This question was asked during one of my CTV parenting segments.
how to get my child to sleep through the night?
Seems easier said than done but like anything with being a parent, consistency is key. To begin with we’ll take a look at how to get them in bed in the first place and then later, how to keep them there.
Routine is everything
First make sure you have a good bedtime routine, where the progression of events are always the same. Then, make sure that the obvious has been taken care of it so your child has gone to the bathroom and done all the other bits and pieces, like having a drink etc. If your kids are really ruling the roost, then it’s something I should help you with through my behaviour intervention services.
Then, show through your expectations that you expect your child to do as you’e asked and stay in their room. Many parents think that if they hang around outside the door or wait in some way for their child to settle, they’ll make life easier for themselves and the child. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. If you hang around after you ask your child to do something, you are telegraphing that you don’t expect them to listen to a word you just said. So what do you think will happen? Well, they’ll come on out. So what you have to do is to give them the impression that you trust them completely to do as you’ve asked. How do you do that? By showing that you are so confident they will listen to you that you can get involved in something else.
Expect them to listen to you
Now you know deep in your heart, that they’re likely be difficult and come out so you prepare for that eventually. The key is to not show that you expect that as an outcome. So, you want to find something to do nearby your child’s room where you can look confidently busy with something that isn’t them. Find a cupboard to clean, wash out the sink. I’m sure you can think of a few things to do and then wait.
You have set yourself up so you have time to deal with the situation. You are not doing it on the fly with dishes to do and laundry to sort downstairs. In other words, you have put yourself in a position where you can react without all the irritation that come with them interrupting the few short moments you have to yourself. So when your child pops out, take them back gently but with absolutely no attention at all. No eye contact. No chat…nothing. The only time when that is not the case, is if they have had a nightmare and are scared or they’re in pain etc.
Simply take them back to bed as many times as is necessary. Don’t put the covers back on, they will simply kick them off anyway. Eventually they will get bored and they will go to sleep. It may take hours and several days of doing this. Be prepared while you go through this period for them to try again in the middle of the night and simply do the same thing then. Don’t have a chat. Don’t give glasses of milk. Don’t cuddle. Simply take them back to bed, lower your tone and just sound oh, so boring.
We all have light sleep periods in the night when we can wake up and it’s a skill to learn to relax, release tension and go back to sleep. Children need to learn that skill and often when they wake up in the night over and over again, it’s because their parent has become their de-facto soother. They need the glass of milk, the soother, the cuddle or whatever to get back to sleep. If they continue to get any attention in the middle of the night, they will keep waking up as you have given them something to wake up for. If you deny them that attention, they will stay asleep and soon they will realize the wonderful rest that comes with an uninterrupted night’s sleep. Then they’ll be grateful. Life is so ironic isn’t it? For more help with your parenting, please visit my parenting services page.