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Teaching Your Child to Have a Good Night’s Sleep

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

The sick season is in full swing, but some of the issues I talk to parents about everyday are not just seasonal. One of the most frequent and disconcerting issues for families is children and their sleep habits. Once your child has moved out of their crib and into a “big bed” the big open world is just a hop out of bed away.

Some children get into their beds and never want to get out until their parents come awaken them in the morning. That is the perfect child and sleeper. But many children awaken whether it is in the morning or during the night and they will come searching for their parents. They have free roaming rights in the house, and keeping them in the bed throughout the night may be challenging.

Start with having a good bedtime routine and putting your child into their bed tired, but awake. Give them their blanket or teddy bear, say their prayers, turn on the nightlight, and kiss and hugs. Hold your breath and hope they stay in the bed. If not they do not and they come out of their room take them back to bed and let them know that they must stay in their bed and that you will put up a sticker or some reward for them staying in their bed. Each time your child get’s out of bed, return them to their room.

Now comes the hard part, if they continually come out of the room close the door and hold the door shut until they are in their bed. The following day (after you have had too little sleep) talk to them about having to lock the door if they do not stay in their room (remember, you have already given them several chances by taking them back to their room repeatedly over several nights) and that you will take them to buy the lock to put on the outside of their door.

If your child has continued to awaken, comes out of their room and refuses to stay in the room and go back to sleep, then the decision must be made to install the lock on the outside of the door. This gives the parent total control over the door being opened (for safety reason too), and allows you to give your child multiple chances to stay in the room before necessitating locking the door.

For many kids it will never come to this, as they will “test” the waters and head back to bed. But if you have that persistent, strong willed child it may be necessary to utilize this method. A good night’s sleep is important for child and parent.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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