Chairs to Bedtime, I’ll drink to that!! From Coffee or Vodka? Parenting 911

Dear: Parenting 911

Hi, I really enjoy reading your blog / article.  As a first time mom everything is new territory for me, and your blog has been a go to guide for me lately. That being said, my four year old Abel is posing a huge sleep issue in my home….EVERY NIGHT Abel refuses to sleep anywhere except my bed. Recently my boyfriend Mark and I finally took the next step of our three year relationship and moved in together.

Prior to the new place Abel had ALWAYS slept with me. It was a an easy and convenient solution to the problem of sharing a single bedroom in my parents home. Although Mark and Abel are very close, and Mark treats him like his own; Mark and I both feel uncomfortable having Abel in ( OUR ) bed. Now I feel guilty trying to change this by demanding he stay and sleep in his own room.

Since I started and enabled this sleep ritual, I don’t want him to feel that I’m deliberately “being mean” because of Mark, or choosing my boyfriend over my son. This lack of sleep and the awful discomfort of trying to cram into a toddler bed so Mark gets some sleep is relentless torture. I / we really need Abel to begin to separate sleep with ” Our bed”.

How can I please everyone?
Sincerely — A night cap.

Dear: A night cap :
Okay so you clearly recognize the problem that’s a great start. The problem being you made the rules early on, and now you want to change them. In a four year old’s world you might as well have packed his things and left him on a doorstep. Being evicted from mommy’s bed, where, it’s safe, warm, comfortable, and inviting…..is a mortal sin to a four year old…What are you thinking mom? The problem now is…You are doing the right thing, and your ALL paying for it. Its an extremely difficult thing to live in and share the confines of one bedroom. Since that is no longer the case, and you have a new environment -you now have the ability to establish new boundaries.

Every fairy tale with a happy ending has a villain. So break out you horns and pitchfork, AbeHELL is about to have a melt down .With new living arrangement comes new routines- START THERE :
A) Make a bedtime checklist perhaps on poster board or something he can see EVERY NIGHT. With every completed task let him put a sticker on the board beside the task. Tell him that once he reaches (the amount you deem appropriate), he will receive a prize. But the prize should always involve” special mommy and Abel time”. Try doing something new with him. Do activities that promote independence, and interactions , or that have the potential to build his social skills. Set the bedtime goals to things he is sure to complete.  I.E.: Get into PJ’s, pick out a book, brush teeth etc. The last task being to ”  get in his own bed” and stay there till morning, when he can add a GIANT sticker for staying in his bed all night.
B) Make sure his “new” room is aesthetically pleasing to him. Have him help with picking the decor. Perhaps putting a recognizable and familiar thing in his room matching the one in yours; be it a painting or picture of the two of you.
C) Take him to Build-a-Bear and make him a “sleep buddy” or “bed friend”. Most Build-a-Bear’s offer a recording device that you can build right into his buddy. Record your voice singing lullabies,  or a few soothing words. That way when he is lonely, scared, or uncomfortable  squeezing his buddy and hearing your voice can at least curb the temptation to run to the  ”  safe haven”that is- your bed.
D) Try to duplicate the feel of your bed. As your aching spine is all to familiar with the unacceptable feel of a toddler bed; with its  over- starched 50 / 50 poly-cotton blend sheets and crunchy crib mattress, a toddler bed is ( just not the same).
E) BE CONSISTENT………. I can’t stress that enough…
If you cave or give in,  even a portion of the time, this WILL NOT work. Stick to the parental play book and DON’T. Back down. Four year olds sniff out weakness like a vulture smells an injured animal from the sky.
F) If by now all else has failed, and the monotonous “musical beds” game is still in full swing, then pull up a chair……literally. Time for some Jedi mom tricks! >>>>
1) Do the bedtime routine chart as usual.
2) This time mentally and physically prepare for a two week stint in “The Battle of Wills”.
3) Grab a chair.
4) After the story time part of your routine, shut off the main light, turn on his night light ( though I think a small fish tank is far more helpful).
5) Have a giant hugs and kisses session saying goodnight.
6) Put the chair right up to his bed,
7) Explain that you are going to sit there while he falls asleep.
8) Sit quietly.(If he continues to talk, DO NOT engage him, you simply ignore his request for attention. I know it seems harsh but it’s not, IT’S EFFECTIVE.
9) If he gets out of bed, he gets a warning, and placed back in bed lovingly one more kiss and hug, an I Love You and a Goodnight. If he continues to get up after that-firmly but calmly return him to his bed without a word. ( Repeat as many times as necessary till he has fallen asleep…IN HIS BED).
10) Each night of the two weeks move the chair just a few inches toward the door and away from his bed. By the end of week two you should be sitting outside his doorway, then not at all.
He will soon realize his incessant crying, whining, and sleep refusals…are useless. By night 6 this should be a cake walk for you both.
Hope this helps…..
Sincerely — Heather C of.
!!Coffee
Or Vodka!! Parenting 911
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Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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