Saturday, August 21, 2010

Solving Toddler Sleep Battles

Long ago I promised a detailed description of one of our night time books. Before our crib to bed transition, our most recent problem was a combination of resisting going to bed, waking throughout the night AND waking early (as we have twins, I had one doing the early waking, one doing the middle of the night waking and both taking forever to fall asleep). So wonderful.

Each book should be specific to your children and your circumstances, but this outline will give you an idea of what to include. Additionally, you may want to read this post about what to include and how to approach making one of these books. 

Because we were struggling with early waking and refusal to go to sleep, I bought a Good Nite Lite which is basically a moon shaped night light that you set to turn to a sun at the desired wake up time. I showed the kids the new night light and showed them how it was going to turn into a sun when it was time to wake up. Before we read the book and told them (in an excited voice) that we were going to have great, new bedtime rules!  

Being excited about new rules is important - don't say that you are changing things because night time has been such a struggle. I suggest doing it instead as a special treat because they are ready to go to bed like big kids or ready to sleep in their beds because they are "almost 3" or whatever angle might work for your kids.

I drew the whole book but I am not a great artist by any means. The kids don't care and they totally get that the stick figure that I call by our son's name is him. If you have photos of the whole routine listed below, you can create a book on your computer or using Shutterfly or some such website. I like to use a ring binder for the book so that as their sleep issues change I can easily pull out pages and make new ones that are specific to whatever is going on and I don't have to start from scratch again. 

What To Include:
  • Page 1: Drawing of your children happily sleeping with a moon and stars above them.  Our text reads: "For a long time when it was time for John and Jane [use your kids' names, obviously] to go night night, Mommy and Daddy took John and Jane into their room, gave them a bath, read books, sang songs [list your night time routine here] and Jane and John went to sleep the WHOLE night until morning."
  • Page 2: Drawing of your children looking very happy with a sun shining.  "When Jane and John sleep all through the night they feel sooooo happy the next day and their bodies have sooooo much energy!"
  • Page 3: Drawing of your children, in crib/bed, waking up, calling for you. "But, for a little while now, when it's time to go night night, John and Jane tell Mommy and Daddy 'I need water!', 'I don't like my crib!", 'I don't want to sleep!'  And in the middle of the night John and Jane wake up and say 'fix my pillow!', 'fix my blanket', 'I have a stuffy nose!' [list whatever tactics your children use]
  • Page 4: Picture of your children up, looking sad and tired with sun shining.  "When Jane and John don't get good sleep at night they feel yucky and cranky the next day and their bodies feel tired so they have no energy to play."
  • Page 5: Picture of your whole family with a big heart around you all.  "Mommy and Daddy love John and Jane so much that we always need to be sure that they get great sleep so they can be happy and healthy children"
  • Page 6: Picture of "the Sleep Doctor" - official looking person in a lab coat with glasses.  "Mommy and Daddy called the Sleep Doctor and she helped us make a new plan to help John and Jane get good sleep"
  • Page 7: "Here's the new plan: (thumbnail drawing after each of the things included in your bedtime routine: a) Have a bath, b) Brush teeth, c) Put on pajamas etc. The last item on the list* is "then into the bed, last kisses and time to rest your bodies with "X" - whatever lovey, teddy bear etc. your child sleeps with. The last sentence on the night routine page is: "After last kisses Mommy will ask John and Jane if they want the door open or closed and they can choose. But we are all done talking, all done asking for things, it is time for sleep. Choice time is done. Now it is time for Mr. Moon".**
*This list is important because it is the "routine"; the kids can go through it with you each night so they get excited about it. If it is OK with you, they can also mix up the routine to, perhaps, brush teeth BEFORE putting on pjs or something along those lines. This sense of having some control over their bedtime routine can really help kids who may feel confused because you have previously given over the control of their night routine to them, but then you are usurping their "power" by forcing them to go to bed when YOU say it's time. The more places in their day that you give them considered choices over their life the less they feel the need to battle with us. 

Our son with "Blue Monkey"
** Please note that the last sentence about being all done talking was used here because our children were delaying saying goodnight by continually asking for more and more items. When children do this is it important to acknowledge to them that sometimes it is hard to say good night to mom and dad, but that you are right in the next room and are always here if you are needed. I knew my children well enough to know that this boundary would work for them. Be mindful of your child's personality and whether he or she may need more comforting. 

The book continues:
  • Page 8: Drawing of mommy or Daddy standing outside of the room with child awake and calling for you. "Mommy and Daddy know that sometimes it is hard to sleep all the way through the night. Mr. Moon is here to remind you that if you see him when you wake up that it is still time for sleep. If you call for Mommy I will tell you "I love you, I am here and it is time to sleep. But I am not coming into your room until Mr. Sun says 'Good Morning'".***
  • Page 9: Picture of a happy sun. When Mr. Sun says "Time To Wake Up!" Mommy and Daddy will come in and we can start our great day!"
Our daughter with "Beary"
***Again, this was the boundary I was setting with my children at this time based on what their struggle was. As they let go of calling me constantly at night to adjust their blankets and waking up at 5 a.m. to play, I adjusted the ending of the book to suit our needs. I don't want parents to arbitrarily deny their children comfort at night. You do need to tailor this to suit your children and your limits - while always keeping maintaining a loving connection as your main goal.

It will save you great frustration to realize that filling your child's emotional cup with love and reassurance at bedtime actually will get them to sleep faster than having a power struggle over the fact that they need to go to sleep! Firm, but loving, boundaries are what is needed. If your child calls for you, go to him. Acknowledge what he is saying, comfort him and remind him that it is time for bed. Children do need to know that you have boundaries and where their pushing needs to end. But this does not mean ignoring their needs. 

Wishing you all a good night's sleep! 
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3 Great Comments Made By Clicking Here!:

Jackie said...

I LOVE this sleep book idea! I feel some crafting coming on :)

Anonymous said...

Great idea, Gina! I remember my pediatrician told me about not engaging so I need to do a better job on that. :-)


Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, FINALLY a solution that might just work for our twins! They used to sleep 12-13 hour stretches at night - but once they began climbing out of their cribs, it was all over. This utilizes a tool I was already looking at, so it's perfect! Thank you so much!

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