By D.D. Kelly
When little Sophie was a baby, you thought it was so sweet to cuddle with her in bed with you every night. She smelled so good, after all. When she hit toddler-hood and was still in your bed every night, you comforted your bruised body (they have the sharpest elbows, don’t they?) with her sloppy little morning kisses and hugs. Awww….so sweet. “What harm could it do to let her sleep with us one more night?”, you tell your exasperated partner.
Now, “just one more night” has turned into six plus years and you have a problem. Little Sophie is not so little anymore and her elbows have sharpened with time. So what’s a sleep (and sex) deprived parent to do? Fear not! In 5 easy steps, you can boot your kids out of your bed for good!
Step #1 – Don’t Ever Start.
I know, I know, you could’ve used this info five years ago, but humor me; you might know some unsuspecting
suckers parents who are right at this minute starting down this path. So, be a dear and share this with them now. And for those of you who are gullible going through this now with an infant, you’re in luck! You can benefit from this information before it’s too late right now. I know the baby is sweet and she smells so good and it feels so right and peaceful to just hold her, but – and you are just going to have to trust me here- END IT NOW! Get your fill of baby love and PUT HER IN HER CRIB. If you must, have the crib in your room for awhile. The idea is to have baby learning to sleep independently. You know, alone.
Obviously if you’re still reading, you totally blew step #1 and need real, hardcore, right-now, I-need-sleep advice. If so, go on to step 2.
Step #2 – Bribe Them.
Yes, you read that correctly. Bribe.Them. I know, I know, child “experts” would probably say it’s wrong to bribe children, but, two things: first, the words “child expert” are an oxymoron (sometimes plain old morons). There is no such thing as an expert for all children. Since each child is an individual expression, you’d need an expert for each child. We have these; they are called parents. Secondly, so-called “child experts” don’t actually live on planet Earth like the rest of us, therefore, their advice is meant for alien children, not your human ones. So go ahead, bribe them. Tap into their inner “what’s-in-it-for-me”ness. Call it a reward, if it makes you feel better, but I prefer to call a thing a thing.
A word of caution, though; don’t bribe them with something that will later become a problem (i.e. candy), I can only write so many of these articles. But, yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to say “if you sleep in your bed all night (emphasize all night), then I’ll get you that power ranger barbie thing-a-majig you’ve been begging me for.” This works even better when you bribe them with something you were going to do for them anyway – like a day at the waterpark, for example. Hey – what they don’t know, am I right? The idea is to provide a strong incentive for them to at least try.
Step #3 – Make Their Space Appealing.
From my many talks with
suckers parents who have this issue, the children creep into their parents bed in the middle of the night because they wake up alone and afraid. So, work on that. Try having one or two nightlights in the room so that it’s never completely dark. Play soothing music at night. Yes, all night – put it on repeat, we’re trying to save your sanity here!
Also, I know it’s tempting to go for the fast cars or wild colors themes in your children’s bedroom but think “soothing”. You don’t want them to be overstimulated at bedtime. If you can, designate another part of the house for play – the bedroom should be for rest and relaxation. Try muted colors and soft fabrics. Skip the loud wallpaper and, for the love of God, NO TV! Make their bedroom a place where they can go to decompress.
Step #4 – Have A Bedtime Routine
Routine is reassuring to young children. Since they have no real concept of time, a structured routine is how they know what to expect and makes the world feel safer. Keep this in mind for bedtime as well. Give them a “fair warning” that bedtime is coming 10-15 minutes before you start. Give them a warm bath and take the time to play. Bath time is a great opportunity to “unpack” the day with your children. Listen to their stories about their day and give them your full attention. What your routine is is not as important as the fact that you have one. The purpose of the bedtime routine is to provide a sense of security as they go to bed. Hopefully, this will translate into a restful sleep for all involved.
Step #5 – Be Consistent and Persistent
Don’t give up. This will not work right away. It may take <gasp> a few
weeks days even! You may, at times, have to go into their beds until they fall asleep, if they are really having a hard time. You most definitely will have to wake up a few times at night to take them back to their own beds. You will not get a full night’s sleep for what will seem like an eternity. Accept it. Prepare for it. Just suck it up, stock up on coffee and don’t plan any early morning meetings for awhile. But, if you keep at it, they will develop this new habit. Promise.
If you’re like me, you need your sleep. Little munchkins seemingly trying to get back in the womb at night are not truly conducive to a good night’s sleep, so boot those little buggers out! Start tonight.