Welcome back to the Overtired Series! In the introduction to the Overtired Series, I shared ten typical signs of an overtired child, and we have addressed hyperactivity and behaving irritably, along with hunger and physical cues. Today, we will take a closer look at clumsiness and stronger resistance in children as typical signs of overtiredness. We'll discuss what those two signs actually looks like, why it is happening, how to address it, and what you can do to circumvent it in the future.
Babies and toddlers grow at an incredible pace. In the first year, most babies will grow 10 inches and triple their body weight. After that, toddlers can grow an average of 2.5" until adolescence, which is considered to be at age 6. That is an amazing rate of growth occurring in such short period of time. So it stands to reason that some clumsiness comes with the territory as babies learn how to use their ever-growing limbs.
However, when a child becomes overtired, this sort of clumsiness is even more pronounced. Simple, mastered movements of walking, crawling, or even rolling will seem disjointed and unsteady. This is happening because the brain starts short-circuiting as it starts to shut down for sleep. Additionally, a bit of a war starts being waged in the child's mind - it needs to change over to its resting stage where deep, restorative processing occurs in the overnight hours, but yet the emotional, intense curiosity of the child tries to propel the mind and body forward into staying awake. This creates misfires in the brain and simple, physiological commands don't work as well anymore, and it can manifest in the form of increased clumsiness and falls, which can lead to boo-boos and bandaids.
Ever wonder what it is about bedtime that can make your usually happy-go-lucky, agreeable child into this possessed little being that is a stubborn as the day is long? This is where you usually blame your partner for passing this trait on: "YOUR child did..." Sounds familiar? A child who is overtired, is much more likely to fight harder, and resist longer to go to sleep, even when their bodies are crying for sleep, which flies in the face of all logic. Those evenings can sometimes be the hardest on the parents, in addition to the child.
Why does this happen?
When a child becomes overtired, they are inherently uncomfortable. Things are not firing as smoothly anymore, their bodies and minds are no longer in sync, and the body starts increasing the rush of adrenaline to keep things moving. The emotions also start running on hyper-speed. The cries, temper tantrums, and whines starts to ramp up and it seems like everything is operating on a hair-trigger. With all of these things happening in a little body, inevitably the perfect storm gets created, and resistance to anything and everything ensues.
What Do I Do?
Especially when dealing with a child that is resisting sleep and throwing fits at the drop of a hat, it is important to keep your cool and remain calm. It can be extremely tiring and incredibly frustrating to attempt to reason and cajole a little one who is beyond listening to anything you have to say.
It is also incredibly important to remember to stick to your boundaries and rules that you have in place. This is usually where a lot of parents will lose ground with their children, and bad habits develop. Kids, desperate to stay awake, and operating on all fronts, will try to push boundaries and drag things for as long as you let them. If your child wants a glass of water, and you usually allow one glass, stick to it. Don't let glass #2, #3, and #4 happen. Little one wants a stuffed animal in their bed? Stick to the rule of two friends. Bathroom break calling? Give them one hall pass and that's it. Don't bend or change your rules in the moment even if it feels like it will help your child settle down. It actually will make it harder the next night; the resistance will last much longer and two hours later, you'll be wishing for the 20 minute showdown from the night before. As long as your kids think that they can get you to bend, they will always try to push the line.
Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers thrive on structure and consistency. Even though they will continuously push your buttons and try to stretch that line, if you consistently stick to the rules and boundaries in place, they will actually feel more safe and secure, knowing that their "world" hasn't unexpectedly changed on them.
If clumsiness and/or increased resistance are one of the prominent signs that your child presents consistently, especially as it gets closer to bedtime, consider moving bedtime up 30 to 60 minutes, to prevent them from getting overtired. Make sure that you're not putting them on a schedule where they are staying awake longer and later than their bodies can comfortably handle. Honor their body's needs and the consistency that their minds desire. Additionally, keep the bedtime routine short and sweet. No more than 30 minutes from start to finish, or it stops becoming relevant to the child to help cue to them get ready for sleep.
Does your child resist bedtime most nights? Is it taking over an hour to get them in bed and settled in for the night? I know I can help you get out of the battle zone and make bedtime a much more enjoyable, peaceful event of the day. Set up a free 15 minute phone consultation and we'll talk about what's happening with you and your littles.
Head over to the Overtired Series examine two more typical signs of overtiredness in our little ones: Catnaps and Constant Stimulation. See you there!
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I am a Pediatric Sleep Consultant who works with families to help them resolve their littles' sleep issues. As a mom of two littles herself, Katie has walked in the shoes of her clients and is passionate about helping them re-discover peaceful sleeps in their own homes.