If I could pass on only one practical help for parents of toddlers, without a doubt, this would be it. Learn this concept, practice it daily, and it will repeatedly be a life saver for you!
It was an evening wedding. My son and his beautiful bride had planned, prepared, and anticipated this moment for some time. The day had been full of preparations, excitement, and much visiting with friends and family. By the time we were through the wedding and on to the reception, it was 8:00, with a full evening still ahead. It was an exciting night for all of us, but through the eyes of a 2 and 4 year old, it may have been a bit overwhelming. I couldn’t have been more thankful that I had remembered to bring a blanket. After the children were fed and had partied enough, we simply found a corner and laid them down. Almost like magic, they were soon asleep!
Why did this work? Is it because my children are perfect? Of course! Actually…. No! This will work for any child whose parent will take the time to enforce it (and- practice, practice, practice). Yes, it does take time.
I like to begin this training at around 9-12 months old.
– Pick a blanket that will become known as the “Blankie time” blanket. Don’t use it for anything else, reserving it for this purpose alone. Create a positive, loving attitude about this blanket. I know this may sound silly, but it changes the response if it is used for punishment. This is a special time!
-I usually begin by sitting with the child on my lap on top of the blanket. Setting a timer is helpful way to set the boundaries so the child doesn’t feel like this process is going to last forever. Five minutes is probably a good place to begin for the first few times. Reading a book together or playing with a small toy is fine, but the child should learn to be completely still and silent for that time period. When the timer rings, praise the child, always speaking with a positive attitude about the experience. This is so fun!
-After a few a days of this process (which should be everyday), it is time for you to move off the blanket and begin to require the child to remain there alone. Stay very close by, but not on the blanket. Most likely the child will attempt to leave the blanket, but do not allow him to. Be gentle but very firm. This point is crucial – do not give up! If you give even a little on this, your child will notice and use it to his advantage. Again, this takes a practice. The good news is that while your child is learning this simple concept, you are learning much patience!
-The next step is to start increasing the minutes on the timer. Try adding 5 minutes at a time. This is one of the best lessons that you can use to teach your child self control.
-As the child gets a little older and understands the “blankie time” concept, have fun keeping it interesting. At times the child might be required to have nothing, learning to patiently sit still and be quiet. Other times a small stack of books or puzzles, maybe a basket of little cars and trucks might be a special treat. The important thing is to keep it simple and for the child to learn to be content with only what is on the blanket.
[Although it will take time to teach this to your little one, the pay off is huge] …the long anticipated night of the wedding came and went. I am so thankful, as my children peacefully slept in the midst of a noisy crowd, I was able to fully enjoy the evening.