1. Choose a quiet week
Avoid anything that will throw your child’s routine out. It’s no good starting a new sleep routine on a Wednesday, and then going away for the weekend a few days later. You need a clear week of being at home without any major upheavals-no visitors and no late nights, so you can focus all your energy on him.
2. Stay low-key
Start your wind-down from the time your toddler has tea. Make sure there’s no rough and tumble when Dad gets home, and switch off the TV. Aim to make this time as boring as possible. Have a set bedtime – around 7pm is good, then you can have time with your partner later. Give your toddler a quiet bath. Add a few drops of soothing lavender essential oil to calm him even more.
3. Dim the lights
Set your scene in advance. Bright lights won’t help him settle, so turn down the dimmers in the bathroom and bedroom or use a soft lamp. You’re now ready for a cuddle and a story.
4. No chatting
Don’t be tempted to have a heart-to-heart as you sit by the bedside. Just put him into bed and say: ‘It’s bedtime now, it’s time to go to sleep.’
5. Don’t linger
Once your child is in bed, you have two choices. If he’s okay about you going downstairs, say: ‘I’m now going downstairs to have my dinner.’ Go straight away and don’t be tempted to linger.
If your child is clingy, say: ‘I’ll sit on the floor beside the bed while you fall asleep.’ Each night, sit a little further away from the bed. When he starts to snooze, sneak out. Within four nights you should be sitting next to the door.
6. Stay in control
If your toddler comes downstairs or has hysterics once you’ve gone downstairs, lead him back to his room. Don’t talk and don’t give any eye contact. You might feel as if you’re giving in by having to sit back by his bed, but you’re still controlling the situation.
7. Lead him back
Never let your toddler slip into your bed in the middle of the night – you’re simply rewarding him for waking up. Instead, say: ‘Come on, back to bed, it’s sleep time now,’ and then lead him back to his own bed.
8. Be firm
Don’t be tempted to let your toddler back into your bed if he has a nightmare or if he isn’t feeling very well – you must stick to your guns. Comfort him in his own bed, but not in yours. Illness may well put back any progress you’ve made, but stay firm.
9. Start praising
Buy a star chart and award a star for every night he stays in his own bed. After five stars, give your child a gold star and a small treat. It doesn’t have to be expensive – even a short trip out with Mummy will count. Give plenty of praise and be prepared to go over the top. As soon as he has a good night’s sleep, say: ‘What a clever boy you’ve been!’
10. Keep your temper
It can be tough, but keep your temper! No matter how you feel inside, be as calm but firm as possible. There’s no point in shouting at a child to go back to sleep. Let your voice and mood match the dimmed lighting and wind-down period. Stay positive and tell yourself you will succeed!
- If you have a problem with a child sleeping, call Cry-sis on 08451 228 669, or visit www.cry-sis.org.uk