When my three-year-old daughter wakes up in the middle of the night, she always crawls into bed with my husband and me. We want to break this habit, but I don’t look forward to the nightly drama that I’m sure will ensue if we make her stick out the night in her own room. Any suggestions?
You are not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 10 percent of parents let their kids crawl into Mom and Dad’s bed if they wake up in the middle of the night. When my daughter Madeleine was little, I would spend hours getting her to sleep before crawling out of the room on my hands and knees to keep the floor from creaking.
Ever since I’ve been collecting tips from parents and sleep experts -and here are a few of my favorites
- Try setting up a mattress for your daughter to sleep on at the foot of your bed, then move it each day a little closer to the door and eventually into her room. Alternatively, you can set up a pallet on her floor and gradually move down the hall.
- Don’t reward negative behavior by running every time she cries; instead, tell her that you’ll come check on her every 10 minutes as long as she’s quiet (but be sure to keep your promise).
- Do reward her positive behavior by setting up a sleep chart. For nights when she manages to stay in her bed, she earns a star on the calendar. A week’s worth of stars earns her a special treat - a small gift or date with Mom or Dad alone.
- Remember, change doesn’t happen over night. In fact changing sleep patterns may take up to four weeks. So be patient, but consistent.
- Think empowerment, not punishment. Although your daughter is not going to thank you for forcing her to stay in her room, you are doing her a favor by teaching her to soothe herself. When we give our children opportunities to tolerate frustration or even a little sadness, we are empowering, not punishing, them.