Lately my six-year-old daughter has begun to cry and scream at bedtime after we tuck her in. After our 30- to 45-minute routine there are pleas to tickle her back, questions asked over and over, demands to lay with her, claims that she is scared or has a sore stomach. After our final “no” she ‘freaks out’. This is upsetting for everyone, including our three older children. She also has come into our bed in the night since she was a toddler. Any suggestions?
Your daughter is no longer able to put herself to sleep. She needs sleep training. Her climbing into bed with you for years, however, may slow the immediate results. Just don’t lose faith – there is light at the end of the tunnel!
Follow these steps:
- Start on a Friday night (if Saturday is not a work day for you and your husband) because you may feel sleep-deprived the next day.
- After you the usual 30-minute routine put your daughter to bed.
- Sit on the floor looking straight ahead. Do not look in the direction of your daughter.
- Say only “Shhh, time to sleep,” when she tries to speak. Add nothing. Do not look at her or speak to her at all.
- Stay with her until she has settled or is asleep.
Every two or three nights, move closer and closer to the door. By week two you will be outside the door. She can no longer see you but has the reassurance that you are there by the sound of your voice. Before long she will be able to sleep unassisted.
SHARING YOUR BED
When she comes to your bed in the middle of the night:
- March her back to her own bed immediately. Be calm, but have no conversation.
- Make no eye contact. No chit chat. Once again, say only “Shhhh, sleep.”
- Sit on the floor outside her room (or wherever you’re at in the process) until she has settled.
It’s tough, but short-term pain equals long-term gain. Stay strong and see it through.
Note: Whoever starts the routine must stick with it each evening – no switching. The next night your husband can take over so you catch up on sleep, but be sure you’re both on the same routine.
Good luck and, ultimately, sweet dreams.
Published May 2010