Tired of your sleepless nights? Feeling fed up with the nighttime battles that ensue when your child perpetually engages you in a game of “ping pong” as they bounce from their bed, to your bed, back to their bed? Try these simple tips to keep your child in their own bed:
Identify the reasons why they are sneaking away
At a non-triggering time – either during the daytime or prior to the bedtime routine – ask your child what function their escape serves. Uncovering the reasons perpetuating this routine will provide you with the information necessary to create more adaptive and positive coping skills. For example, if your child is afraid of the dark and/or of
monsters under their bed, schedule in a “search party” as part of the bedtime routine. In between brushing teeth, putting on jammies, and reading stories search the “scary areas” with your child in the light to eradicate any irrational fear that may be causing them to flee the room. If your child should awaken in the middle of the night, they can engage in positive, coping self-talk to keep them in their room (“It’s ok, there are no monsters because mom and I already checked”).
Readjust the bedtime expectation
If a standard has been set in which the child knows he will be invited into his parents bedroom, create a new standard for expectation. Creating a motivational incentive program can help your child evaluate their choices and motivate them to implement compliant behaviors in the face of being rewarded. Sit your child down and have a conversation about the importance of sleeping independently and that this is the new expectation for the household. Arrange a variety of rewards that you have pre-approved and that you know the child would like so that they can invest in this new mode of behavior. For every successful night, they can earn a token or sticker to then cash in for a greater prize at the end of the week.
For the reward and the overall change in behavior to work, you need to be consistent. Create a routine that you and your spouse feel comfortable with if and when your child awakens in the night. This has to occur every time your escape artist tries to crawl into your bed. Some tips for this redirection:
– ALWAYS send them back to their room. You can be sympathetic to your child’s needs, fears, and concerns, but walk them back to their room. Sit with them for a few minutes until they fall back to sleep. Then you can leave. Repeat as needed.
– If your child is adamant that they cannot sleep, provide them with a nightlight (if they fear the dark), a book if you trust they will not stay up all night reading, and the opportunity to listen to calming music either on an iPad or sound machine to calm them down and distract their negative thinking.
Get creative about what will keep your child in their room, discuss with your spouse what you will and will not tolerate as far as admittance into the parent bed, and be consistent about whatever expectations you set.