OH, please go to sleep! PLEASE!


Having trouble getting that little one to go to sleep, stay in bed…or maybe just not get in yours at night?

Here is the reality: aside from a quick swig of a tonic of some sort, there is really no way to force your kid (or anyone, really) to go to sleep.  It’s even worse than the old horse to water example.  MUCH more frustrating, and I’m not sure the last time a thirsty horse interfered with “mommy and daddy time.”  This can be a tough thing, so let’s look at one of the most common sources I have found in my work and how to fix it.

How it happens

The parent asks the child to go to bed and he doesn’t want to go.  Maybe the parent forces it a little at this point or allows the kid a bit more time with Thomas and Friends.  This usually can go on for a while (if you have read earlier posts you will know the child learns to extend his Thomas time by whining and complaining).

Let’s say you get him in the room and maybe in bed, but he screams, cries or comes to get you.  This can also go on and, for those with the problem, usually results in laying in bed, caressing them to sleep or allowing them to sleep in “mommy and daddy’s room.”  This problem generally doesn’t fix itself.

Why it happens

What usually happens is the child needs/wants the parent and gains access to the parent (or what the parent does – reading cool books, giving sweet backrubs or playing Princess Pony “just one more time”) by crying, screaming, running out, etc.  So if we were to look at this very simply:

Bed alone => Crying = mommy attention and backrub

Mommy leaves => scream = mommy returns…

Change the pattern:

Play the game, just play it better than them.  Take her to her room and read the book with her.  Tell her you want to read another book to her or give her a backrub, but she needs to stay in her bed until you come back in 5 minutes: “when I come back in 5 minutes, you need to be in your bed and under the covers and quiet, then we can read another part of the book/give backrubs, etc.”

Wait by the door, but quietly.  I don’t want her to know you are there.  You can set a timer if you want and either leave it in the room or take it with you.  Go in before the 5 minute mark only if she is quiet and tell her she is doing a good job (if she is) and tell her how many more minutes you have left.  If she is up and about, tell her she needs to be in bed when the timer goes off to read (if that is what she wants).

Repeat, repeat, repeat, extending the time you are out of the room slowly but surely.  You see what we are doing here?  She is getting the same (possibly more at this point) attention / book reading / backrubs as she was before BUT is getting it for being in bed rather than out; for being quiet, not for screaming.  Guess what?  Quiet leads to sleep better than screaming does.

Overly simple? 

Yep.  Difficult to begin? Yep.  But here is the good news: it will get better if you do it this way; it will only get worse if you keep doing it the way you are doing it.

REMINDER: Make sure your child is getting more of you for being quiet and in bed than she is getting for being loud out of bed.