1. Parenting

Sweet Dreams! How To Get Your Child To Stay In Bed All Night

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You have turned on the night light, turned down the sheets, have given an "all clear" of any night-time gremlins, and have given your child a drink of water. A book has been read and your child has been smothered with nighty-night kisses and sweet dreams hugs.

If you are one of the lucky ones, the blissful evening silence may carry over into morning madness. But for many parents of young children, the bedtime calm may last only seconds, minutes, or into the middle of the night with the persistent evening creep back into your room. A child's wide eyes, often wet with tears and sometimes lack of sleep, are often combined with excuses to melt almost any heart and diffuse parental protests, especially if it's 3 a.m. and you need to work in the morning. "My room is making noises," "I need a drink," "I'm hungry," "I miss you so much," "I'm scared," "I'm lonely," "I'm sick" or simply, "I can't sleep." Name the argument; some parent has already heard it before.

It's easy for a sleep-deprived parent to simply turn down the sheet and half-heartedly left a young child sleep in their bed. It's the next morning--after enduring a night of tossing and turning of a wiggly child, loss of privacy, a child hard to awaken in the morning in time for school or daycare, or perhaps even wet sheets as a result--the parent insists the habit of a child sneaking into bed must change.

But how? Here are some tips for making the permanent transition of a child sleeping in his/her own bed:

    * Make your child's room inviting, decorated to his/her taste, and age-appropriate. Consider allowing your child to help decorate by at the very least picking out the bedding. For the more ambitious adventurers, give your child choices of a bedroom theme, positioning of bed and furniture (with your help, of course), and overall look and feel. The general idea is you want your child to absolutely LOVE his/her room and want to spend time in it!

    * Consider the size of the bed. Some parents move their child to a twin or even larger bed as soon as a child graduates from the crib. For some children, that is fine, but others may feel intimidated or even threatened by its size. Depending on a child's nature, toddler beds can provide a nice transition between crib and twin. These beds often are available in theme designs, such as a race car or castle. Make sure your child can easily get in and out of bed and feels comfortable in it.

    * Establish a memorable bedtime routine. The routine does not need to be elaborate; however, it should be something your child looks forward to each night and considers a special time. This can be as simple as reading a favorite book in a special part of the room, having a bath to soothing music, eating a snack and then brushing teeth, singing a favorite song, saying a prayer, exchanging highlights of the day, or even a special bedtime kiss-n-hug ritual.

    * Require your child to go to the bathroom just before bedtime. Sometimes its the need to go to the bathroom that then causes the child to wake and then want company.

    * Don't lie down with your child, or if you do, only stay for a brief time. You don't want your child to think he/she has to have someone lay down with him for sleep.

    * Establish the rule that your child will now sleep in his/her own bed and make no exceptions. Some parents report that it is helpful to build it into a celebration, such as "Now that you are starting kindergarten, you are expected to stay in your own bed every night" or "As a 4-year-old, you will get new privileges! One of those is the excitement of picking the toy you want to sleep with in your own bed every night."

    * Don't weaken to crying or whining. If you do, your child wins. Tell your child you are not going to keep coming in for kisses, hugs, discussion, begging, or pleading. Stick to this. If your child leaves the room, simply re-direct the child back without discussion. Show no weakness, or your child will know that this behavior results in a change.

    * Finally, even if you are totally exhausted or its an unseemly hour of the night, walk your child back to his/her room immediately if you receive a visitor. Don't over-react or give to much attention; simply say, "The rules are that you sleep in your own bed."

    If you maintain consistency and the rules, your child will be sleeping in his or her bed throughout the night in no time. And, you and your child will both get improved shut eye and be better prepared to face the new day together!
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