Hi fellow moms,
Sorry it took me a few weeks to get to you on your sleep questions. Anyone else feeling just a wee bit overwhelmed by this time of year??
A promise is a promise though…so here goes!
Can you figure out how to convince my 4 year old not to wake up the whole house when he wakes up way too early? Maybe that’s not really about sleeping, but it interrupts our sleep!
Great question! A friend recently shared with me this amazing tip — she has put her daughter’s bedside lamp on a timer set for 7 AM. For their family, the purpose is that when the light goes on, the little girl is to get up and put her clothes on for school. For your guy, you could set the timer for when he can get out of bed. I would make it for a little later than he naturally wakes up. If the timer isn’t on, he must lay quietly in bed (because laying quietly is still restorative and kids do need their rest!). When the light goes on, your little guy can get up, shut his door quietly, and play with quiet toys till the rest of the family gets up. Make sure his room has fun, yet quiet, morning toys so he doesn’t have to trudge around the house finding things to amuse him. I would also get a calender page just for him and give him a big sticker every day that he is quiet in the mornings (do this right after everyone gets up so the reward is immediate). If he gets 5/7 stickers in a week, he can get a reward. This might be choosing what the family eats for dinner one night, picking a movie for the family to watch, or picking a little toy from a bag of treats you purchase at the dollar store. Make sure to clearly explain the plan before you begin — even four year olds “get” the concept that everyone deserves a good night’s sleep!
And, we had multiple questions along these lines….”How do you keep preschoolers out of your bed in the middle of the night?”
With this one, the major question is…how bad do you want your peace and quiet in the middle of the night? The reason I ask is that it is hard work to break this pattern…it usually means a week or two of pretty miserable nights. But, the pay-off is huge! Privacy, space in bed, and a good night’s sleep! So, here goes.
Again, you want to explain the plan and set up a reward calender. You don’t need to go into a big explanation except something to the effect that “everyone in our family deserves a good night’s sleep and we will all get that if we stay in our own beds”. Kids also respond well to the big boy/big girl bit — “You’re such a big boy now, you don’t need to come into mommy and daddy’s room anymore.” Then, when Junior shows up in your bed at night, take his little hand and lead him back to his bed. Give him a big kiss, and promptly walk back to your room. It might take several middle of the night walks. The key is to not talk, plead, cajole, or (worst of all!) give in. Just keep walking back, with no words, but with a big dose of love. In the morning, the little guy gets a sticker for each night he makes it through alone. For the first week, he should get a sticker even if he comes in your room, so long as he agreeably walks back to his room and goes back to bed there. In the second week, the goal might be no coming in at all. This is flexible, of course, and should be tailored to your child’s needs. The walking back, with no words (but a dose of love) really does work!
One side note is that during the day, it can be useful to ask your child why he or she comes into your room at night. Really little kids often don’t know, they just want to, and that is fine. But, some do describe fears or difficulty sleeping. If this is the case, that is another component to work into your sleep plan…if you have specific questions, send them in and I will address them!
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