Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Parenting advice...Sleep & how to keep your bed to yourself!

"MUMMY!" she shouts, "COME BACK".  Pause... She's waiting for a reaction.  Doesn't get one for a few seconds - I can't move that fast. "COME BACK ANOTHER DAY".......

Cheeky Monkey No 2's favourite song at the moment is "Rain, rain go away....come back another day".  Her favourite game tonight.... not staying in bed.

This was last weekend.  It was the second night of my implementation of 'Project Grandma-knows-best'.  Regular readers will know that CM No 2 has been testing us since we converted her cot into a cot bed.  She used to happily go into her cot, wave goodnight and snuggle down to sleep on her own.  She'd been doing this most of her second year.  But once she hit 2 yrs, the bed conversion happened, and; whether it was the freedom she suddenly had to get out of bed, or the lack of comforting bars around her; she did not want to settle to sleep on her own. 

With our first child, Cheeky Monkey No 1 (now 4 yrs), we had always been very strict about sleeping in your own bed and not in Mummy and Daddy's bed!  And we had used the Controlled crying technique when we went through a similar stage with her.  Successfully (albeit stressfully).

But with CM No 2, controlled crying is less of an option, when she's disturbing her big sister's sleep too.  So we'd tried sitting with or lying next to her until she went to sleep.  Fine when she's exhausted and drops immediately.  Less fun when she's more awake, and every time you try and creep out of the room she wakes up again. 

When she started waking in the night as well, and wanting us to lie with her again then, we realised we'd fallen into the trap of 'sleep associations'.  She now couldn't settle to sleep without us there.  Much to our own surprise, on two occasions we even ended up bringing her into our bed with us at 3am, when we were all just desperate for sleep. We realised we had to stop that, and fast, so we went back to a pattern of lying next to her until she dropped off, then creeping out of the room.  Hardly ideal when you're having to do it a few times a night.

In steps Grandma.  The girls went to stay with Grandma for a weekend, and Grandma tested a new bedtime routine of her own devising.  Firstly; she sang a lullaby to them both whilst CM No 1 lay tucked up in bed, and CM No 2 sat on Grandma's knee by the bed.  With CM No 1 very good at going to sleep during her lullaby already (and happy to say goodnight if she isn't), Grandma then took CM No 2 into her bedroom and commenced Project Grandma-knows-best.

She tucked her into bed.  Gave her a kiss.  Said goodnight. and left the room immediately, leaving the door fully open.

Of course we all know exactly what happened next.  CM No 2 screamed and ran to the child gate on her bedroom door.  But whilst I might have tried this and gone downstairs, leaving her a minute before returning, and then leaving ever increasing intervals (the controlled crying method) Grandma waited just outside the door, unseen until CM No 2 reached the doorway.  And as soon as CM No 2 saw her, she stopped screaming and went quiet.  This was new.  Grandma went into the room, tucked her back in, gave her a kiss.  And did not say a word.  She then immediately left the room again. 

CM No 2 jumped up and ran to the door (no screaming).  Saw Grandma was still there.  Grandma pointed to her cot, and walked into the room.  CM No 2 climbed back into bed, was tucked back in, given a kiss and, without a word spoken, Grandma left the room again.

Over and over this little dance played out.  Grandma tells me she returned her to bed over 40 times.  It took about an hour, during which CM No 2 crucially didn't cry, (always nice, and better for everyones' stress levels), and during which Grandma never said a word.  Finally CM No 2 climbed into bed, and didn't get back out. 

The next night Grandma repeated the technique.  And in half an hour, without crying, and with no talking after that first tucking in, she was asleep in bed.

Of course then she came home and it was our turn.  I followed the instructions to the letter, and it took around 40 minutes the first night.

The next night she was less tired, having had a long nap in the day.  She paraded backwards and forwards through her bedroom, muttering to herself, singing songs, and shouting if, on the odd occasion, she got to the door and I wasn't there (I'd popped to check on her sister).  The shouting wasn't angry, or stressful, she was just shouting for me to "Come Back", and combining her favourite song in the process.  That night took longer (just over an hour), and the hardest thing was not laughing at the funny walks and singing - keeping a serious (not angry) face.  It made a change from the stressful bedtimes where I've returned her to bed so many times, with her crying because I've left her a few minutes at a time, and where everyone has just got more and more stressed until she's basically fallen to sleep of exhaustion. 

And so, 10 days on, and we've had 2 nights where she hasn't got out of bed once at bedtime, and has gone straight back to bed and stayed there when I've repeated the technique during nighttime wakings.

Tonight I had to return her maybe 8 times.  But it only took 10 minutes.

And so, Grandma definitely knows best.  She's not smug at all!  She says it works because you are sending a message that it's not playtime, that there will be no conversation about it.  That the only thing that is going to happen is that the child is going to get back into bed and be tucked in.  And that's it.  And you are doing this whilst also sending the message that you are then going to leave the room.  But reassuringly are only just outside.  And every time they come to shout, you are there, but will simply gently, but firmly, tuck them back in bed.  It's a strong message because it's done through body language, and isn't clouded by talking.  Talking which, if you are tired, stressed or angry, would show in your voice and upset the child more, no matter what words you said.

Maybe we'll call it Grandma's technique.  It works.  Try it for a week and see the progress.  But remember - serious face.  No laughing!


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