Babblers, I am grateful for all of your helpful tips and advice, in response to my recent post. Thanks to your creative ideas (bribes) and timeless wisdom (more bribes!), my 4-year-old daughter, Hazel, who had been coming into our bed at night for the last year, is now sleeping in her own bed, all night, every night.
Here’s how we did it: I went to the dollar section at Target and loaded up on cheap “treats:” a frog wallet, chintzy Barbie clothes, sticky note pads, fancy ponytail holders, barrettes, sparkly nail polish, and Smarties – lots of Smarties. I also got a small digital alarm clock for her to keep on the shelf above her bed. On the first night of the bedtime regime change, Hazel and I sat down together and drew up a contract. It read as follows:
“IF Hazel stays in her bed until the first number on the clock says “6,” THEN she will get to choose one treat from the “treat box,” and one special movie to watch in the afternoon. IF Hazel does not stay in her bed until the first number on the clock says “6,” THEN she will get no treats and no movie.” We both signed the contract, and hung it on the wall, next to her bed.
Hazel struggled to remain in her bed that first night – her routine of waking up in the middle of the night and coming to our bed for reassurance was hard to break. When we reviewed the contract the next night, we agreed that it might be helpful to leave Hazel’s bedroom door open, and to put a nightlight in the hallway between our bedrooms. She said that would help her feel less “alone-ly.” That night was a big improvement – Hazel woke up a few times during the night, but checked her clock, and put herself back to sleep – no yelling for mama, not getting up. Just. Sleep. She has done this every night since and now, she doesn’t even wake up to check the clock – she sleeps all the way through the night, sometimes until 7 o’clock (!!). I am so proud of her, but most importantly, she is proud of herself. It’s been almost two weeks now, and we are all sleeping better than ever!
Finding the right bribes… excuse me, incentives, and sticking to my guns was the key to my success, I think. Involving Hazel in the incentives process (writing the contract, choosing her treat) didn’t hurt, either. So, to any parents out there struggling with bedtime issues, I say: You, too, can do it! Just bribe the hell out of those kids (whatever works), and prepare yourself for a couple of nights of sacrificed sleep, in the name of establishing a new routine. It’s so worth it!