Catching forty winks preschooler-style.

29Apr2013

The CRUNCH:
Catching forty winks preschooler-style.

CRUNCH deets:
You have fuzzy memories of co-sleeping with your sweet babe back in the day, but you kicked sleep issues to the curb many, many moons ago. Yet all of a sudden he’s waking in the night, calling your name, creeping into your bed and once again it’s just oh. so. easy to sleep together. But just like back in the day, you know this co-sleeping-band-aid is a slippery slope. And you’re about to fall.

The Fix:
The 3 C’s: console, communicate, and be consistent.

Fix deets:
When Alex was four, he struggled with “being alonely” at night. One nightmare followed by one night in our bed turned into many, many nights of “I had another bad dream,” as he climbed in and helped himself to my pillow. At first it was sweet, we’d cuddle and nod off, but, soon enough, he was kicking/sprawling/snoring and I’d awaken to his cough/drool/morning breath. Yup, I was donezo.

So, we had a daytime convo when he was in a good/chatty mood. I stuck to my general script of “Here’s the problem and here’s why it’s a problem. Do you have any ideas about how we can solve this together?” with a few pauses for some meaningful back-and-forth. Munchkins love being part of the solution and always come up with excellent/hilarious ideas. Some of my suggestions: cuddle his sleeping buddy (fave teddy bear) instead, take deep breaths (which we practice regularly to de-stress), and think happy thoughts (we brainstormed specific examples). Some of Alex’s suggestions: keep his bedroom door open, sleep with more sleeping buddies, keep the closet door closed, use a night light, and share a room with his little bro. We held off on the little (baby) bro room-share until the “baby” turned two, but implemented everything else. After writing down our ideas, I then filled him in on the rest of THE PLAN:

  • The first time he calls or comes into our room we hug/console/cuddle for a minute and then one of us leads him back to his bed, tucks him in, makes sure his buddies/light/doors are exactly as requested, tell him we’ll check on him in an agreed-upon time period, and then go back to bed.
  • Return after the set time (or if he saunters in again before time’s up), walk in and say “night-night, I’ll check back in {a longer agreed-upon amount of minutes}” and NOTHING else, quick kiss on the cheek, and back to bed.
  • Return again after time’s up, say nothing, quick kiss, and back to bed.
  • Repeat, extending the intervals each time and ignoring ALL of his attempts to draw you into a conversation. Stay silent peeps!

The more scared he is, the more frequent the check-ins need to be. Yup, this is tiring, and you’ll likely fall asleep while waiting it out, but do your best, especially Wagon napif he’s seriously afraid. Daytime sleep wasn’t part of the problem with Alex because he dropped naps the second he turned three, but if he is still sleeping in the day that’s the first thing to cut back/out… I know. But it’ll be worth it when bedtime becomes your favourite part of the day and mornings don’t involve a pre-pre-pre-dawn wake-up call.

Other aspects of THE PLAN included:

  • Honesty. Monster spray is not cool, guys.
  • Keeping the daily chats going. Reiterating that “night is for sleeping, not talking/crying/eating,” during the day helped him feel less ignored/sad/confused during the night.
  • Reassessing his sleep environment. He loved his night light but it actually woke him up in the 2am/3am zone. Ditto for his white noise machine. So we compromised: he’d start the night with them, we’d turn them off when we went to bed, and he could keep a flashlight under his pillow (as long as it didn’t turn into a toy).
  • Staying consistent. Which also meant picking a time when we had the energy to tackle the problem and weren’t sick/vacationing/toilet training.
  • Using his brainstormed ideas/requests as consequences if/when he tried to wake up the hood. He was totally reasonable by light of day but in the middle of the night… not so much. And he knew that crying was the easiest way to get attention, so when I zipped it, he amped it. At which point I calmly said “Can you stop crying and go to sleep or do I need to take Keswick away?” When he didn’t stop, I followed through and escaped to my room for some deep-breathing. Sure, I was concerned about him waking his baby bro, but it was only a night or three of interruptions and Jack slept through the brunt. After a minute, I returned to ask “Now can you stop crying and go to sleep or should I keep Keswick with me AND close your door?” It got easier/faster each time.
  • Praising/rewarding good nights the following day. Alex couldn’t have cared less about sticker charts, but he loved him some Mater tattoos. Any morning after he’d stayed in bed the whole night he received a tattoo and some extra excitement/props/love… which was really what he’d been going for all along.

Remember this:
It’s easy to fall into the habit of letting him into bed, and it’s perfectly okay when he’s sick or legitimately scared, but once you’ve decided it’s time to nip it then stick with the plan. The less attention he gets from you in the night, the less he’ll bother to get out of bed, the more rested you’ll be, the more attention you’ll be able to give him in the day. Booyah Mr. Boogeyman!

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