I am very fortunate that my boys are both generally easygoing, but no matter how “easy” they are at any given point in time there are still daily battles. For the past two months, getting my 4 year old into bed at night (and getting him to stay there) has been nothing short of torture. Until two weeks ago, this was our nightly routine.
7:30 PM Bedtime
7:31 PM “Mommy, I am scared of bears and sharks.”
7:32 PM – 7:35 PM I convince him that bears and sharks are not really rational fears in our inland suburb.
7:40 PM Bathroom break.
7:42 PM Screaming commences.
8:45 PM He finally passes out, usually in some odd position in some weird place (the hallway, outside the bathroom, next to the closet).
1 AM He creeps into our room.
3 AM – 7 AM We wrestle him for the covers, push his feet off our faces, and basically lay in a state of half-sleep until the two year old wakes us up.
As a family, we couldn’t go on without sleep like this for much longer without becoming grumpy, miserable people. We tried threating to take away toys and experiences he cared about…it didn’t work. We tried locking him out of our room…it only resulted in waking up the whole house. We tried to offer small rewards…it wasn’t enough to motivate him.
We decided to go all or nothing…what did we have to lose, right? He has been OBSESSING about a specific LEGO Coast Guard Patrol set since he first saw it in the LEGO catalog earlier this year. “Mom! It has 3 sharks! The boat, it floats! Oooh – and the men, they are so cool! Mom, can you believe it has a lighthouse, too?” We’ve had this same conversation every.single.day for the past three months. So, I knew what might get him going – the chance to use the money in his piggy bank to get this set before Christmas.
The deal – if he slept in his own room all night with “no fuss, no muss” for 30 days, we would take him to go buy his prized LEGO set.
We made a game board with 30 spaces, hung it on the fridge, and have been adding a star every morning when he sleeps through. To help with immediate reward as well, he receives a glow stick the next evening to bring to bed with him if he had a successful night in his own room the night before.
Ten days in and we are at a 100% success rate. I’ll let you know how the next 20 go, but so far we are motivated by the small nightly rewards and the anticipation of the “big” reward, and Mom and Dad are finally getting some much-deserved rest.