How to teach children to sleep in their own beds
Every new parent understands that new babies and sleep deprivation tend to go hand in hand. Broken nights are to be expected when young babies are requiring feeding, nappy changing or experiencing the pain of colic or teething. By the time the baby has become a toddler most parents expect that sleepless nights will now become a thing of the past, but sadly for many the disturbed nights continue. It can be hard to make rational decisions or function properly when sleep patterns continue to be disturbed, so set aside a few evening and tackle the problem once and for all. It’s easier than you might think.
Establish a regular bedtime routine
Babies, children and animals all thrive on routine so develop a regular system to help your toddler relax, unwind and prepare for bed. A bedtime bath can be helpful in making your child feel sleepy, but at the very least teach your toddler to brush his teeth, wash his face, get into pyjamas and settle down quietly.
A favourite toy produced at bedtime will provide security for your child, giving him something to cuddle.
Settle down together in the toddler’s room make sure the room is neither too hot nor too cold to promote a good sleeping environment. Quietly read a story, have a cuddle, then say ‘Goodnight’, give your child a kiss and leave the room. Research has shown that children will sleep better in the dark, but if your child is distressed by complete darkness then perhaps leave a nightlight on to provide a glow of illumination in the room. You can always turn it off later when you go up to bed.
For the first few nights you will be tested! Expect tears, tantrums and anticipate that your toddler will leave the bed to come in search of you. When this happens, quietly and firmly return the child to his bed. Explain that night-time is for sleeping and attempts to get out of bed will not meet with success. Any further attempts to leave the bed should be met with complete silence and a return to the child’s bed. Do not be drawn into interaction or conversation. You are teaching your child that the night is a time for quiet and for sleeping.
You may have to harden your heart to the sound of your child crying for attention. It’s particularly important not to cave in at this point as, in effect, you will merely be training your toddler that crying at a high intensity guarantees your arrival! The first time you sit and listen to your child’s heartrending cries you will be sorely tempted to run to him, but be firm. The more patient and persistent you are now, the greater the rewards in a few short nights. By the second night the crying will stop much quicker and will decrease quickly thereafter until the child realises that the strategy will not work.
Most children learn very quickly that this new bedtime regime is serious and set in stone. After a few token efforts to persuade you that you should reconsider, your child will quickly learn to fall asleep on cue, leaving you relaxed and able to enjoy your evening.