Tips for Getting Your Toddler in His Own Bed
Like most parents, I’d love nothing more than a good night’s sleep. It seems like so little to ask, unless you have a 2-year-old and 5-year-old in your house. I fully, perhaps foolishly, expected to be enjoying a solid eight hours of shut-eye by this stage of life. Reality, however, is much different. You see, I have snugglers. One child that begs to sleep and snuggle with us each evening and another that just takes it upon herself to squeeze right into the middle during the night. Between kicks to the back and elbows in the side, sleep doesn’t come easy.
The truth is that tons of parents find themselves in this very same position…and want out. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is strongly against co-sleeping for young children including babies and toddlers due to associated health risks. As far as preschoolers go, the AAP says it’s a matter of family preference, but warns that breaking the habit could be stressful later on. The good news is that, with a little work, we can untrain the little monsters that are taking over our bed. But the bad news is that it may not be pretty.
Once you’ve decided to take the plunge, start talking about your new bedtime expectations in the afternoon—that way, your little one knows what to expect at lights-out. Try saying something like “Mommies and daddies sleep in their beds, and kids sleep in their own beds.” You can also try reading children’s books together about sleeping in “big kid” beds. Oftentimes, children are able to identify with story characters in the same situations more easily than trying to understand abstract ideas about bedtime rules. Check out some of these titles in your local bookstore or library:
Mommy, I Want to Sleep In Your Bed! by Harriet Ziefert
I Sleep In My Own Bed by Glenn Wright
Big Enough for a Bed by Apple Jordan
This is where it gets real, and where parents who couldn’t stand the cry-it-out method when their kids were babies may want to throw in the towel. But try not to lose hope, experts reassure that sleep training is possible and gets easier with time. In general, once you start, stick with it. Midnight visitors, like my daughter, should get walked back to their rooms, tucked in and kissed goodnight. No extra snuggles, no drinks of water, as many times as it takes. There will be screams and sobs and crying all the way to their beds. Which they will jump out of in a split second. You will start to wonder if you will ever sleep again. You will; just maybe not tonight. Keep this up until the new rules sink in.
The Next Morning
If they made it through the night in their own beds, even with a few hiccups, bring on the praise. Young children thrive on praise and pleasing words, so pour it on thick. Prizes are also a great idea for good sleepers. You could let your child pick a small “sleep treat” from a grab bag in the morning. Even better, try reading The Sleep Fairy, by Janie Peterson. Sort of like the Tooth Fairy, the Sleep Fairy leaves stickers, small toys and other goodies under sleeping children’s pillows. After about a week or so of sound sleeping in their own beds, you’ll have a new habit – no prizes needed.
It may take more than one tactic to entice your child into her own bed. But whatever you do, be consistent and have faith. I’m happy to report that after some tough nights, mine are happily sleeping on their own. My new problem is waking them up. Good luck and sweet dreams!