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Truth be told, my now 5 year old daughter has always given me a hard time when it comes to sleeping. (Eating too, but that’s a whole other bag of issues!). She wasn’t a great sleeper as a baby, but it was only after I let her sleep with me in my bed when she was sick, at age 2, that she decided she didn’t want to sleep in her own bed (crib) anymore. Looking back, I realize what an enabler I was being because most nights she would put up such a fight that it was easier to get a good night’s sleep with her beside me than to deal with the problem. Her Father (my ex-husband) was as much, if not more, of an enabler than I was which perpetuated the problem. I assumed she would grow out of this phase and return to sleeping in her own room again eventually. WRONG! She had zero intentions of ever sleeping in her own bed again and I was doomed to have the little restless kicking, flailing sleeper beside me for all eternity. Seriously, this kid travels when she sleeps! I felt hopeless and out of control on the matter and it was a cause of stress in my life.
At age 4 when Ryan came into our lives, I had gotten Olivia to sleep in her own room, in her own bed (hooray!) BUT, there needed to be music playing (fine), there needed to be several night lights on (fine), and Mommy needed to lay with her until she fell asleep (not fine). Ryan was shocked at the elaborate bed time routine that I had created which usually lasted hours. There would be every excuse in the book not to fall asleep: “I need water”; “I have to go to the bathroom”; “I need a snack”; “It’s too hot/cold”; “I’m scared”; “the wind isn’t blowing from the East”…ok I made up that last one but you get the picture. Sometimes she’d cry until nearly midnight until she was able to sleep in our bed or at least on the floor beside our bed. It was madness. I was still being a huge enabler and that needed to change. Luckily, Ryan was ever so supportive in helping bring that much needed change to our night time ritual. We had bought a house together and discussed with Olivia that when we move to the new house, she’s going to be a big girl and sleep in her new big girl room by herself. She was reluctant but with some persistence we have FINALLY ended bedtime battles for good!
Here’s How We Did It:
We Made Bed Time Fun (and funny!): We started the ‘getting ready for bed’ process earlier every night and included a longer tuck-in time together which included a story of her choice as well as “stuffy time” where Ryan would list the names of the several Beanie-Boo’s and stuffies she had in her bed, one by one, but making up silly names for them. For example, KiKi the cat, he’d call `Kiwi` and Scooter the Snail he’d call ‘Late for Work’. She would giggle and laugh making the idea of bedtime one to look forward to. Side Note: She would also pick funny books for bedtime stories. The Book with No Pictures and Count the Monkeys are her favourites!
We Were a United Front: We were firm and clear about the new rules of being a big girl and going to sleep on her own. She quickly figured out that she couldn`t play on our heartstrings with tears and carrying on because both parents were fully committed to the cause. She only tried the crying bit a few nights and then stopped completely. Eventually she started asking to go to bed all on her own!
We Kept a Light On: Most kids are afraid of the dark and Olivia is no different. We would have preferred a small nightlight but she insisted on a lamp which lit up the entire room. At first she wanted her door open AND our door open as well, so we spent many nights with light shining into our room. She now likes her door closed and could care less about ours!
We Played Music: At her daycare, the class listens to a CD called `Spirit Flutes` at nap time so she had become accustomed to falling asleep to it. I got it for us at home and put a small CD player in her room and put a sticker on the `Play` button. That way if she woke up in the night, she just had to hit the button with the sticker on it and she could go back to sleep on her own with ease.
We Keep a Water Bottle Beside her Bed: No more excuses for getting out of bed for a glass of water because she`s thirsty. She loves the Cool Gear Pink Emoji Princess water bottle.
We Put Crystals Under Her Pillow: We’re into healing crystals in this house! Amethyst (affiliate link) is said to improve sleep and give you good dreams. Olivia and I both sleep with Amethyst (affiliate link) under our pillows.
We Got Her the Tranquil Turtle: Ok let me rephrase that: she asked if she could have her baby brother`s Tranquil Turtle and we agreed if it meant she would sleep on her own. This thing is kind of a game changer. It`s a night light and plays music which shuts itself off after so many minutes. Step-Dad named it Turtellini which she finds hilarious and she sleeps with it every night.
Where are We Now?
While we have made amazingly great progress over the last year and have zero issues with bed time, we still felt we could improve. So, we told Olivia that starting in January 2018, we’d like her to try sleeping with no nightlight and no Spirit Flutes. We felt that this would improve the actual quality of the sleep she was getting as she would still toss and turn and wake frequently. To our surprise she agreed and now only falls asleep with her turtle. The other thing we did was encourage her constantly and let her know how proud of her we are for being a big girl.
The Struggle is Real
We know that with Olivia only being in our care half time, there are going to be differences in the way she is raised in each household. Unfortunately, we also know that our rules with regards to bedtime (as well as a lot of other things) are not enforced the same way in her other home. This makes it that much harder to keep consistency in her life. For any parents (and step-parents) who are reading this, consistency is key! Olivia knows now that we are not going to budge one bedtime because we are consistent. It took some patience but was so worth it in the end!
I hope this was helpful in getting your kids to sleep on their own!
With Love & Light,