This is another guest post from Maria Albertsen as part of our series of Thursday Thoughts for Parenting Behavioural Challenges; slightly late because of the holidays – but Sunday isn’t bad considered what we have all had to do this week, Eh?
A lot of Mums and Dads end up feeling so tired during the day as a result of their children creeping into their bed during the night; its so hard to think about how to get a toddler to sleep in their bed when you are often too tired to even think about taking them back into their own beds. You just turn over and try and get more sleep. The child then stays in the bed and becomes used to it, the parents finding it almost impossible to remove them. And so the cycle continues until one day you realise you just can’t take it anymore, you need your space back, and quick!
Some children don’t even start out in their own bed, they just go straight to sleep in Mum and Dads bed. So how do you break this pattern and a toddler to sleep in their bed? These are my top 5 tips; which you can try alongside one of the KiddyCharts sticker charts for toddler sleep problems of course, which can help to give your child (and you!) a focus for their efforts:
- Make their bedroom room as inviting as possible; make sure it is a good temperature, not too hot and not too cold. Make sure there is nothing in there which could scare them such as posters on the wall. One woman I knew didn’t understand why her little girl kept running into her room screaming during the night until she said it was the picture of Casper the friendly ghost on the cover of a book, it glowed in the night and scared the little girl. Once this was removed the little girl was fine in her room. So just check for anything which may make them feel this way. They won’t always tell you during the day as the things that scare them at night often don’t scare them in the daylight.
- Get a routine going and stick to it; routines make children feel safe and if they are practised everyday they become the norm and something they just follow. If you want your child in bed by 7.30 pm then start the bedtime process at 6pm. For example, dinner at 6pm, wind down time at 6.30pm, bath time at 7pm, story time at 7.15pm and in bed 7.30pm. They’ll soon learn that this is what happens everyday.
- Don’t let them out of their room except to use the toilet; they need to learn that the rest of the house is a no go area after a certain time. Again, this is all part of sticking to their routine and making being in their own room normal. There is also no distraction to them from whatever may be happening in other parts of the house
- If they are scared; use this technique to leave them gradually; on the first night sit on the edge of their bed until they fall asleep. Then on the second night sit on a chair just next to their bed until they fall asleep. Then each night for about 4 or 5 night gradually move your chair out of the room until on the 6th night you are sitting outside of their bedroom door, do this for one night and then on the 7th night they should just go to bed on their own. This is particularly useful if your child has been going straight to sleep in your bed with you and feels very attached to you. This technique is often seen on Super Nanny type programmes and it can be demanding on you. Your child may just keep getting out of bed, sometimes for hundreds if time in a row, simply keep your calm and pick them up and put them back into bed. On the first night they may cry for what seems like hours but gradually they will learn to just settle on their own and it should get easier each night. Make sure the lights are out and the rest of the house is settled too, avoiding any distractions
- Keep your own emotions under control; the process of getting a child into their own room can be demanding on you as a parent and also quite upsetting if your child is crying a lot and appears upset too. Remember it is a short term process and that once they are settled they will benefit too, they’ll also sleep better and be more alert during the day also. Just have a glass of wine ready so that once they do fall asleep you can sit down in the peace and quiet with a drink and know that you will have your bed to yourself tonight!
So those are my ideas of how to get a toddler to sleep in their bed; do you have any suggestions for us too? Do let us know below.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net