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Toddler » Discipline and Guidance

Toddler Wakes Up Crying All The Time

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Dear Dr. Susan:

My grandson (18 months old) wakes up after his naps and in the morning crying. Is this normal? Is there something my daughter should be doing?


Dear Eileen:

18-months is a transition stage. Toddlers want more freedom but over estimate their capacity to be independent. They are also in a physical sense, aware that they can “control” parents by getting attention. Parents expect a lot from this age child. Your grandson may be crying to get someone to come get him out of his crib. He may try to climb out if he’s big enough. Think about crying as using words that are as yet unspoken. Try to figure out – Does he want to “get out” and can’t? Does he want to feel more comfortable? Is he wet (and he knows it)? Uncomfortable, hungry for a snack? Has he just gotten in the habit of getting attention “fast” if he cries? Try calling to him as you get closer to his bed or bedroom – say, “I’m coming but I’d like to hear you sing instead of cry,” or use your words; “Do you want to get up, say “up”;  "I’m on my way – just wait a few seconds,” “I’m coming, what will we do today?” Talk-talk-talk-talk all the way to him, ignore the crying, be positive, be gentle and use a firm friendly tone of voice. Some babies definitely wake up cranky. All toddlers are moody sometimes. Try to have a naptime, bedtime routine, where you don’t play close to the bed, but do an orderly step-by-step routine, which includes giving him prompts and reminders when you are leaving and when you are coming back. Try these ideas and write again if these do not fit your grandson’s personality or the families’ lifestyle.

Thanks again for writing to me,

Dr. Susan Turben

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