(Written by Stacey M.) For some parents, sharing the family bed is a valued night-time ritual that offers security and comfort, but for most it’s a ritual that must come to an end eventually. Once it’s time to graduate your young one to his/her own bed, the transitional phase can be difficult. To help you make the change as smooth as possible, here are 5 tips that will encourage kids to spend the night in their own big-kid bed.
- Timing is Everything
Establish and adhere to a consistent bed-time routine. Moulding sleep-time behaviour is much easier if your child has a set routine that prepares him/her for sleep which occurs at the same time every night. If the sleep-time schedule is disrupted, it may set back the progress you’re trying to achieve with getting your child to sleep alone. If you there are disruptions or big changes currently going on, for example, moving house or toilet training, it may be best to wait until life is a little more stable and there’s only one major adjustment to be made at a time.
- Be Firm and Persistent
For many kids, the transition from the family nest to the big-kid bed will be a difficult one. For parents, this means there’s the potential for huge resistance from your child. It’s possible that you should prepare yourself for screaming, tantrums, crying and bedroom escapes. When you’re tired, it’s natural to take the path of least resistance and cave in to these tactics, but it’s vital that once the decision has been made to teach your child to sleep independently, the decision is final and sleeping with parents ends entirely. No “just this once” – these exceptions send the wrong messages to your child. If you’re not persistent, or you give up after enough time or screaming, your child will learn that consistent resistance will get him/her what he/she wants.
- Silent Return
If your child gets out of bed after lights out, practice the “silent return.” Calmly take your child back to bed, but do so in silence. It can be difficult, but to talk to your child, even if it is in disapproval, offers a kind of incentive by providing stimulation and attention, making him/her more likely to repeat the behaviour. Before lights out, explain to your child that if he/she gets up during the night, you’ll take him/her back to bed but you won’t talk to him/her while you do it. This will set your intentions and help your child to cope with the new practice.
- Track and Reward
Offering rewards for good behaviour is a great way to give kids an incentive to stay in bed. Establish a rewards system that will give your child a goal to work toward and encourage him/her to adopt this new sleep-time routine. In your child’s room, have a visible method of keeping track of your child’s progress. You might choose to use a calendar, a chart or create a poster where you can mark off the nights spent in his/her own bed and what/when the reward will be.
Discussing your intentions with your child is vital to the success of your new bed-time routine. Let your child know that it’s time to start sleeping in his/her own bed. Make sure that they understand the new routine and what it is that you want from your child. Make sure they understand and expect the “silent return.” Let your child know that you’ll be very proud of him/her for sleeping in his/her own bed, and explain your reward system so that it’s understood that he/she will be working toward a goal and there’s a reward at the end for doing a good job. It can be a real challenge, but the reward is a sound night’s sleep for parents and a valuable lesson in independence for your child. Keep persevering and remember, patience is a virtue.
* Photo Courtesy of Pinterest
About the author: Stacey is a young mother of two young children from QLD, Australia.