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Trip, Trip, Trip... Here Is Your Night Visitor Again!

Night Visits From Your Child

In the middle of the night you hear, trip, trip, trip and your bedroom door opens. It's not hard to imagine who it is and when you feel your little one climbing into your bed, you are sure.

Rest assured, this behavior is both common and healthy. Your toddler or preschooler is searching for comfort and security and you are the one in his or her mind that provides for it. Plus, nature has a built in mechanism that, almost automatically, causes you to provide for that need.

When you and or your toddler are really losing a lot of sleep because of these night visits, it's a different story. Using one of five proven methods to encourage your toddler to stay in his bed throughout the night. Find the one that works best for you by experimentation.

However, before I explain these methods, it's important to remember this: Don't send mixed messages to your toddler. Learn from the following example about a woman who very gently and responsibly taught her child to stay in his own bed all night.

Although she wanted her little one to sleep in his own bed, she also enjoyed the closeness with her child. What happened? She couldn't sleep and in the middle of the second night she got in the little ones bed! So, back to square one. Before you decide on a plan of action, get in touch with your own feelings about the matter. If there is one thing that children are very good at picking up, it is your uncertainty.

Have you ever told your child, No when he or she wanted a cookie? If you really meant no way, chances are that your child realized that No was the end of it, but if you thought, Oh well, one cookie.., then all was lost. Your child easily picked up your emotions through your hesitation. Children are experts in picking up your emotions! Therefore it is very important not to sent mixed messages. Know what you want and stick to it. If I got a dime for every time one of my childs started to "negotiate with me" (and often won), I would now have a nice sum in the bank.

Also consider:

  • Is your sleep or your partner's sleep interrupted because of your night visitor?
  • Are you and your partner still able to enjoy your privacy? Lack of privacy can be a killer for a relationship.
  • Do you really want your child to stay in his own bed or are outside pressures (school, neighbors, parents) the cause of your concern?

Lets say you and your partner agree that it's okay that baby stays in his own bed. So, how do you proceed?

  • Allow your child to come into your room at night, but you don't allow him in your bed. Tell him gently to go back to his own bed. If necessary, an intermediate solution is to set up a sleeping place for the child in your room.
  • Tell your child that it is okay to come to your room and get in bed only if the lights are on. An alternative is to set a radio timer and tell him or her that it's all right to come in if the music is playing.
  • Make it a privilege. Allow your child to sleep with you only during the weekends or other specified days. However, you may experience problems with this tip. First of all, the days of the week are not always clear to children and secondly (and again very important), you and your partner need private time. Still, fun in Mom and Dad's bed on Sunday mornings will create memories that will last your child a lifetime!
  • This one is difficult at first but often has a good result. If your little one comes in, gently tell him or her that he has to sleep in his own bed. Remember, it's safety and warmth with Mom and Dad that kids want. Bring your toddler back to his or her own bed and explain that you all need to sleep in your own beds, otherwise you'll all get grumpy. If the child returns, repeat the process. Bring your toddler lovingly back to his own bed and. do this without exception. Tell the child Mommy/Daddy loves you, but now it is night and we have to go to sleep. Rub your baby's back and you may even lay with him for a short while. Make exceptions only if your child is sick or extremely upset. However, even in this case, gently escorting your toddler back to bed may be enough.
  • Reward your child. Hang a calendar in plain view and for every night he or she stays in his own bed, mark the calendar with a cross or a sticker. To start, after three stickers reward the child with a special treat like a trip to McDonald's.
  • These methods are by no means the Holy Grail. Try those that suit you best and you will definitely notice a huge improvement.

    Always remember to be patient. In teaching little children, things often take longer than they do with adults. Whatever you do, be firm but loving. Don't leave your child out in the cold. Let your child know that his or her well-being is your main concern.

    Linda is mother of two, she is an inspired author of the Baby Strollers Guide and the Baby Products Guide

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