When my son was 18 months he started to absolutely hate his crib. My husband and I decided to get him a bed so bedtime and sleep didn’t become this awful place for him. The first night we put him in the bed I was terrified! I imagined that he’d be running out of the room continuously and I had a plan ready in case. To my amazement, he stayed in bed and continued to go to bed pretty much perfectly. A lot of parents aren’t so lucky, and I’ve certainly seen my fair share of that in my work! In the sleep seminar I gave a few weeks ago, one of the common problems that came up was “how do I get him to stay in bed once I say good night?” There are 3 components to this answer:
1. It’s so important to make sure kids are in bed at their optimal sleep time. Remember that sleep experts indicate the optimal bed time for young children is between 6-8 pm, with 8 pm being on the late side. (For more on this topic see my previous post on Feb. 17 called “sleep needs for children.” If your child is up past his or her optimal sleep time, you’re likely to see an overtired child pulling out all the stops and not going to sleep properly at bedtime. I can always tell with my son when it’s just a little past his sleep window as he asks for everything under the sun at bedtime “I need another cuddle,” “drink of water,” “just want to tell you something,” “I’m hungry”… When I get him to bed on time, he’s an angel and there’s not a peep.
2. Be prepared by the door and give as little attention to him or her as possible. Particularly if you are trying a new sleep routine or moving from a crib to a bed, be prepared to hang out outside your child’s bedroom until he or she stops coming out. As much as we like to blame our little rug rats for their behaviour, I’m sorry to say, but the majority of child bedtime problems are well-meaning parental attention maintained. So have a little camp out by your child’s door, with your book or laptop and a glass of wine (as necessary of course!), so that you can nip the fun out of their bud. With as little attention as possible, walk him back to bed, put him in therand leave the room, and close the door. If you need to say something, keep it simple – e.g., “it’s bedtime, I love you, good night.” The first time you may need to repeat this several times (or 65), but don’t worry, be consistent and it will pay off soon.
3. Did I mention be consistent? This is THE most important tool in your toolbox. Kids are smart little cookies and they know when mom and dad are going to give in and exactly which buttons to press. Don’t underestimate them! Stick to your guns. Don’t bring them to bed with you, read 12 more stories, allow 4 more glasses of water…. Have a set routine and stick to it and they will believeyou when you say “it’s bedtime, I love you, now go to sleep.”