One of our mommy readers wrote to us about her struggles on how to get her child to bed and keep her there. Reading her battle, I swear I could have written that just a few years ago. Every single night I felt like I was going to lose it. It took my daughter more than an hour from lights out to sleep with lots of excuses in between.
Looking back on it, I don’t know how I survived bedtime when my daughter was about three years old. It has been almost four years, and the memories are bittersweet, yet I don’t wish that kind of pain and agony on anyone. I did everything ‘right’ (if there is a such a thing). We had a routine, we had a certain time for everything, she had her own bed and had picked out her own bedding and stuffed animals she was going to sleep with. No matter how much verbal preparation I gave her (‘After your teeth are brushed it is bedtime, and you need to stay in bed tonight’), she still managed to find every excuse to call my name. Because I wouldn’t wish that kind of torturous pain on anyone, I will pass along what worked for me for how to get your child to bed…and keep her there.
Get Your Child to Bed and Keep Her There
A schedule and routine are uber important! Keep in mind that it will not happen overnight. Kids like routine, and when you change up the sleeping arrangements, you changed up her routine. Stick with it! Something that helped me was creating a chart and getting my daughter involved in the making of it. It had times, and what activity was happening at that point (this was an excellent tool to help her to learn to tell time as well!) She liked knowing what was happening next and felt a sense of independence because she could look at the chart herself (or be prompted by me). We did the same thing every night when it came to her bedtime routine.
Stay in the room
You might as well set up a cot. No, I am kidding, don’t do that. When everything was done and it was time for lights out, I started out by staying in there until she fell asleep. Then I tiptoed my way out, often holding my breath and praying that the dog wouldn’t feel the need to scratch or shake and wake her up with the sound of the tags clanking together. I did this for a few nights. Then the night before I switched up on her, I warned her about it. This would be the last night that I stayed until she fell asleep. Tomorrow night I would stay for three songs (we streamed classical music while she slept).
This allowed her to know how much time she had left before I left the room. Was this like magic? Nope. I would leave, and she would call my name, and I would pull my hair out. It was a learning experience for us both. So the next night I explained that I would stay for three songs, but she was not to call my name unless she was bleeding or had a broken bone (or her head popped off, as she liked to say). We made sure she had everything she needed before lights out, water, potty, stuffed animal, therefore eliminating any foreseen reason for her to call me.
“Go to sleep”
I said this many times, I started to hear my own mother come out of my mouth (which was a little soothing actually, knowing that it was not only my own little princess that wouldn’t sleep at night). The routine was done, songs were played, I stayed and I left before she fell asleep. I kissed her little face, said I love you, and I will see you in the morning. And do not call me for anything. When she did (because kids are kids, and they test the limits) I simply said ‘Go to sleep, you’re ok’. I admit, part of me felt a little neglectful, what if she really does need something? But the reality of the situation outweighed those feelings; she is just trying to prolong bedtime.
Hype it up!
If you want to get your child to bed and keep her there, she has to be excited about it. I told my daughter she was getting to be such a big girl, sleeping in a big girl bed and all. Not to mention, she was going to be a big sister, so she needed to be able to teach her little brother things that she could do. I was going to need her help with him, and being a big girl and going to sleep like one, was going to be a huge help to mommy (she was 5, so she understood a little better than maybe your younger children might). This seemed to help. But nothing is foolproof, and she is just a child who wants her mommy and not to miss anything at bedtime (I swear child all you are missing is mommy cleaning up from the day, and maybe falling asleep on the couch trying to catch up on my shows).
>Getting your child to bed AND getting them to actually stay there is a milestone in parenting in my opinion! It used to take my daughter more than an hour to fall finally asleep. Admittedly, I began to dread bedtime just as much as I looked forward to it for the few hours of solitude.