5 Rules Every Parent Needs to Survive Sleep Training Your Toddler

Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump
Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump

We recently ditched our son’s crib and moved him into a “big boy bed!” and we were excited for him to have his own bed. Naturally, our thoughts were that he would get swept away into dreamland and wake up refreshed from a full night’s sleep in a spacious new bed. The rug is being pulled from underneath us on a nightly basis.

This is yet again an episode of the adventures in parenting that no one can prepare you for. The new sense of freedom our son has in actuality is very different from what we expected. Looking at it from his perspective, he is no longer caged in for an entire night. Our toddler can now choose to climb out of bed on his terms. What were we thinking?! He walks around the house by himself with no supervision. If he gets hungry he grabs a fruit pouch from the fridge. He plays with a truck in the hallway and then gets into our bed for the remainder of the night’s rest. Talk about scary!

We literally chase after our little man all day and now, all night.  Guess who wins? I know we are suckers and secretly love having our toddler sleeping in our bed, but our intention is to let him understand and appreciate the quality of having his own space and sleeping in his own bed.  But what do we do when he isn’t ready for that? Are we totally back-pedalling with all of the hours sacrificed with tears and screams during sleep training him? Does he know he can basically get whatever he wants with us now? Of course when we feel his little feet pressing against our legs and his body squeezing into the space between mommy and daddy we put him back to bed. And then two seconds later he is back in our bed. Press repeat a couple more times and then finally, we give in. Our toddler has defeated us… Time to pull out our sleep training toddler books!

In hindsight, we should have thought this through better. Here are the rules I wish I had followed:

Rule 1

Always stop and look at the situation from your toddler’s perspective. Literally get down to their level and see what they see. You will see the world from their perspective. Remove anything that might cause you to be concerned or that actually has the potential to hurt him in his night excursion.

Rule 2

Be honest about what kind of personality your toddler has. It is forming at lightning bolt speed. If you think he might be the adventurous type accommodate that. If you know your toddler is the type that stays put, good for you!

Rule 3

Don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. That is also called “getting caught sleeping”. Quite literally.

Rule 4

Take comfort in knowing that this stage too shall pass, even if it might take a couple months to get through.

Rule 5

Pay attention to when your toddler wakes up at night and start to set a nightly alarm that will wake you up 5 minutes before to check on your toddler in the middle of the night. I set my alarm for 1am and 3am. Something about mommy or daddy being up when he gets up that makes the adventure less exciting. It works wonders.

Moms, dads — stay strong and may the force be with you!

How did you get your toddler to stay in bed all night?

Plus, more from The Bump:

5 Wacky Parenting Methods… That Work?

How to Set Rules for a Toddler

10 Annoying Toddler Habits (and How to Deal)