Questions from Readers…
Jaxandshep on Instagram asked, “How do I convince my 5 and almost 3 year olds to stay in their own bed at night??”
Thanks for the question. It’s a very common one and hard to address quickly here but I will try! I’m assuming you mean they are coming into your bed rather than into each other’s beds? If so, the biggest key to solving this issue is to enforce a hard and fast rule that your bed (or any other option other than their own beds) is not an option. Ever. Yes, I even mean at 4/5am when it’s hard to enforce and, yes, I even mean on weekends when you want everyone to sleep in and/or wake up slowly. Basically, if they think you might let them climb in and sleep there even 1% of the time, they are likely to wake for that and aim for that. Being consistent 99% of the time unfortunately isn’t enough in most cases. Think of slot machines – people don’t feed them coins because they know they will pay out on every occasion. They feed them coins because of the chance they MIGHT pay out even one time. Don’t be a slot machine, lol. If you aren’t aware that they are creeping in, you’ll need to address that first. For example, you might secure your door, place a gate at your door or hang a bell so the door chimes when they try to creep in.
The next key is to decide how you will make that possible. When your child comes out at bedtime or in the middle of night or early morning, what will you do instead of letting them climb in? And be sure to choose the option you can implement consistently every. single. time. The spectrum of options includes 1) walking them back as many times as it takes until they begin to stay put 2) agreeing to sit within their view until they fall or return to sleep (for example beside the bed or just outside the doorway) and working out of needing to do that over time 3) promising to return to check on them but only if they step put and wait quietly (and DO come back and quickly-don’t try to trick them and hope they will just fall asleep) For example, “I am going to use the potty and will be right back to check on you if you wait quietly in your bed.”) or 4) containing them in the room and ignoring them – then, once they see you are serious about staying put, offering them a fresh chance to make a better choice. For example, you might install (not pressure mount and, for climbers, extra tall) a gate at their doorway (this can work with 2/3 year olds but probably not with a 5 year old) and, after a night of seeing that through until morning, saying something like, “I didn’t like having to close the gate and I know you didn’t like it either. So, if you can remember to stay put in your bed and lay quietly, I can leave the gate/door open. If you can’t remember, I’ll need to close it to help you remember.” You aren’t punishing your child – you are giving them a reason to make the better choice to stay put. If a gate isn’t an option, the Door Monkey is another way to approach securing the door temporarily and is still one step less dramatic than fully closing and locking the door as they can still see and call out a bit. Closing and locking the door is of course an option but it isn’t my favorite when we can avoid it and can cause anxiety in some children.
Finally, along with any option, I would offer them clear sleep rules and a way to clearly define those rules.
You might say for example, “The sleep rules are 1) you lay in your bed quietly and 2) you stay in your bed until morning.” Then define “morning” for them by introducing a toddler clock that indicates when it is and is not acceptable to get up and come find you. Popular wake clocks include the Ok to Wake, Gro, and Hatch. The bottom line is to be ultra-consistent which is, of course, the hardest part. I hope that helps and good luck!
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