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How night weaning my toddler HELPED my business…

Night Weaning my toddler was pretty hard, but it helped me in my business today… 

If you’ve taken the night weaning course, you’ve heard me tell this story. So, I apologize for re-telling it here today. 

One of the things I love about parenting is how much I have learned from my kiddos. I know that might sound a bit overly cheesy. But I really truly believe our children are sent to GROW US UP into the people we are most meant to be. 

My business has been a pretty successful entity for me. I am grateful for it every day, and especially in covid times.. I am so grateful for the flexibility it has offered me. 

But my kids are the real unsung heroes of this business. Yes, I learned a lot from reading. I learned a lot from mentors in the baby sleep industry. I learned a lot from reading developmental journals, books, and blog posts. But, my children are the ones who have taught me the most essential lessons I needed to learn to do this job, and do it well. 

Night weaning my youngest son was a trip. I did it 100% on my own. My partner is a loving awesome human being, but in the middle of the night he seems to turn into some kind of banshee.. That coupled with my “control freak by nature” status meant that I would be handling the night weaning 100% solo. 

I waited ‘til I was BEYOND ready to go through the big emotions that I knew this experience would present me with. And at almost 14 months, I finally ripped the band-aid off. It was HARD and my littlest cherub was MAD. ha! He wanted boob, and he wanted it bad. 

But I was ready. I got his water bottle ready. I had my empathic responses prepared. Sports bra on. Turtleneck on. (So that he wouldn’t be able to get his feisty little hands down my shirt. ha!). And we rode the wave of big feelings together. 

Really, I can’t describe in a few words what this experience was like for me as a breastfeeding parent, and for him as a breastfeeding baby. But, what I do know is that going through this experience in saying no and holding space for him as he expressed tears of futility actually strengthened our bond. 

Do I always recommend a breast/chestfeeding parent night wean baby? No. No I don’t. But for some families, this is really the only way to go and it is what works best. I am grateful to have had this experience because it really shaped how I prepare families for the night weaning experience, and helped me write my course Night Weaning for Toddlers

If night weaning is on the horizon for you; I highly recommend you check the course out! There are so many awesome features that can help you with this experience and now you know, I really truly know how emotional this experience might be for you. 

XO

Lara 

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A Beginner’s Guide to Responding to Your Child with Empathy

I work with a lot of parents who are trying to shift the cycle of parenting. Many of today’s parents grew up with authoritarian style parenting because it was popular in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. This was a time where children were to be seen and not heard, where parent’s “ruled the roost!” and where children were a bit afraid of stepping out of line. 

We now know that this type of parenting does not help increase our children’s emotional intelligence. But, responding with empathy and striving to be an authoritative parent can help. So; how do we start with this if it is something that is totally foreign? 

On my fridge, I have this little reminder… and I thought I would share it with you today in case it helps you too! 

1. Offer acceptance 

What this might sound like: 

“You’re having some big feelings about not getting the snack you want.”

“You seem really upset we can’t watch another show right now.” 

2. Get curious 

What this might sound like:

“I wonder if you’re really upset because we ran out of cheerios?” 

“Are you mad because the next episode looked really good?”

3. Empathize  

What this might sound like: 

“It can feel frustrating when you can’t get what you want when you want it.” 

“It makes sense that you would be upset about the TV going off.” 

When you look at the scenarios above; can you imagine what your parents would have said in response to your big feelings? A response like STOP CRYING, or I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT stops the social emotional learning from taking place. 

When we see our children’s big feelings as an opportunity to connect and teach empathy, as well as, social and emotional intelligence, we shift the narrative. 

XO

Lara 

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Difficult Separations at Bedtime

Why can’t my child go to sleep without me? 

A common question I hear often. In our North American culture the desire is certainly to have independent children, and we see kiddos who can go to sleep on their own as more “independent” than their peers. 

But, what you must know is that forced independence actually does not breed independence in our children. It can actually make them more needy for relationships, as they seek you as their best bet to keep them safe. 

Dependence breeds independence. 

When we invite children to rest in the comfort of our love, and show them that they can relationship is the bottom line in all transitional times, this is where their independence begins to grow and develop. 

Separating from parents at bedtime is difficult for most infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Our children are hardwired for connection – for their safety, for their survival, for relationship. They are NOT hardwired for separation. They need to know that the relationship endures times away from one another, and that it can be relied upon in those future hours. 

When we ask our children to go to sleep at bedtime, they are entering a vulnerable, semi-permanent separation. This is hard for them. They know they go into sleep, you go into sleep often in another space, and they aren’t quite sure when and where they will see you again. 

It is important to first understand that this is difficult for them. They are not trying to give you a hard time. Their little brains are dysregulated and they are having a hard time. 

Secondly, we can help bridge the separation. We want our children to look into the future and focus on the time where we are going to be together again. This might be the next morning, but I often find it is helpful to communicate that you do check on your child while they are sleeping before you go to bed. 

A few suggestions that have worked for my own family, and other families I have worked with through this bedtime separation anxiety that exists… 

  • Cut out some paper hearts, or kisses. When you check on your child at the beginning of the night, leave a paper kiss on their nightstand or next to them on their pillow to show you have been there while they are sleeping. When you go to bed, leave a big stack showing just how many times you checked on them while they were sleeping overnight.
  • Place a special stuffy in their bed. A different one each night as a surprise visitor, so that they can see in the morning who joined them for bed.
  • Give their favourite stuffy MANY hugs and kisses from you during your bedtime routine. Tell your child that if they miss you at night, they can hug or kiss their stuffy and have a hug or kiss from you.
  • Place a think book under your child’s pillow while they are sleeping that you will read the next morning. This is something to look forward to when you reconnect the next day.

Any other ideas that have helped you bridge this physical and emotional separation between parent and child? I love when families share their ideas, so I can add to my list! 

Working on all the parenting things is a passion of mine, and I hope one day to add a toddler specific sleep course alongside Sleep from the Heart and my Night Weaning course. 

Thanks for being here, and for the support. 

XO

Lara 

 

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Handling Big Emotions

Children are emotional beings.

They feel so passionately and so strongly but they haven’t yet developed the ability to self-regulate. These emotions can often engulf children in a wave of sensations and they temporarily lose all control. Most children go through phases where they are constantly “melting down” over one thing or another but often as language develops, they become a bit older, or their ability to self regulate and handle challenging situations becomes more refined these emotions tend to reduce. There are some children however, who continue to struggle with how to handle these big emotions and as a result their parents become lost, frustrated and confused as to how to help their children.

It is easy for parents to become frustrated with their children – “I’ve told them over and over that we don’t _____!” insert whatever behaviour your child typically resorts to hitting, biting, pushing, hair pulling, screaming, throwing, etc. Or “No matter what I do or say, I’m in for a fight or tantrum.” Does any of this sound familiar?

Children are not good or bad. They don’t enjoy losing control, and they don’t mean to hurt people. But when these trying times do happen, they need us to help them deal with those emotions BEFORE the incident, DURING the incident, and AFTERWARDS. How we respond to young children and their emotions can impact their lives for years. It is so important to address these challenges with compassion, understanding and keep any judgements out of the conversation.

When children are at the peak of feeling – emotions are heightened, they may be crying, screaming, very angry, or appear out of control – they are unable to process any information. When you see your child in this phase your only goal is to help them calm down. This might mean giving them space while keeping them safe and any other children around them. It could also look like giving them a big hug – the deep pressure of a hug can help relax their body and calm them down. It might even be as simple as providing them with a comfort item and saying, “I’m here when you’re ready.”

Once they have calmed down, that is your teachable moment.

You can talk through the event, the emotions and the actions that took place and address any safety concerns that occurred. If someone was hurt in the process it is important to follow up with that person and ask if they are ok and if the child can do anything to help them feel better. This can be a hug (if the child is open to offering / providing one, but is not necessary), a cold cloth, an ice pack, getting a comfort item for the hurt person, etc.

Challenging behaviours can be overwhelming and distressing for parents to deal with. We have many years of experience supporting children with challenging behaviours and extra support needs. We would love to support you through this difficult time.

We came across a post by Childhood101 about how to manage big emotions. We think it’s an excellent read and a great place to start. We would love to hear your feedback!

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Toddlers and the Power of Choice

Children NEED limits in order to feel safe; when they act out through attention seeking or challenging behaviour this is often a result of craving the boundaries and leadership needed to feel secure. 

A child’s job is to consistently test or push the boundaries to check to see which ones are rock solid (generally safety based – holding hands in a parking lot, keeping hands off the stove) and which ones are written in the sand (ex. we wear shoes outside but they can decide on what pair). Without boundaries children will take on too much of the parenting role and this causes them to become overwhelmed; this triggers an anxious response and causes them to question whether they are safe.  

Around the age of two, toddlers begin to explore their own individuality and independence. Parenting isn’t a dictatorship; it is a partnership.

You need to give respect to get it and in order to build a secure, safe, attachment you need to establish clear boundaries.

The power of choice is the most underused parenting strategy out there. If you can give your toddler as many choices throughout the day as possible, when situations arise where there isn’t a choice, your child is going to be more willing to co-operate and comply. 

Examples of creating opportunities for choice:

  • Choosing clothes in the morning

    • Josephine, would you like to wear the green pants or the blue? 

    • Would you like to wear your running shoes or boots? 

    • Which jacket do you think would be best when it’ snowy? 

  • Providing options at mealtimes

    • Michael, would you like cereal or eggs this morning? 

    • How is your tummy feeling? Do you think it would like an apple or banana? 

  • Changing diapers

    • Your diaper looks quite full. Would you like to change it now or in two minutes? 

Giving your little one the opportunity to make decisions and live with the choices they have made is incredibly important. There are going to be strong emotions attached to these boundaries and it is important to hold the space for them, but not to give in to them. Providing your child with empathy and compassion when they are disappointed, have changed their mind, or are upset is not “giving in.” This is being respectful and caring – you are showing your child that you understand that this is hard for them and they are struggling but unfortunately they made that choice so we are going to stick with it. Just because you are empathizing doesn’t mean you are giving in. 

While we strongly advocate for providing choices and involving your child as much as possible, some children can’t handle the decisions. They become paralyzed into inaction with the overwhelming options. You can support them by making the choices for them in scenarios where they will not push back (ex. clothing, shoes, breakfast, etc.) or you can ask, “Would you like to ______ or would you like me to do it?” This gives them the opportunity to give it a try or if they don’t want to they can verbalize that. If they don’t respond, wait 1-2 minutes and then say, “Ok, I’ll choose today.” 

Setting boundaries and seeing them through is hard. Don’t overwhelm yourself and set yourself up to fail by attempting Boundary Bootcamp where you set every boundary and stand your ground. Chances are you’re going to burn out and your child is going to be an emotional disaster. Pick one thing that really bothers you (this gives you the motivation to stand strong!) and then start setting a boundary around that one situation. Once your little one understands the cause and effect his behaviours and actions have and that you will do what you say, all of the other limits that you set just come together and become much easier! 

If you are struggling with boundaries and limits and need more support, reach out for a complimentary discovery call to see if a behavioural support package might be part of your solution! 

XO

Amy

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Why is my toddler doing this?! The beginning of boundary setting.

The transition from babyhood to toddlerhood happens seemingly overnight. Your child becomes more capable, curious, and communicative. They are ready and (almost) able to tackle things they previously could not do (choose their clothing, pick their own breakfast, select their shoes, decide on the route to the car, etc.) and are willing to go to great lengths to coerce (force) you into letting them show you.

Toddlers crave autonomy – they want to be an active participant in their life. Gone are the days where you can grab the first thing your hand reaches in the closet, pop them into that, put shoes and a coat on, grab the diaper bag and head out the door. Now you are entering negotiating territory – you finally get her dressed with cajoling, bribery, and maybe even a threat or two about taking away a coveted toy but then there are the shoes. She flat out refuses the shoes and the coat for that matter. You start to see red and wonder how your sweet cooperative little tyke has become so defiant?!

Take a deep breath.

Everything described above is completely NORMAL toddler behaviour.

Toddlers want to feel like they have a sense of control over their lives. They want to know that they have a say in things. The terrible twos are simply toddlers who are becoming more independent and parents who aren’t ready (or haven’t realized the need) to provide a little more freedom. So where do we go from here?

Boundaries. Boundaries with a (BIG) dollop of consistency are what will help you maintain your sanity while parenting your toddler. And the amazing part is, the more time and work you put into it now, the more benefits you reap when they are older.

Boundaries are an integral component of raising a happy, healthy, and emotionally well-adjusted child. These secure boundaries help create predictability to everyday routines and reduce child anxiety and uncertainty. These limits support children in discovering what is acceptable and what is not so that they can develop self-regulation, self-discipline and self-control skills.

A child’s brain is not fully developed; therefore they should not be given the responsibility of making big decisions. It is important to consider each child’s unique stage of development when determining where to set that limit. What is an appropriate level of choice for them?

So what is the first step that you can take to try and find harmony in your home again? Think about the limits that you set, and then challenge them! Why is this a rule? What happens if we didn’t have this limit? What is my child learning from me preventing this activity? How will my child benefit if I were to let her do it?

Some boundaries that you have in place will be there for a reason; these are primarily safety boundaries. These are not the limits we want you to re-evaluate. But consider picking your battles – does it REALLY matter if he wears two different socks to daycare? Is it the end of the world if she wears princess sandals to school on a rainy day? Pack her rain boots and socks – she will figure out pretty quickly that it’s not comfortable or pleasant and will know for next time.

Give your toddler the opportunity to learn from THEIR choices.

Natural and logical consequences allow children to further investigate the concept of cause and effect. It helps them learn about the world around them, how their family works, and how far they can push you. Toddlers constantly test those boundaries to find out which are rock solid, and which are written in the sand.

Stay tuned for next weeks blog where we go a little deeper on the “establishing” of said boundaries!

Comment below on your favourite toddler COMPROMISE. I once let a toddler wear one rain boot and one running shoe to school because.. COMPROMISE. When I picked up? “This boot stinky. My feet be wet.” He definitely didn’t choose that combo again! What have you done to keep a little bit of peace?

If we can support you with your child’s more challenging toddler behaviours, please send us a note to amy@heavyeyeshappyhearts.com.

XO

Amy

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So how exactly does one do this “quiet time” thing?

From one nap to NO nap. What is life?!

Whether bedtime is becoming a 10:00 pm disaster, or your kiddo is just downright refusing to nap.. initiating some quiet time might be just what you need right now.

First questions to ask…

Is this a phase?

Prior to the final transition to no nap, you till likely have several “no nap” phases. Some lasting a couple of weeks, and others just a few days at a time. Around age 2 it is very common to see kiddos protest nap. The “I’m NOT tired” and the occasional, 20 minute nap definitely happen and you roll with it as best you can.

When I did want my kiddo to hold on to their nap as long as possible, and figured they weren’t ready to go without, I insisted on quiet time each day in their room. I don’t do this now, because quite honestly, I don’t want my kids to sleep most days.

For you people who DO want your children to have quiet time every day, or those of you who have nap resisters… I am here to help!

Here are my quick and easy tips on getting your child to spend some quality alone time in their room each day, and if they are tired my guess is.. they will legitimately fall asleep.

1. Convince them this is a good idea

How you pull this one off is really up to you! Think about your child and think about something that would be intrinsically motivating for them. Talking about them with it is also a good idea. “What do you think we will have more energy to do after we have some quiet time? Perhaps we would have enough energy this afternoon to make some water balloons, or go on a special walk to that park you love with the BIG slide? If we don’t rest.. we will probably be too tired to walk that far. Let’s see if we can rest!” If the suggestion comes from your child, even better! They will be much more likely to work towards something they envisioned as a good idea themselves.

2. Start off small

Rome wasn’t built in a day people. Sure you have the option of locking your child in the room, setting the timer for an hour, and refusing to take them out until you hear DING! But, if you’ve been following me a while you know this probably would not be my first go-to strategy as we make an effort to consciously parent our children here, and treat them how we would want to be treated. When was the last time you were caged willingly? College maybe? hehe.

My kids are super into music, as well as, books read aloud. I used these to my advantage at first, and convinced them to stay in their room for one song. We built a special fort outside their bed with some pillows and stuffies, and they laid in their new “special spot, or cozy corner” for quiet time. I asked them to rest for 1 song. Just 1 song. Not 2. Not 5. 1. They did so willingly, easily, and I came in to congratulate them after it was done.

Read your child on this one, and follow their lead. They may need you to stay with them the first few times and that is okay. Hey! Downtime for toddler and downtime for parents at the same time, that is a good thing!

3. Coach them through

Congratulate them for a job well done. Great quiet resting today! Let’s see if we have enough energy now to make it to the special park!

4. Help them along through quiet play

Each day you will try to extend the time that they can be left alone in their room. Songs are great for children to be able to have a tangible focus, and some amusement. Having an old CD player that can play children’s music, or books on disc is great to have in your child’s room.

See if with each passing day you might be able to add one song, or one story. If they come out and tell you they are done, I would just roll with it. Better not to push your luck! Think short term pain for long-term gain. Yes today may be a long day if they don’t rest as much as you wish. Yes you may need to utilize some TV time to make it through the rest of the afternoon, but tomorrow is a new day, and tomorrow they just might do better!

Encourage some quiet play with some safe toys in between each song. You can come in and do this with them. Ensure whatever toys you do have in your child’s room are completely safe to be used unsupervised so that when they do get better at this, you can leave them fully alone to play.

If you doooooooo really want them to fall asleep – you will have to build mega trust that you are coming back to check on them, and get them really good at waiting for you. The longer they wait quietly in their cozy corner, the more likely they are to actually fall asleep in the pauses as they trust and wait for you to come back!

5. Fulfill your promises

If you said you would check on them, check on them. If you said you would go to the park after quiet time, go to the park. Meet their need for power and attention before they call out to you to have that need met!

7. Be consistent

You can’t just do this on the days it works for you. If you are setting an expectation that this is part of your daily routine, it should truly happen each day, and not just when it is “convenient” for you.

And most importantly…

Don’t let it become a power struggle. Once you are in a power struggle with your toddler, you’ve already lost. Try to keep the expectations super small at first so your child can be successful! The more successful they are, the better they are likely to do on the days that follow. Yes you may need to stay with them at first. And yes you may need to start off very small. But your little one might really surprise you as to how much resting time they are able to do when they feel that they have been heard and validated in making this choice.

People often ask if I work with toddlers or preschoolers? Yup. Loads. Toddler sleep challenges can be VERY challenging, but I love trying to figure them out. This is a great place to utilize a mini consultation , or just book me for an hour or two to brainstorm with you. Two heads are better than one, and you might be really surprised at what we come up with together to make your life a whole lot easier!

Good luck! Soldier on good parents.

XO

Lara

Thank you Astrid Miller Photography for these beautiful images of my sweet and zesty Halle.