Your 21-month-old: Week 1

Your 21-month-old: Week 1

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Your toddler now

Unsettling sleep habits

Being awakened by terrified screams is unsettling. Toddlers don't have nightmares as often as preschoolers and older kids do, but if yours has one, he's likely to be wide awake and have trouble getting back to sleep. Reassure him by rubbing his back or holding him. He may be agitated and frightened. Hand him a favorite blanket or stuffed animal for further comfort.

It can be tempting to bring an upset child back to your bed, but this could start a habit that's hard to break. Most kids will drift back to sleep with TLC and forget all about the nightmare by the next morning.

Night terrors are different from nightmares. During a night terror, your child's eyes may be open, and he'll move around, often thrashing, crying, and screaming. Night terrors are uncommon, but scary if your child has them. Typically you can't wake or easily soothe your child, which makes you feel helpless. And your child may appear to be awake, but he isn't.

Don't worry, though – night terrors aren't harmful. If comforting helps your little one during a night terror, it's fine to offer it. Don't force physical contact, however, or try to restrain your child. Stay close, stay calm, and make sure he doesn't hurt himself. He'll soon fall back to peaceful sleep.

When the time changed, it started getting light out at 6 a.m. To help my son sleep a little later and adjust, I put blankets over his windows and waited until later to lay him down for naps.

- Danielle

Toddler preferences

Toddlers like things "just so." Along with tantrums and exploration, obstinacy is a hallmark of this toddler stage. Respect your child's preferences and interests, and let him make some choices, such as which jelly to spread on toast or which shirt to wear. Make it clear that some things – particularly behaviors that affect safety – are not up for negotiation.

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