Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How to Get a Hyper Toddler to Go to Sleep

Eliana "Jellybean" Blackburn & Tom "Poppy" King
Youth and Energy vs Age and Brains
Reprinted and revised from original Facebook post:
Do you have a child or grand-child that just won't settle down and give it a rest. Is the kid reducing you to a loose pile of exhausted loosely connected bones and aching muscles every day?  Well I'm here to tell you it doesn't have to be that way. There's a semi-old saying that "Age and craftiness beat youth and energy every time."Here's how it works. 

Our recent pint-sized houseguest, Eliana Blackburn has some kind of internal thermo-nuclear internal reactor or something. She doesn't seem to ever wear out and HATES to sleep! Her parents look like they've been holed up in the Alamo under an 18 day cannonade without relief. To say they look haggard would be kind.

But this week, Eliana was in there with an old geezer who raised ADD kids and worked with ADD kids as a teacher, rec therapist and day care director and is pretty danged ADD his own self. The secret to wearing out a two year old is to understand this fact. Two year-olds have all that energy for two basic reasons.
  1. A two year-old can sit down whenever they are tired. And they sit down quite a lot. 
  2. Grownups do not have that luxury. What we do is use those few moments when the two year-old is resting to get our other work done, so we wind up working twice as hard as the two year old.
Jellybean drops the leash
So don't do that! The first secret is to keep your toddler from taking those quickie rest breaks over a sustained period of time. If not permitted to settle in for a quickie rest period, they DO get tired and surprisingly quickly.

So, Smart Grandpa Strategy #1 - I take her for walks. I have to take a walk every day anyway, so I use this time as a way to wear down the little darling. Here in this picture, she is "helping" walk the dog. I highly recommend enlisting the aid of a dog. Not only do they need exercise, but they are quite willing to exercise toddlers as well - two birds with the same bit of rock. It should here be noted that Eliana at age two was not terribly good at dog walking and Daisy was about as energetic as she was. Therefore, Jellybean would drop the leash ever five feet or so. And, because it's one of those auto-retract ones, she had to chase the leash and the dog around till she recovered the handle. The dog likes to veer off to smell every bush, rock and fire hydrant along the way, which meant a short, energy burning tug of war between Daisy and Jellybean. So by the time we have walked a mile or two (yes I said a "mile") I, who am used to it am quite refreshed. Eliana, who has been chasing the leash and struggling with the dog, has walked a lot farther than I did. About halfway around the block, Eliana was pretty well beat and beginning to fade.

Jellybean retrieves the leash
I, however, am an unmerciful caregiver where the energy expenditure of two year-olds are concerned. They are not permitted to sit down and cry, I don't pick them up and with the great outdoors to absorb the sound and my trusty mp3 player with earbuds to dull the temper tantrums down to a manageable level, we kept walking. Eventually, she began to droop.

Smart Grandpa strategy #2 - Be jovially hard-hearted.  Do not give in to the temptation to pick up the child when they start to whimper. I find that exhortations of "Good job, kid!" and "Hey we're almost home!" along with vague promises of tasty treats will keep a two-year old engaged longer. Eventually they will start to drop down in the road every ten feet or so and cry. At first, pretending not to notice will cause them to give chase to you to make sure you can see the tantrum they are putting so much energy into, thereby burning even more energy in the pursuit. Sometimes, if the child is given to tantrums, allow them to throw one. This also burns energy. You can respond to this by saying kindly, "Are you tired sweetie? Well, me too. Let's hurry and get home so we can sit down and rest, okay?" This confuses the child. You seem to have agreed with her, so she follows you on foot. This often keeps them going another few hundred yards before they realize you are not carrying them.

Always enlist the assistance of a dog
wherever possible.
Smart Grandpa Strategy # 3 - Enforce carrying discipline.  Eliana began to give up the struggle to stay awake. You could see her head bobbing mid-tantrum. She was pretty worn out, so I finally offered to carry her, but NOT till we topped the last hill toward home. She came running to me to be picked up (thereby burning more energy). I got in another good ten yards before she caught me. Then, I told her I'd carry her if she put her head down on my shoulder - the proper place it should be if she was too tired to walk. She agreed, and I picked her up. Of course she had to test my resolve on the head position rule at least once. She raised her head to look around and when she did, I asked, "Are you ready to get back down?"  When she saw I was starting to put her down, the head went back down on my shoulder like a shot.

Once she had settled against my shoulder and became still, then, ten feet down the road, she was snoring softly in my ear. She slept for 5 hours! I, on the other hand, got my snooze done in half an hour. Age and craft beats youth and enthusiasm every time.

Poppy is still the master!

© 2016 by Tom King