Who's Sleeping in my Bed?
“Every night,” Dad complains, “Molly is climbing into our bed. We can’t get a good night’s sleep.” Mother reports, “When Molly comes in at night, Dad puts her in between us.” Allowing the child into the parents’ bed at night informs the child this is acceptable behavior. She surely won’t want to change her habit. What can you do? This project requires tactics and patience. Work together as a team, if you want the child to understand she is expected to sleep in her bed all night from now on.
First: inform your child she will be sleeping in her own bed all night long starting tonight. Begin this process early in the day. Make sure both parents are committed to the challenge. “Molly, mom and I have decided you will stay in your bed all night long,” says father. “NO,” declares Molly, “I sleep with momma.” Refrain from arguing the point with Molly. Molly is receiving information that will make sense to her later on.
Later: remind her throughout the day that both mom and dad have agreed she will sleep in her own bed all night long. The more Molly hears the message, the more real it becomes. At bedtime, parents read books, say goodnight, and leave Molly. “Remember,” says Mother, “my daughter is going to sleep in her bed all night long.” “No,” says Molly, attempting to break her parents’ tactical maneuver. But the parent only smiles and says, “My daughter will sleep in her bed all night long.”
You can offer your child a reward as well. A piece of licorice can be taped above her doorway with the promise that “Someone who sleeps in her bed all night long can have that piece of licorice.” I want it now,” says Molly. The parents counter with, “Someone who sleeps in her bed all night long can have that piece of licorice in the morning.” No need to speak directly to her at that time, as that can easily reinforce the behavior of her talking back to you. However, using the third person allows her to receive the information without the parent having to speak directly to her.
Next: (the most difficult for parents) you must maintain some level of consciousness when your daughter is tiptoeing down the hallway to your room. You hear her as she moves down the hallway. You are out of bed before she gets to the door. As she meets you in the hallway, you turn her around and lead her back to her bed, no matter what. Your one goal is to get Molly back into her bed as swiftly as possible. Once in bed, there is no talking. That will only make her want to talk more, and you wish her to know that this is sleep time.
Stay in her room and wait for her to fall asleep. Return to your room and have that radar on that tells you she is coming back for another try. Meet her at the doorway again and repeat the scenario with no talking. Each night, move farther and farther away from your spot in her room than the night before. This behavior helps Molly become less dependent on you to be with her. It is a withdrawal process. In time, you will take her back to her bed then sit out in the hallway. Molly may say, “Daddy, I’m scared.” All you need to say is “sleep.” This will work, because you are consistent with the message that Molly is expected to sleep in her own bed and you are persistent with the objective. In less than two weeks, Molly will be sleeping soundly all night in her own bed, and you will get the restful sleep you deserve. Just make sure that Molly gets that piece of licorice ASAP in the morning when she has stayed all night in her bed. That will make it all worthwhile to her.