Getting Your Toddler to Sleep in Their Own Bed

The bottle was half-empty and another one was being chilled. Psychedelic Furs’ Heartbreak Beat played softly in the background. No hubbies or boyfriends, just me and my girls basking in much needed girl time. Giggling, confiding, venting, joking. The night was young and in our minds we were 25. Little Libra enjoyed being one of the girls, laughing when we laughed even more wholeheartedly. So as bed time approached, I wasn’t too surprised when she refused to go to bed.

But I insisted.

And she erupted into a full blown tantrum. NOOOOO! *sob* Good girl! *sob* Want mommy! *sob, sob, hiccup*

BAM! Back to reality. Treating my child like a teddy bear for the past two and a half years just backfired on me at that instant.

At first I thought she was being defiant. But after a few rounds of raising my voice, leading her to the bedroom and chasing me back in the living room, I realized that she didn’t know how to go to bed without me while I was in another room. She was accustomed to going to bed with me, on my bed, by my side. I wanted her to go solo straight away- so I could carry on with girl time. A completely bad mom moment.

I forgot about the very real effect of separation anxiety on my daughter. I skipped a slew of steps which resulted in The How Can You Abandon Me Wailing (what I also like to call crazy crying for short). I had only probed the idea of sleeping on her own bed in passing and then I thrust it upon her just like that. She responds better  when she’s been warned and she has to time to absorb the change (or maybe it’s just my daughter who behaves this way?)

Well, we have to start somewhere.

There was no other time I felt the urge to wean her from my bed until that moment so I ran with it. Girl Night came abruptly to an end (Sorry!) but at least the prospect of more uninterrupted ones are on the horizon. Little Libra is now on her third consecutive night of sleeping on her own. This post is for all the other indulgent parents who are now outgrowing their human teddy bears and aching to entertain (guiltlessly) at home. Here’s what has been working for me…

Getting Your Toddler to Sleep in Their Own Bed in 6 Steps:

1. Establish a bed time and rhythm. Our rhythm is to pick a book, dim the lights, read the book, drink her last bottle,  pray and say good night– at no later than 9pm. I like winding down together. It establishes a closeness but also provides a neat ending to the day. I can go on about the last dreamy smiles, last kwentos and last kisses but for now I consider those fringe benefits. It’s all about tough love moving forward.

2. Tell her why. On the first two nights of crazy crying, she would plead “good girl” in between sobs, as if she was promising good behavior so we could go back to the old program. I had to clarify that I wasn’t angry with her and that sleeping on her own isn’t a punishment. She is a big girl now and that means sleeping in her own bed. That calmed her down. These little ones are so fragile and delicate at times.

3. Give a directive and repeat it consistently. I tell her to lie down, close your eyes, go to sleep like a drill sargent, i.e. with a firm and stern voice no matter how much she cries or smiles or tries to climb back to my bed. Since we’re creating a new routine, she needs to be reminded about what to do and that it is a permanent change. No funny business allowed otherwise I lose credibility.

4.Turn off the lights. This limits her movement, lessens distractions and eventually the darkness makes her sleepy. This was tricky for me. I can’t sleep at 8:30-9pm all the time so I pull out my laptop and that serves as the sole lighting of the room. As long as I repeat the directive, she cannot engage with Mommy.

5. Be consistent. The first night was super stressful for me. With so much crazy crying, I had to toughen up and imagine my happy place to get through it. I wanted to relent but I couldn’t let her think she could crazy cry her way out of undesirable conditions. On the second night, the new routine needs to be reinforced so relenting is not an option, unless you want to go through that first night again… I didn’t think so.

6. Praise her. When she wakes up the next day, tell her “You did it!” — so she sees that she’s ok sleeping on her own and that she connects last nights challenge with an accomplishment. She’ll be very pleased with herself. What a nice way to start the day for the both of you.

It’ll take more time for Little Libra to fall sleep without me in the room at all –just like it took her about 1 month or so with her ballet, swimming and exploring classes. But I think she’ll make the connection eventually. Following the steps above should get her to sleep quicker and allow me to slip away sooner if anything. Then can I finally focus on entertaining guests and other little  rewards that moms deserve after a long day.

Good luck Moms! And please share other tips that have worked for you.

sleeping in her own bed

Look! No Mommy or Daddy beside me!

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6 Responses to Getting Your Toddler to Sleep in Their Own Bed

  1. Ani says:

    Wow! Galing mo! Your patience and will power wins! #2 made me tear. I would have broken down and waved the white flag at that point.

    • She slept walk three times back to our bed last night. It was soooo sarap to have her back. I had to repeat my directive, with the same tone, in all my sleepiness. It was a near brush with a white flag as well!

      • mai mai says:

        wow how do you make her go back to her own bed when she’s half asleep? or since she’s half-asleep…she doesn’t even notice you bringing her back to her own bed? man….i have yet to get to that….soon soon….hahahaha :)

        • I make her sleep on her own bed from the get-go. If she sneaks back whether fully awake or half-asleep, and even kinda weepy/whiny, I send her back. That first night was so traumatizing, I don’t want to break the streak and start all over again!

  2. mai mai says:

    nice one reg! i think you pinned it down! i do the same with gabby…and since ponce sees his Ate Gabby doing the same thing…he doesn’t mind that i’m not in the room as well.

    ALTHOUGH, it did take me awhile to get Gabby to follow the routine…and even though she eventually got used to it, there are still some nights when she’d still look for me. And as much as i don’t give in to her emotions, there ARE some instances where i tell her that “only now, cuz Ponce is already asleep, and you do know once he wakes up, Mommy has to attend to him”…and she politely smiles and i hug her to sleep :) i super miss sleeping beside her!!!

    • Thanks for validating my experience! I’m always wondering if I’m the only one going through these things, the way I do. It’s great to know that this “investment” will return with the future little ones too. Gabby is so sweet and understanding to share you with Ponce that way. She’s always been so lovely:)

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