If you are like most parents, you dream of the day that your toddler will stay in bed. We train them as babies to sleep through the night and then suddenly there is a moment they feel like sleeping in bed with their parents is better than sleeping alone.
It was not until my umpteenth groin kick from the Rookie, who made his way from his bed to ours, that we made the decision that something had to be done. I wanted our bed back, my wife wanted our bed back, and our son needed to sleep. He was coming into our bed so many times that I was beginning to wonder if he was even sleeping. On top of that, he was transitioning to not taking a nap. This just added to the fact he needed to have a better night’s sleep.
We were scouring the internet looking for any way to carry out the nearly impossible feat of getting him to stay in his bed. At one point we began to think that maybe he was sleep walking. The only thing he would do when he would get out of bed is come to our room, crawl into our bed, and fall back asleep in between me and my wife. We assumed sleepwalking was out of the question.
We start to think about what worked in the past to get the Rookie to a new habit. We looked back to potty training and the bright idea of rewarding him. When the rookie was going through potty training, we created a sticker chart and once he filled it up by using the big boy potty, we went out and let him get a prize. It wasn’t until the moment that he filled it up the first time that he finally got it and after that potty training was a breeze.
Looking back at that for inspiration, we had to figure out a way to reward him for staying in bed. On the worst nights he would get out of bed 3-4 times. Recently, we have talked that the Rookie should start to be able to earn an allowance, only when is good and helps around the house. He has seen toys at Target that he has wanted but we keep telling him that we do not have the money and maybe he will just have to earn it. With the money part in mind we decided that he could earn a dollar night. Every time he would get out of bed we would take a quarter from that dollar and whatever is left in the morning would be his. We ask him what he wanted to get when he earned enough money and he immediately mentioned a new die-cast car from the Cars line.
The next question was how we would track how many times he gets out bed or how would my wife keep track. I’m a deep sleeper and anytime he was coming into bed I would never wake up, unless there was a groin kick involved. It was to the point where my wife was annoyed that I would never get up with him, just yet another reason we needed to figure this out. My wife, a former teacher, kept most of the stuff that she had in her classroom and one of those items were a set of four stop signs that were on popsicle sticks. Each of those stop signs would represent a quarter.
The first night we made sure to make a big deal about this. We told him that any time he got out of bed he would need to bring us one of the stop signs. This eventually has turned into us taking a sign when we take him back to his room. The first night we made sure that we kept at least one sign to help him understand what he would be getting. That night he only got up 3 times. The 2nd night of this process he got up twice. The 3rd night he was up twice, and the fourth night only once. Then on the 5th night, we reached the goal, he slept through the night! We made sure that each time we gave him the money to tell him just how proud he was that he was doing this.
It worked! We never saw this day coming but it came. More importantly our bodies had no idea what to do with the amount of sleep that we were getting. Not only could we see a change in our moods but the Rookie’s overall demeanor was 100 times better than before. Ever since he stopped taking a nap his attitude changed for the worst. We knew all he needed was sleep and now he is getting it and is much MUCH more bearable.
Most parents find a time where their kids won’t sleep through the night difficult, rightfully so. Every kid is different and you have to read how they respond to change. Being able to read how your child responds to new situations or changes is key to helping you and your child make it during the new changes that are coming your way.