I'm a member of a local mom's group, as I'm sure a lot of moms are. The group communicates by email and all us moms share deals around town, where to find the best plumber, contractor, dentist, pediatrician, etc. and offer advice to other moms who are trying to figure out a particular mom problem. One of the issues that tends to come up almost cyclically (probably at least four times a year) is how to get a three year old to go to sleep in his/her own bed. Since we just worked our way through this with CLG, I decided to reply (well, actually I decided to reply after one mom suggested massages and another melatonin...for the kid, not the mom!!), and realized, hey, this is a pretty good blog post! And so here it is:
Ahhh, getting a three year old to go to sleep. We've just worked our way through this, too, with our youngest one. Three year olds are great draggers of feet! LOL! Both mine stopped napping around 3, so that did make my life easier. But they do like to push their limits with the bedtime routine. We stuck closely to our routine, and if the kids tried to stray, we'd gently put them back on course. We are strong proponents of the 5 Bs: Bath, Brush, Bathroom, Book, Bed. We give plenty of time to get it done, no rushing through this, but everyone stays focused on the task at hand. We do not generally clean up the toys and such before, during or after this routine. Cleaning up toys happens before dinner, we eat dinner, and then, depending on the bedtime of the child, we start the bed time routine (our son is older now, so he doesn't go to bed quite as early any more, but we still only allow quiet reading/drawing before bed usually). We stick closely to our routine, and if the kids try to stray, we gently put them back on course. "I need a drink of water" doesn't stop the routine, because we either tell the kids they'll have a drink when they brush their teeth, or we remind them that they just had a drink when they brushed. That kind of thing. We do sometimes have issues with teeth brushing, though, and then we get a bit firmer. If a child is refusing to brush his/her teeth, we explain that he/she either can get the teeth taken care of or there will be no book. This generally does the trick, but only because when it didn't do the trick, we took the book away. It doesn't matter how much they scream, if the teeth don't get brushed (or there's any sort of outright refusal to get the routine done), the child doesn't get a book. It makes for a louder (ie the kid is screaming and crying) bedtime, but we figured out a way to deal with that too (see below).
Once the child is in bed, he/she says prayers, gets kisses and hugs and maybe a little song, and that's it. Any other discussion can be done during the bath and brushing parts of the program (we like to discuss what we did that day and what we're doing the next day). If one of the kids acts up and is out of bed or screaming, there's a routine for that too. The first time I get up right away and remind him/her it's bedtime. Pick him/her up and tuck him back into bed. No kissing, no hugging, no talking beyond saying it's time for bed. Second time around, he/she gets no conversation at all, just gets put back in bed. And that continues until he/she stays in bed. And believe me, there's been many a night where I just sat on the floor by the door for a half hour to an hour until the kid stays in bed! But they learn that bed is the place to be and where they're going to end up regardless of whatever wandering they would like to do!
|It's called a bed! You sleep in it!|
If there's any yelling, screaming, asking questions (of any sort...don't fall for the "Could you get me a drink of water?" play...that seems to be a specialty of three year olds!), anything like that, again, I go up right away and remind the child it's time for bed and tuck him/her back in. Nothing else, no yelling, no other talking, no hugging no kissing! If he/she continues to scream and/or ask for stuff, I just go out of the room and wait 5 minutes or so, then I go back in and try again to tuck him/her back in. If it works, great, if it doesn't back out again for another 10 minutes this time. Keep increasing the time in between by 5 minutes or so. Sometimes, they just are so tired that they need to yell, I think. But make sure to go in there when they settle down and tuck them in...I think they also need that tucking in and face wiping to really settle in.
And if you don't want the child in the bed with you any more, for goodness sake don't let him/her sleep in your bed any more!! If the child gets up in the middle of the night and wants to get into bed with you, remind him/her about his/her own bed, lead the child back to the bed, and tuck him/her in. No hugs, no kisses, just a reminder about his/her own bed. If he/she gets out and comes back in, just bring him/her back, no talking this time, and tuck him/her in. And repeat, repeat, repeat. If there's any screaming, crying, or yelling involved, but they're staying in bed, great! Just see above to see how we dealt with screaming and crying. It's tough on you the first few times, but if you let the child back into your bed, it'll be 20 times harder the next time because he/she will try longer to see if you give in. Believe me, I know with this one...my husband always let my youngest into bed, which worked fine for him because she stopped bugging us, but was not fine for me because she basically shoved me out of bed. I like my snuggles, but not at 2 am when I need my sleep!
As far as monsters and bad dreams go, the only things that have worked for us is a bit of imagination. These things are coming from their imagination, so we figured we'd fight the monsters with our imagination :). I made monster spray (just water and glitter), which I would spray around the room whenever that worry came up. Monster spray works for at least a week and is guaranteed to keep all monsters away for at least that long (after I spray it, I always ask if I missed any spots). Bad dreams are a tough one, though. I do give lots of hugs and kisses after a bad dream, but at one point it was so bad that my son was waking up constantly and working his way into not wanting to go to sleep at all. In a fit of desperation, I grabbed this tiny stuffed dog and frantically yelled out, "This is Good Dream Doggie!! When he's with you, you don't have any bad dreams!". My son stopped crying, rolled over and went to sleep without bad dreams. I was shocked...but it worked for us!
|Thank Heavens for little doggies!|
Oh, and if there's a really bad thunderstorm that wakes the kids up, all bets are off...both kids usually end up in bed with us getting loads of hugs, kisses, and whatever else they need. But you can bet the next night they're back in their own beds!!