When a Toddler Has Sleep Issues
Negotiating sleep with a vocal toddler or preschooler can feel like you're talking to a Neanderthal sometimes. Dr. Karp's developed the Twinkle Interruptus program to help train them to get to sleep. He says:
"So there's a broken record you get from doctors that you just close the door and let them cry and in three to four nights they'll learn to sleep on their own. It's torture! This fun little technique called Twinkle Interruptus can let you sleep train a toddler in seven days or less with zero crying.
So for five to six days you practice Patience Stretching that teaches toddlers to be more patient. The general technique is that when your child wants something, you almost give it to them, and at the last minute, you pretend to be distracted, making them wait a few seconds. Any child will wait five seconds. Once they learn to wait five seconds, then you extend it to 10, 20, 30 seconds. You practice it five times a day with little kids. What you're doing is rewiring the part of the brain that is the patience center. That week you start using white noise every night an hour before bedtime. It becomes a subliminal cue in the background that it is becoming time for bed. You also give your child a teddy bear or blanket.
Then you start Twinkle Interruptus. So when a child calls for you at 3 in the morning, you go to them to make sure they're not sick or vomiting, you see that they're really OK. You have the white noise playing, the teddy bear right there, so you sit in their bed, you snuggle up with them, you start to do your bedtime routine with them — sing a bedtime lullaby, whatever — and after about 15, 20 seconds of that, you say, 'Oh, one second, I just have to see daddy one second,' and you quick go out of the room or you quick go to the other side of the room for five to 10 seconds, they'll let you do that because they already learned over the past week that mommy comes back. Then you come back, you snuggle up, and you start doing your routine again, and then after a minute or so, you start doing the same thing. And then you leave for 10 seconds. Then again for 20 seconds. And maybe the next night you start at 20 seconds and then a minute. And usually by two to three nights they fall asleep waiting for you to come back in. And that's the end of it. You're doing it in a nice way, not going head to head with a Neanderthal."