She heard her cry through the monitor for the fourth time that night. It started with toddler night waking two years ago. At age four, she was still going strong. Each time she finally drifted off to sleep and settled into a deep sleep, there she was calling her to wake. What do you do when a toddler keeps getting out of bed? On top of that, what do you do when it bleeds over into the preschool years?
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“Mom. Mom. MOM!” she whisper shouted over the monitor and into her ear (yes, that’s a thing).
Outside of the green light emitting from the alarm clock, her room was pitch black. Each time she went into his room, a green-shaded face of her four-year-old daughter appeared exactly one inch from her face.
This scared the candy bars right out of her!
There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. It turns you into an angry mom and a tired mom, who resorts to hiding in the bathroom with three chocolate bars—one Reese’s and two Snickers—to emotionally cope after the kids are in bed.
How do you keep your kids from waking up at night and get your sanity back?
Bad habits are hard to break, and maybe you tried for a night or two to keep your kids in bed, and it didn’t work. Was your child afraid to sleep alone so you got stuck in a habit you weren’t ready to commit to? Then you gave up and kept plugging along with night waking for another six months. Then you had enough again and tried to keep your kids in bed during the night.
BUT again, it didn’t work.
Positive solutions when your toddler keeps getting out of bed or waking up.
There are three strategic positive parenting options to try and all can yield results in a few days, with a possible complete behavior shift within a few weeks.
For each method, I would commit to at least one week of giving it a try (sometimes more) before moving on. Change is hard for kids. Resistance is expected.
If after a week, you see zero improvement, move onto another option. If you see some improvement, you may want to keep trying.
1. Use the “Excuse Me” technique.
This is one of 100 key phrases I talk about in my book Helpful Phrases and here’s how it works…
On the first night, push bedtime back to a later time so your child is good and sleepy. Go through your normal bedtime routine and then lay your child down in his bed. Sitting next to her, offer comforting touches and after she is in bed for a bit say, “You’re doing a great job staying in bed. Excuse me. I forgot something. I’ll be right back.”
Leave and come back a few minutes later. Resume touches and positive reinforcement such as, “You are snuggled up and relaxed so nicely in bed.” Then leave again after you say, “You’re doing a great job staying in bed. Excuse me. I need to go do something. I’ll be right back.” Continue repeating this at random intervals and slowly extending the amount of time you are out of the room before returning.
Ideas for excuses:
- I need to take out the garbage.
- I forgot to turn the light out.
- I have to go to the bathroom.
- I have an eyelash in my eye.
- I need to grab a tissue.
The Goal: Allow your child to fall asleep when you are out of the room during an “Excuse me” moment.
Each night continue to increase the “Excuse me” intervals, weaning your child from your presence in the room at bedtime. You can also use the “Excuse me” technique during night waking to get your child to fall back asleep in their own bed.
(Source: Yancy & Kuhn)
2. Wake them back up technique.
“Wake to sleep” is something I talk about in For the Love of Sleep to help your child with habitual night waking (waking up at approximately the same times each night). You can even use this technique with a baby who wakes habitually. I’ve used it several times and experienced excellent results.
Here’s how it works:
Whatever time your child wakes up at night, set your alarm for approximately 30 minutes prior. Then go into your child’s room and gently arouse him or her enough to bring them back to light sleep or barely awake and then put them back to bed. Sometimes, I even wake my toddler up, take him potty and put him back to bed. He usually remains in a sleep stupor and falls right back asleep. For a baby, you would rustle him or her into a light sleep and then leave the room.
The goal is to reset your child’s sleep cycle. Once you reset your child’s sleep cycle, she will sleep through the typical night waking time. Try this for 3 nights in a row to break the habitual night waking habit.
3. Rule out sugar sensitivity.
A while back, I posted on my Facebook page about sugar keeping kids awake at night. This mom struggled for years with night waking and saw dramatic results after removing sugar from her child’s diet after a certain time of day.
She went from multiple night waking episodes per night to ZERO by simply removing sugar after a certain time of day. Pretty impressive!
If you are struggling with night waking, I definitely think it’s something worth considering.
The other thing you can try is the Gummy Goods Red Night Light. Red is important because the color doesn’t emit daytime light frequencies. Blue, green and white lights send your body “daytime” light messages, making your kids more likely to wake up and stay awake.
Teaching kids to stay in their own bed is a huge struggle among parents. Toddler tantrums at bedtime, night waking and wanting to come into your bed are all normal behaviors; it’s our response that can change the outcome. If you feel stuck and you are looking for a few toddler sleep solutions, these are real solutions that work without doing anything extreme.
Make bedtime easier with printable routine cards.
To make bedtime even easier, we use a set of printable routine cards that helps our oldest get ready for bed all by himself. There are mealtime, chore, play and morning routine cards included too!
Want more on parenting?
- How to Handle Bedtime Tantrums…7 Hacks That Work
- The Real Reason Why Kids Never Want to Sleep
- One Simple Trick to Help Kids Fall Asleep Fast
- How Routines, Schedules and Early Bedtimes Strengthen My Marriage
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