When I was pregnant with my third baby, I was doing all the normal pregnant-momma activities to prepare. I was getting the nursery set up, re-skimming through the baby books, and dusting off the old bottles. As I was mentally preparing to go back to waking up every two hours throughout the night, a thought hit me: my older two kids were regularly coming in my bed each night. I tried to picture how this would pan out, and instantly had anxiety at the thought of pulling all-nighters with three kids. Also, I was spending 30+ minutes a night laying with them until they fell asleep. I knew I had to make a change.
Parents it is time to take a stand! Whether you have a reason to get your kids out of your bed at night, or you are just fed up with getting kicked in the face all night by a tiny foot, you can take back your bed!
I knew it would be better for them to get a full night sleep alone in their beds. I read many tips and articles prior to sleep training my kids. Honestly, I didn’t think any of them would work. I have very stubborn kids, and I felt like they had a very detailed, secret plan to team up on us. I took an entire week off of work to get this done.
Much to my surprise, it did not take a week. It only took TWO DAYS, when I followed the plan below! The most important piece of advice that I can give throughout this entire process is to stay strong! They are like tiny German Shepherds- they can smell fear and will attack the first chance they get!
Preparation is Key
Prior to sleep training, you have to mentally prepare both yourself and the kids for this mission. Plan to do this on a day when you have at least a few days with no major events, work, or school. To prepare your children, I recommend doing the following:
- Let them know in advance.: Set a day in stone, and tell your kids for an entire week that “starting next week you will be sleeping in your big kid beds all night”. We talked about their ‘new routine’ for an entire week before we initiated the plan.
- Make it sound fun. Believe it or not, if you are enthusiastic about it, they will start to get excited. We would tell them excitedly that they will be big kids in their big kid beds.
- Give them a comfort item. This is optional, but we felt that it really helped. We bought them each a soft stuffed animal and night light (see below). These two items got them excited about their new routine.
Don’t neglect mentally preparing yourself, also!
- They will cry. They are not hurt. You take great care of them. Think of it this way- if your kids were running around with scissors and you took the scissors off of them, they would cry. However, you are looking out for them and keeping them safe. The same goes for ‘sleep training’ tears. Your kids are angry, but you are doing this for them. Don’t forget that!
- They will run out of their room. It is built into the nature of a child to resist change. They will continue to run out until they realize that you are not going to give in.
- They will sense weakness. Like little dictators, your children will sense any weakness. Be stern and strong. This phrase was never more true: if you give them an inch, they will take a mile.
- Get a comfort item for yourself too. May I suggest wine or ice cream? <wink>
Plan of Action
Develop a plan and stick to it. PERIOD. If you stray from the plan, this will all crash and burn. I called our plan the “Super Nanny Method”, because I saw it done on the show super nanny. Here is the layout of our defense plan:
- Step One: Deploy Nighttime Routine. Make sure they are tired, but not overly tired. Ensure they are not hungry, and they do not have to go to the bathroom (as these excuses will come up and distract you from your mission). Read a book, or whatever you typically do at night to get them ready for bed.
- Step Two: “The Talk”. Explain to them sternly and lovingly what will happen. You love them very much, they will stay in their beds, and you will see them for breakfast.
- Step Three: The inevitable battle. You will not “see them at breakfast”. In fact, you will see them in 30 seconds. They will run out crying (or laughing). They will do this over and over again. Remember this is EXPECTED behavior. If you give in, this will not work.
- Step Four: Do not show emotion. The first few times tell them sternly as you place them back in bed “I love you, but you have to stay in bed”. No more than that. Don’t even make much eye contact. After the first few times, say nothing. If you give in to the conversation, they will try to persuade or reason with you. This is not a negotiation.
As I mentioned earlier, I cleared our calendars for an entire week to prepare for this mission. The first night it took only 30 minutes of crying before they gave in, and the second night it took 15 minutes. By the third night, my kids were fully sleeping in their own beds. Once they learned to go to sleep on their own, they also instantly stopped waking through the night.
Once my kids were sleep-trained, our quality of sleep dramatically improved! We were all happier in the mornings, and I wasn’t getting kicked in the face all night. Win-Win for both sides! Not to mention, this was just in time for our new baby to come into the picture.
If you are ready to sleep train your kids, you can do this! I promise you will look back and think “that wasn’t so bad”.
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