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Please Go to Sleep!

Please Go to Sleep!

“Not again! It’s your turn,” mom says to dad.

“I put her back to bed three times while you were in the bathroom. You get the next three!”

Nothing can be more frustrating than looking forward to that small break between their bedtime and yours, only to realize that, instead, you are called on for even greater patience, skill, and inexhaustible energy to keep them there.

Usually this challenge starts when your little ones realize they have the power. So when they crawl over the crib, or crib extender, it’s onward to a toddler bed, and now it’s “game on.”

Several things are helpful at this stage:

  1. Hopefully you already have a bedtime routine.  If not, implement one. Most routines should be no longer than 15-30 minutes. Something like—read/cuddle, prayer, kiss, tuck, “night night.” Keep your voice soft, yawn a lot and stick to the same routine.


  1. If they magically appear, do not make eye contact.


  1. Whatever you do, don’t smile or laugh. Sometimes they can be absolutely adorable, but if they see a positive reaction from you, you have just encouraged them to do it again.


  1. Do not reward the behavior with tenderness. This is not the right time for comfort or cuddles, even if they cry.


  1. Silently lead your baby back to bed. When you put the child in bed, say in a firm voice “Stay in bed.” Say nothing else.


  1. No matter what, do not argue, do not soothe, do not try and use logic, (i.e., Mommy is right in there….be Mommy’s good boy”). When you talk, it delays your child’s time alone in bed, and rewards them with conversation. And even if you are using a scolding voice, remember, even negative attention is still attention.


  1. If after a few nights this is not working, you might need more drastic measures. It will be worth your time. Camp outside your child’s bedroom door. The second you hear feet hit the floor, look in and say, “No. Stay in bed.” Point instead of leading them back to bed (still no eye contact, no conversation). If you must, lead them back. Resume your position. Repeat. Most folks say that after five or six trials, lots of tears and little tantrums, that within two or three nights, the problem is over.


  1. Some people have tried baby gates at the child’s door. Not a good idea. They may try and crawl over it, and could get hurt.


  1. Some folks try shutting the door. This isn’t a good idea. This move tells your child that those he needs to trust are cut off from him and won’t respond to his problems.

When we stop the baby boomerang, nap time and bed time become break time for parents. And we all know that our children need rest, and so do we, in order to have happy, healthy relationships.

By Dr. Deborah M. Maxey PhD

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