I have a 17-month-old boy and he has become so sooky that I am unsure how to deal with him. When he is in day-care he is happy and fine, plays etc. As soon as he steps foot inside the house he becomes this mega sook. He has also changed his sleeping habits. He used to sleep from 7pm to 7am with no issues, but now wakes up at night crying and is difficult to put back to sleep. Or, he will sleep ok but wake up at 5am. Please, I need some advice!

Jane Responds:

It would be worthwhile having him checked by your GP. Any change in a child’s behaviour always warrants a medical check, just to rule out a physical cause and also that it’s reasonable to manage any issues as behavioural.

The sookiness could just be due to his developmental stage. If there have been any changes in his life or at home this could make it worse. Sleeping behaviour often changes for no reason at all. But then again, sleep can reflect other changes going on in a child’s life. It may be worth thinking about his experiences and if there’s something new, a change or something he could perceive as stressful. It’s worth remembering that as adults, we’re able to rationalise change and make sense of it. But young brains struggle with this.

When he wakes up crying it’s reasonable to give him reassurance and soothing, but avoid letting him in your bed or giving him lots of lovely attention. He will interpret both as positive rewards and look for the same help again each and every time he wakes.

Early morning waking can be managed by not going in too quickly and staying out for increasing periods of time. An extra 5, 10 and then 15 minutes over the course of a week before getting him up may help. And avoid long winded explanations about why he can’t get up so early.

At this age he still needs a day time sleep of 1-2 hours. But aim to have him up by 3pm at the latest otherwise this could impact on his night sleeps.

Praise him when he’s behaving well and try to ignore what doesn’t matter. These early years can seem to last for an eternity. It can pay for parents to invest their energies where it’s warranted.