Every parent will tell you about the struggles they have come across while trying to make their toddler sleep in a separate bed. They will tell you the usual tricks they have tried on their kid like reading a story, giving them their favorite toy, and none of them have worked the magic. The end result would almost always be a screaming, crying, and upset child, who would only fall asleep only next to the parents.
There isn’t a right or wrong answer about what to do to make your toddler start sleeping in his/her bed alone. Many parents will feel like they are not doing the right thing in this whole process, but they forget that every single kid is different, and what works for one might not work for another kid. Remember that failing over and over in this process doesn’t make you a bad parent. It only means you will need more tricks and time to successfully make this transition.
As a parent, you will come across many philosophies on what to do with your little one who just doesn’t want to go to bed. It might take you one single try and be successful, or it will take tens of tries before you make this transition with your kid. Bear in mind one thing. Sleep is not a want, it is a need. You and your kid need good sleep to function properly during the day.
Some parents stick to the philosophy of letting your toddler sleep with you until he/she decides to sleep alone. Other parents just need to sleep separately from their kids otherwise, they do not get the much-needed rest. Things get more complicated if you have more than one little kid that wants or needs to sleep next to you. Usually, when there are two or more, if one wakes up, the other ones will wake up as well. It will create chaos, and no one will get rest.
Some of the methods parents have tried, and also you can give a try as well, are variations on the camping out method and the Ferber method. These two methods are usually tried on infants, but there is no reason not to try them on the toddler as well. There have been some claims that these methods could psychologically harm the child, and we will get into that in this article.
1. Walking around the room
One interesting method you can try with a toddler is walking around the room. Yes, you read it right, walking. Ask your toddler to come out of his/her room and walk together back to bed as many times as it takes. When you see your toddler getting out of his/her bed, try not to show any emotion. Just repeat that it is time for bed and put him/her back to their bed. Usually, after several nights of going out and back to bed, the toddler will get tired of his/her stubbornness and get to the point. You can try rewarding your toddler every time he/she agrees to stay in bad. The reward can be of your choice, and hopefully, it will inspire your kid to accept the unavoidable.
2. “Open-door reward” method
The next method you can use is the so-called “open door reward” method. What this means is you let your toddler sleep with the door of his/her room open. The trick is if they get out of their room, the door will remain closed. If the toddler decides to play games but remains in his/her room, there is no punishment with closing the door. In case you hear your toddler crying, just go back in and share some nice words with the kid, reassure him/her that you love them, but they need to start sleeping in their bed. If the toddle still refuses to get to bed, simply get out of the room and close the door. Occasionally check on your kid to see what he/she is doing. This is similar to the Ferber method I mentioned above. After several nights of this routine, the toddler will overcome his/her stubbornness and stop refusing to go to bed in his/her room. In a way, this method gives the child sort of control over the whole situation.
3. “Bedtime with iPad” method
On the Internet, you can find the “Bedtime with iPad” method, but in our opinion, it rarely works, and we suggest not to try that method. The blue light from the device will prevent melatonin release, thus keep the toddler awake for hours. Let’s say the toddler falls asleep with the device in his/her hands. You will encourage your child to develop bad habits. I know it is hard, but you will have to find a way to resist the need to keep phones and tablets in your toddler’s bed.
4. Cry-it-out method
Lastly, the cry-it-out method, which many will give a try, but I would not recommend it. This method introduces a lot of stress for the toddler, and there is the possibility of the method interfering with attachment.
What you need to do is pick one method and stick to it for a while, don’t give up easily. Sometimes you can make exceptions like whether to lay down with your child or not. It is advised not to lay down with your child, but if it is sick, upset, or overtired, you can lay down with him/her to calm the child down.
Try not to talk with the toddler. Just be there for him/her. Sometimes, but not often, if nothing is helping, you can use melatonin. This naturally occurring hormone is responsible for triggering sleep. You can get this supplement in any drug store, but be very careful how much and how often you use it because there will be some side effects. A low-dose of the melatonin supplement used for up to 5 days shouldn’t create any health problems for your toddler, and it could help you re-program the toddler’s body clock. That being said, it is always best to talk to your pediatrician before you go and start using this supplement on your toddler.
Always make sure that your child feels safe, and when he/she is sick or scared, they can come to you for support. Just because you are trying to develop a proper sleeping schedule doesn’t mean that your toddler should feel punished and not be able to come to you for support. In the event when your toddler is sick, you are going to have to get off schedule; thus, the sleep-training will be postponed for a while, and you might even need to start all over again.
But hey, now you know what it takes to get him/her on the right track, so there is no need for panic. Teaching your toddler to go to sleep is considered a life skill, and you will most likely revisit it many times before your toddler becomes an adult. Hopefully, your little one will see the benefits of a good night’s sleep and will stop refusing to go to bed when he/she should.