Until recently, bedtime was never easy with my 7-year-old daughter. Since birth, she was very accustomed to sleeping in my bed, and I often justified reasons why it was okay for her to jump right in with me. “Well, she had a bad day. I got home late tonight. She’s really scared.” Aside from being kicked all night and having a little furnace glued to my side, I enjoyed the snuggle time.
But I knew the slumber party needed to end.
Getting cut off was a big adjustment for my daughter. Tucking her into HER bed was only half the battle, the other half was getting her to stay there. Through trial and error, and a whole lot of tears (some of which were mine), I figured out what worked for her. And it may work for your big (or little) one too!
1. Set Expectations
I had to tell my daughter what to expect, and it wasn’t what she wanted to hear. This was new for us. “So tonight, you’re going to sleep in your bed.” Queue the tears, the splotchy face, the proclaimed certainty that monsters were living under the bed. “There are no monsters under your bed. You are going to be okay. You are going to sleep in your bed tonight.”
2. Use Incentives
There was so much resistance to bedtime that I gave my daughter something to work toward. We started a rewards program for bedtime. For every night, she stayed in her bed she would get a “jewel” on her chart. Once she got five jewels, she would get a surprise of her choosing. The chart was visible and talked about. “Are you going to get your fifth jewel tonight?” This was huge and really helped my daughter turn the corner – plus, it gave her confidence.
3. Practice Self Talk
Nowadays, the nightly routine is books, songs and self-talk. Or as my daughter says, “the repeat thing.” I make positive statements and then she repeats them back to me.
“I am a big girl. I can sleep in my bed. I am safe in my room. I am safe in my bed.”
I’ve been blown away with how powerful this is. It really reduces the “scariness” of bedtime to something that’s just not a big deal.
4. Hold your ground
At one point, my daughter was waking up and getting out of her bed more than once a night. I felt like I had a 6-week-old rather than a 6-year-old! With the three steps above, though, her attitude and willingness toward sleeping in her bed completely evolved.
There are still those occasional nights where she wakes up and tippy toes into my room. In the past, I would have let her crawl into my bed, but now I have to hold my ground.
I acknowledge that she had a bad dream, but I walk her to her room and tuck her back in bed before returning to MY bed (this is important!). Sometimes, she’ll even request a little self-talk to settle her back down.
So if your big kid is accustomed to being your snuggle buddy, I promise there’s hope! Getting my daughter to sleep in her bed every night was good for her, but also really good for me. The evenings are less stressful and more enjoyable now. I can have my own private time and time with my newly wed husband. Oh, and sleep without getting torpedoed in the side. That’s nice, too.