Letting Your Toddler Cry it Out 3

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Over the years I have had many friends turn to me for advise on getting children to go to bed without the dreadful battle because I have always had children that go to bed at the same time everyday with minimal battle. Many have questioned how I did it and I always tell them I let my kids cry it out. Some have been shocked, others didn’t understand how I got through it, but it worked. Sure, my kids still have their moments and cry trying to get out of bed time, but they never leave their rooms other then to use the bathroom. Learn about the cry it out method now!

Being a parent is a lot of work. It can be difficult to know if you are doing the right things, raising them to be good people and following all the steps you need to take in order to create a well-adjusted human being one day. Here at MommyMatter, we know this all too well. Even though you read the books, talk to the doctors and follow routines, there will always be someone (professional or not) out there telling you you are doing it wrong. The Crying It Out Method (or CIO) is a good example of this.

There are many doctors and parents that believe CIO is essential for children, while there are others that will tell you right away that you are “damaging” your child. Though there are ways the CIO method can be considered cruel and possibly cause damage, there are ways it can be done as part of sleep training or even basic behavior training, but there are things parents need to know about the CIO method before doing it.


You should never let your infant use the CIO method. This is where it can be considered “cruel”. Infants under six months of age do not have the capabilities to soothe themselves. Therefore they rely on their parents to come meet their needs. As your child passes the six month mark, however, they will adapt and find ways to soothe themselves to sleep or through a situation (i.e. pacifiers or even thumb sucking are methods children use to self-soothe).

Even though after six months your child is more than capable of self-soothing, that does not mean that at age six months you should just start letting them cry it out. The first year of life involves a lot of changes. This is the prime time to teach good sleep habits through bedtime routines and schedules, rather than using the crying it out method.

Remember that an infant will cry because they need you or something. Crying is their means of communication to their parents or caregivers. When it comes to a toddler, however, that is a different story.


When your child reaches age 2, they are more than capable of soothing themselves, but they are also more than capable of knowing that if they cry and their parents rush to their side, then they are going to exploit that. This knowledge comes from watching their parent’s behaviors that first year of their life. This is why it is important to establish routines and behaviors early, rather than correcting them later. The toddler years, however, are well-known for poor sleep habits and refusals to eat, sleep or even follow general rules. This is where CIO is typically acceptable and encouraged by parents and physicians alike.

How it Works

A lot of parents assume that they just let their child scream and cry and they will eventually fall asleep and that equals the proper use of the CIO method. This is wrong. Crying it out is teaching your toddler that it is bedtime and that they cannot play. When Mommy or Daddy say “Goodnight” and turn out the lights, it is time for bed. If you are going to use the CIO method on your toddler to break some bad sleep habits (i.e. co-sleeping, night wakefulness, refusal to go or stay in bed), then you need to do it right.

Ensure That Your Toddler’s Needs are Met

Diaper has been changed, they are in warm pj’s, their bed is made and they have water nearby. Also have a night light or some form of light if your toddler is scared of the dark.

Establish a Good Bed Time Routine

Try winding down after dinner time. Have them take a bath, read a book and even teach them to brush their teeth. Then bring on bedtime. A solid bedtime routine will have some “winding” down time so your toddler does not go from 60 to 0 in less than an hour.

Make it Known it’s Bed Time

Tuck your little one into bed and let them know that it is bedtime. Give them kisses and hugs and let them know you will be back in a certain amount of time to check on them. Never just say an amount and not return. If you say two minutes, show your face in two minutes.

Leave the Room

Even if your toddler is screaming at this point or even crying – leave the room. Let them cry it out, but return in two minutes and check on them. Even put them back in bed at least once or twice to help their brain register what is going on. Tell him it is night time, but be monotone and boring. Let them know you are just in the other room, but that you will be back to check on them.

This cycle can go for some toddlers as little as 15 minutes and for others as long as over one hour. Be patient. Never yell at your child and stick to the plan. If your toddler cries for a half hour only for you to give in and sleep with them until they fall asleep than all you have taught them is that as long as they cry long enough, they will get what they want.

Crying it out is just as tough on the parents. Having to hear your child cry and scream and even call for you is cruel enough. Do not let other people or parents tell you that you are damaging your child. As long as you give your child love, attention and the nurturing they need throughout the day and use Crying It Out at night to teach good sleep habits, your child will be just fine. It is those parents that neglect and ignore their children both day and night and have them Cry It Out that are potentially damaging their children. There are studies to prove this. Though those parents that are against Crying It Out tend to not be told this information or simply ignore it when scolding other parents for using it.

It is also imperative that you use Crying It Out later when your child is old enough to understand that they are being taught something and that they are not being abandoned. Ensure you check on your child and let them know you are still there, even if they scream through the process. That way they understand you are there, but eventually learn that when lights are out, playtime is over.

Crying It Out has its own advantages to some parents, where other parents find it cruel. The bottom line is you are the parent. You must make decisions and do what is right for your child, not what everyone else thinks. There are more than enough studies and physicians that prove and promote both sides. This is a way of life. There will always be people on both sides of any issue, but only you know your child, how they are raised and what method will work for you and create a strong adult later in life – not everyone else.

Please note that if you are against CIO, please do not tell other parents that they are cruel, damaging their children, or of the like. CIO is an opinion-based method and should be treated as such. After all, those parents that use CIO do not call the parents that do not “horrible parents”, do they? We are all parents and need to respect one another. As a parent myself, I use the CIO method for sleep training, but I never judge parents who choose to not use that method as anything other than parents looking for ways to raise their child how they see fit. Please pass this courtesy along.

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3 thoughts on “Letting Your Toddler Cry it Out

  • Amanda

    Leila, I am doing the same thing with my daughter. She just finally fell asleep 20 minutes ago. I shut the door because she was knocking the gate down. Then she started banging on the door. I turned the tv up and prayed. I refused to let my older son cry it out and he is great at bedtime but she is a completely different child. Do what you need to do and don’t feel bad. Like the article says, if you are loving and nurturing to your child all day and reminding them of your love before they go to sleep you will not hurt your child by letting him cry it out. They just make you feel guilty to stay up later!

  • leila baker

    i have a little boy aged 2 that i have decided to take charge of!!!
    I took his bottles away a week ago as he was wakeing 4-5
    times a nite for a refill to sooth him back to sleep. After leaving
    oliver to cry it out he climbed and fell out of his cot. I have
    now put him in a bed with a baby gate at his door. He now sleeps
    better but still cries out in the nite for sumtimes as long as an hour.He has a nitelight and i
    leave him a beaker of water. My question is do i just leave him to CIO??
    ave himmes

  • Tasha

    My daughter is 1 yr old, and bedtime is a nightmare. Finding a good bed time routine has become exhausting. I’ve tried giving her a bath every night before bed, which does seem to relax her, but it’s still not enough. I’ve tried reading to her, but at this age she’s only interested in chewing on the pages. I’ve tried singing to her, and rocking her to get her in the mood for sleep, but she fights it. She will even pull her own hair. I always make sure all of her needs are met before bed, diaper, food, Tylenol if she’s teething, etc. But even so she screams. I’ve tried going back in and soothing her, laying her back down and leaving the room, but this seems to make her cry harder. Sometimes all I can do is let her cry it out. I’ve recently weened her off the bottle, and I think that’s part of the frustration, but even so, there’s got to be something I’m missing.