret- Have the children have chores and be helpful within the family and with the community. Child sized brooms and dust pans. Make sure to use positive reinforcement to tell your child that they are being helpful and that you appreciate and that they are doing it themselves.
When do/did you start expecting your children to “help”. What sorts of tasks?
Candy: As soon as her daughter seemed interested. She has a toddler tower to be able to stand at counter height. She is able to pour milk. Even crawlers like pots and pans which is self-empowering. If a child doesn’t help, it can lead to a learned helplessness. It is so important for them to feel a sense of accomplishment.
Audience member: As much as you want to clean while they are sleeping, take that time to rest and clean while they are awake so that they see you doing the cleaning and it can help them learn to participate and help as soon as they are able. It can be special time to spend together with the kids.
BEHAVIOR, SETTING LIMITS and DISCIPLINE
Margaret: Talk to us about conscious discipline. Why do you believe this approach works? What are the some basic ways parents can implement this?
Becky Bailey has a book called Conscious Discipline.
Conscious discipline is being in your frontal lobe while you are disciplining. Disciplining is about teaching children how to make wise decisions. It is connection with your children and to be right there with them and offering them choices. Use encouragement. There is positive intent with everything your child does. It is helping them to do life. Teaching the kids skills to be involved and solve problems.
Lots of videos on YouTube to walk through problems or issues.
Candy: Book Recommendations:
Dr. Daniel Siegel: No Drama Discipline
The Whole Brain Child
Parenting from the Inside Out (teaches about self-awareness from the parent’s perspective)
Margaret: What are some mistakes that parents make when dealing with bad behavior? What are/were your best (and worst) ideas for dealing with them?
First of all, have compassion. The child is in that moment and it might have been caused by you. Take control of yourself, take a deep breath or whatever you need to get yourself in the right frame of mind. Acknowledge the emotion and name it for them. Then work through to the solution with them. Give them a choice to take a deep breath and move on to something else that they can have a choice about. And once they’ve made a good choice, reinforce their good choice positively. Encourage them once they have regained control that they are doing a good thing.
Erica: Our children have so little control over their lives. Giving them choices where appropriate can encourage the child greatly.
Josie: You work with children who have experienced trauma, yes? What are some common misconceptions about this? What qualifies as “trauma”? What do you wish more parents did or didn’t do in regards to this topic?
Trauma can be any sort of loss, natural disaster (even something like a thunderstorm can be traumatic for a child), any kind of abuse, etc. Trauma changes the brain and affects development. Help children learn coping mechanisms to deal with their emotions and process situations.
Audience question: Child's speech development is affected by a child the child he is around at a home day care, what to do about that?
Emily: Kid’s will do what works and what will get his needs met. If a child can use words, ask the childcare provider to make sure the child uses his words to make a choice and have that expectation. As a child transitions away from being a baby, even though you can still expect their needs, it is important to expect verbalization to help build their languages.
Final thoughts on our topic today. What is your favorite part of the 2-4 year old age range? What is your best piece of advice for parents entering this stage?
Emily: Be prepared to be silly and look goofy and not worry about it in public. Sometimes your child needs you to get excited and you need to lead by example. Show them how you are processing your emotions. Model what behavior you want them to do.
Margaret: Give your children and yourself a break. Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t be so hard on your children. They are blank slates and they are learning. There are rough moments that you will have and enjoy them and learn together with your children. Connect at every possible moment with your child.
Josie: Don’t do for your children what they can do for themselves. Even if it is something that will take them a little longer, let them do it. Encourage working together if they need help.
Candy: Despite all of the things that you know, there will be moments when you lose your mind. Modeling how you cope with things and tell them that you had big feelings that took over. Know that you are the perfect parent for your child and your child is the perfect child for you. We are here to teach each other.