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How To Get Your Toddler to Stay in Bed and Sleep Through the Night


If you are like most parents, you dream of the day that your toddler will sleep through the night.  We train them as babies to sleep through the night and then suddenly the moment that they feel like sleeping in bed with their parents is right.

It was not until my umpteenth groin kick from a toddler that made his way from his bed to ours that we made the decision that something had to be done.  I wanted our bed back, my wife wanted our bed back, and our son needed to sleep.  He was coming into our bed so many times that I was beginning to wonder if he was even sleeping.  On top of this, he was transitioning to no longer taking a nap.  This just added to the fact he needed to have a better night’s sleep.

We were scouring the internet looking for any way to carry out the nearly impossible feat of getting him to stay in his bed at night.  At one point we began to think that maybe he was sleep walking.  The only thing he would do when he would get out of bed is come to our room, crawl into our bed, and sleep in between me and my wife, so we assumed sleepwalking was out of the question.

We start to think about what worked in the past to get the Kid to a new habit.  We looked back to potty training and the bright idea of rewarding him.  When the Kid was going through potty training, we created a sticker chart and once he filled it up by using the big boy potty, we went out and let him get a prize.  It wasn’t until the moment that he filled it up the first time that he finally got it and after that potty training was a breeze.

Looking back at that for inspiration, we had to figure out a way to reward him for staying in bed.  On the worst nights he would get out of bed 3-4 times.  Recently, we have talked that the Kid should start to be able to earn an allowance, only when is good and helps around the house.  He has seen toys at Target that he has wanted but we keep telling him that we do not have the money and maybe he will just have to earn it. With the money part in mind we decided that he could earn a dollar night.  Every time he would get out of bed we would take a quarter from that dollar and whatever is left in the morning would be his.  We ask him what he wanted to get when he earned enough money and he immediately mentioned a new die-cast car from the Cars line.

The next question was how we would track how many times he gets out bed or how would my wife keep track.  I’m a deep sleeper and anytime he was coming into bed I would never wake up, unless there was a groin kick involved.  It was to the point where my wife was annoyed that I would never get up with him, just yet another reason we needed to figure this out.  My wife is a former teacher and kept most of the stuff that she had in her classroom and one of those items were a set of four stop signs that were on popsicle sticks.  Each of those stop signs would represent a quarter.

How To Get Your Toddler to Stay in Bed

The first night we made sure to make a big deal about this.  We told him that any time he got out of bed he would need to bring us one of the stop signs. This eventually has turned into us taking a sign when we take him back to his room.  The first night we made sure that we kept at least one sign to help him understand what he would be getting.  That night he only got up 3 times.  The 2nd night of this process he got up twice.  The 3rd night he was up twice, and the fourth night only once. Then on the 5th night, we reached the goal, he slept through the night!  We made sure that each time we gave him the money to tell him just how proud he was that he was doing this.

It worked!  We never saw this day coming but it came.  More importantly our bodies had no idea what to do with the amount of sleep that we were getting.  Not only could we see a change in our moods but the kids overall demeanor was 100 times better than before.   Ever since he stopped taking a nap his attitude changed for the worst.  We knew all he needed was sleep and now he is getting it and is much MUCH more bearable.

Most parents find a time where their kids won’t sleep through the night difficult, rightfully so.  Every kid is different and you have to read how they respond to change.  Being able to read how your child responds to new situations or changes is key to helping you and your child make it during the new changes that are coming your way.

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About The Rookie Dad

I am husband and father foremost. Secondly, I am a PBS producer and contribute to Traveling Dads and Dads Round Table.

Posted on January 21, 2014, in Parenting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Your Loving Wife

    I think it’s important to note that we don’t take a stop sign away for legitimate reasons for getting out of bed. Last night he had an accident at 3am and came and told us. We decided not to take away stop signs for that because we don’t want to punish him for being responsible. Eventually (hopefully) he’ll learn how to get up and ‘go’ on his own and put himself back to bed.

    We also plan to eventually reduce the number of stop signs as he gets better about staying in bed. I’m sure that process will take several weeks. We should post an update in a month or so to let your readers know how it’s working!

    Love,
    Mrs. Rookie Dad

    • Last nights incident happened after the deadline for publishing of this post. But yes, taking a sign for a legitimate reason is not something we will do because it sends the wrong message to him, to him it would appear that he is being punished for doing something that we WANT him to do.

  2. My husband sent the link to your post to me at work today and I am seriously grateful for it! We’re going to give this a try.
    May I ask how you explained it to him?
    Our son is almost 4 now, so I’m not sure how to best explain this deal so he’ll really get how it works.
    Also, do you escort your son right back to his bed when he comes to crawl in with you? Or do you (barring any needs like using the potty or clean up after an accident) let him stay for a bit and then escort him back when he’s ready? (I suspect I know the answer, but I want to be sure)
    Thanks again! Really helpful post!! We’ll let you know how it works out for us. 😀

    • We just told him that anytime he got out of bed that he needed to bring a stop sign to us and that if he had any left he would get money that he could spend on a toy that he really wanted. Now, the key here is to let him earn some money the first night so he can see what he is getting. Make it a big deal too, make sure to congratulate him after earning some money. It does take some time for them to understand, but after that you should be golden! If they have done a good job during the week let them get what they want within reason with their money even if it does cost just a bit more then he earned.

  3. We’ve been battling this for YEARS!! Thanks for sharing, I’m going to try this. My problem is when he stealthfully sneaks into my bed and I wake up to him sound asleep.

  1. Pingback: I Woke Up the Parenting Gods! | The Rookie Dad

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