In my most recent blog series, I’ve been explaining my 5 “C’s” of a happy bedtime for children. Last time I explored #3, Cuddle. Today, let’s have a closer look at #4: Clean Out.
Is your child a little one who just WILL NOT go to sleep? The one who pops out of bed as soon as you walk away so he can play with a toy, or who reads under the covers with a flashlight until all hours of the night? If you have a jack-in-the-box who pops up to keep playing, you’re going to have to discourage the behavior without escalating into a power struggle.
Take Away the Temptation
To avoid a power struggle, simply remove the temptation. These kids want stimulation instead of the quiet stillness that breeds sleep – and it’s understandable. That child wants to stay engaged, so when you enter the bedroom to correct the problem behavior you’re only adding to the reward… even if you think you’re doling out a punishment.
The best way to get out of that Catch-22 is to short-circuit it. If your child grabs a book, remove all the books from the bookshelves. Toys? Take them all out of the bedroom. If the immediate chance to engage with a favorite plaything is gone, it’s more likely that your little one will stay in bed in the first place.
As I mentioned in my last blog, co-sleeping presents its own set of challenges. In that situation, your child may want to engage with you more than with toys or books. Implementing a signal or a key phrase that says “time to stop talking and start resting” can help your child get into the habit of settling into stillness even while you’re still right beside her.
Though this may be the cardinal sin for attachment parents, it needs to be said. For some kids, solo sleeping is the only way they can relax and disengage from the desire to find stimulation. Just as removing the books and toys can help a child settle down, sometimes removing yourself is the best way to let a child rest peacefully. If you’ve co-slept for a long time this can be difficult, even heart-wrenching. But sometimes, that inability to relax is a signal that your child is ready to sleep in his own space.
Have you removed books and toys – or yourself – from your kids’ sleep space? What worked for you?