Welcome to Part 8 of my Baby Temperament and Sleep Series – Energy! If you are just joining us, you may want to start with Part 1, where I define baby temperament. This article will discuss energy as a baby temperament trait. At the end of the series, I will give you a quiz to determine your child’s temperament.
Baby Temperament – Energy
Your child’s energy level is how much she sits quietly versus running or moving around. Some kids are always on the move. But, just because your toddler might not climb, doesn’t mean he isn’t energetic. Maybe he runs, never walks. Many spirited children have high amounts of energy. These are the babies that might roll over early or kids that fall out of their chairs at the dinner table and have trouble with long car rides without the ability to get out and run around. Being housebound in the winter can be a nightmare for these children. Investing in a bouncer for your newborn or a Jumperoo for your older baby may be a necessity.
Many children who have been diagnosed with ADHD have a lot of energy, however, it’s important to note that having a lot of energy does NOT mean your child will be diagnosed with ADHD. ADHD is not being able to focus that energy to complete a task. Many children with a lot of energy can and will complete tasks. They simply need to exert a lot of energy to feel good.
Once again, my eldest son also has a lot of energy. As I’m typing this, he is jumping around watching some race cars. I think he loves the energy of the race cars. Also, after meals, you can often find him running back and forth between the couch and the playroom (we call it “exercising”). He’s in his own world when he does this for about 10-15 minutes almost after every meal. It’s actually pretty cute.
He has also suddenly fallen out of his chair at dinnertime (now that he’s no longer in a booster seat) out of the blue. He just needs to MOVE! But, from when he was 2 he was able to sit and focus on a jigsaw puzzle that was actually designed for kids older than him and since he was a year old he could sit and read books with us for an hour at a time. So, I’m not worried about his energy, I only needed to know it’s a natural part of him and who he is.
Baby and Toddler Sleep and Energy
How might your baby or toddler’s energy affect her sleep? If your child has a lot of energy, you will likely notice she moves around a LOT in her sleep. If you have a video monitor, you might think she is awake with all the activity in there! Twice, my son fell out of bed when we first transitioned to a big boy bed (once he didn’t even wake up!). Note: Falling out of bed is actually very common even with children who don’t have a lot of energy due to the missing “boundaries” of the crib.
Another way your child’s energy might affect her “sleep” is in the bedtime routine or settling down for a nap. I have found that a one-hour bedtime routine for my eldest is best. I have tried repeatedly to make it shorter and failed every time. The more I try to hurry or rush through it, the more he pushes back and doesn’t cooperate. As he’s gotten older I’ve had to distinguish between a too-early bedtime and his needs to unwind. I have found that no matter what, he seems to fall asleep no less than one hour after we start the routine (some days have been exceptions). This means that it is up to me that we start on time if I want him to go to bed on time.
I also have to have the lights out and have him “settled” 15 minutes before I want him to be asleep. He needs this unwind time, no matter what. No doubt that part of our long bedtime routine is his energy plus he is slow-to-adapt, so we can’t go through transitions too quickly. Our current routine is: quiet playtime, pajamas, brush teeth, use the potty, more quiet playtime or read books, complain about getting in bed (LOL — and yes every night), tell him homemade bedtime stories (around 10-15 minutes), cuddle quietly or rehash our day a bit and then quiet, him say he’s not tired, me telling him good night and giving him a kiss, and then him falling asleep 5 minutes later, literally.
When you choose a sleep training method for your baby or toddler with a lot of energy, he will likely go longer than others. My youngest son can be playing hard and not seem tired, then he’s sleeping 5 minutes later. He’s just different than my first. So, whether you choose cry it out or a no-cry sleep training method, plan for a longer process and be pleasantly surprised if it’s not. With a lot of energy, you can probably bet your baby or toddler will not protest for a short 5 minutes like some children, but that will also depend on his persistence.
Again, there are good and bad things about all of these temperament traits. We need all different kinds of people in this world and while it can be tiring keeping up with my sons, it’s a whole lot of fun, too! The most challenging part of the energetic child is combining this energy with other temperament traits. If your child is slow-to-adapt and energetic, he might react with a lot of energetic running around when he is really anxious about having visitors over.
If he is overtired after a late bedtime and is sensitive to stimulation, he might get very hyper to the point you think he might not be tired, but in reality, he is exhausted (been there, done that). It is important to be in tune with his other temperament traits. If there is something else that he is responding to, no amount of running around may resolve it.
If you are high-energy, it may be easier for you to keep up with your child than a person with lower energy levels. Thankfully, both my husband and I are energetic and active people. If you need more ideas on how to set up your energetic child for success, I recommend the book Raising Your Spirited Child for ideas on tackling each temperament trait.
Explore each of the 9 temperament traits, Intensity, Persistence, Sensitivity, Perceptiveness, Adaptability, Regularity, Energy, First Reaction, and Mood, focusing on how they play a role in your baby’s sleep. In the final part, take an assessment quiz. Figure out you and your child’s temperament and see how it might be similar or different.