By Michelle Janse van Rensburg – Good Night Sleep Consultant
The toddler phase is so amazing as they develop into little humans with cute mannerisms and sayings. However, it is also the most difficult phase as they are also developing emotionally where strong wills and protesting happen in a rather violent way!
We as parents have the responsibility to guide and teach these toddlers what is expected in life as they honestly don’t know what is best for themselves. For example, my toddler can distinguish between whether he wants to nap or not. His feelings toward the issue are not helpful because he does not YET have all the information to make an informative and emotionally intelligent choice about his life. The toddler does not take into account that he woke up very early, that he is over-tired and over-stimulated and that the sweets he ate earlier also add to a disruption in his sleep cycle. My toddler will obviously not think it is a good idea to sleep, but we as parents know that his little body can only go so far, before it needs to recharge and relax via a nap!
So here are what the experts say about why routine and consistency is so important for our little ones:
Young children do not yet fully understand the concept of time, so they do not order their lives by hours and minutes, but rather by the events that happen. When events happen in the same order every day, children have a better understanding of their world, and therefore feel more secure. A regular schedule gives children a way to order and organize their lives. When young children know what to expect, they become more confident in both themselves and the world around them. They know they will not be confronted with unfamiliar tasks for which they are unprepared (www.education.com/magazine).
The Northwestern University Counselling Department has explained that parents should attempt to attain the “4 C’s of Parenting”. This includes Choices, Consequences, Consistency and Care. If you make the right choices, and explain and follow through with consequences consistently and with care, you will be helping yourself and your child flourish in a known environment, where the boundaries and expectations are clear.
Moises Roman from UCLA Early Care & Education Department says the following about consistent care:
Schedules and routines are important for children because they need to know what’s coming next. If the schedule is consistent, children learn the pattern. Once a pattern is set children can infer, for instance, that lunch comes after music time. This way, there aren’t too many unknowns.
Schedules help build trust between childcare providers and children. Young children begin to understand that adults will take care of their needs on a regular basis.
When children have too many unknowns, anxiety builds up and they start showing emotional reactions to the inconsistency. For instance, they may cry or become irritable and take it out on other people. If they don’t have regular routines it starts showing in different ways.
Let’s say that a child is used to having lunch at 11:30 am every day. And for some reason, lunch is late and the child doesn’t get to eat until 1:00 pm. You may see the child crying and being irritable. You can try to talk to them, but they will no longer enjoy the things that they normally do. Breaking a schedule throws a child completely off.
Some flexibility is important though. For example, if your schedule says your music time goes for 30 minutes and you’re done in only 10 minutes because the children are telling you they are finished, then move on to the next activity on your schedule. Flexibility in that respect is fine. This applies to other things like play time, story time and quiet time. So if kids need more sleep during nap time, allow them to rest.
Consistency and routine creates TRUST, SAFETY and EMOTIONAL STABILITY for your toddler!