Friday, December 14, 2012

Training Your Child to Sleep In

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Most of us realize the importance of having a quality quiet time.  But because the enemy knows that it will change our lives, he does his best to make it not happen.  Oftentimes the busyness of mommyhood creeps in to stop this precious first-thing-in-the-morning time.

Shelley left this question on our blog:

How did you go about training your children to stay in their room til you come get them? I have a almost 3yr old boy and he generally comes into our bed when my husband leaves for work (between 4 and 5 am) and will snuggle with me until we roll out of bed. If I set an alarm to get up early, he will get up with me, and since he will normally sleep until 8am, it really isn't necessary to get up at 4am with my husband. I would love suggestions for making this work, I know I need to move my quiet time to the morning (instead of naptime or at bedtime). 

If you have young children, you have been there - or are still there.  The morning wake-up time is so difficult until you can train your children to sleep or stay in their rooms. 

Let me start by breaking the solution into six steps.

Step 1:  Purchase a Visual Clue and Decide Times

By instinct a child will not know what time it is.  Giving the child a visual clue will help her know what to do when she awakes - either get up or go back to sleep. Purchase a timed light, toddler alarm clock, or alarm clock with easy-to-read numbers to place in your child's room so that they know when to wake up. 

We used a night light plugged into a timer to help our child know what time it was.  When the light turned off, he could get out of bed. 

The Kid'Sleep Classic toddler alarm clock with it's easy to understand pictures could be a simple solution.  This "clock" will help the child know when it is time to go to bed and when he can get up.
Onaroo OK to Wake Children's Alarm Clock and Nightlight is another toddler alarm clock that has been suggested to me through the ABCJesusLovesMe Facebook Group.

Once our children got close to three years of age, they learned to watch for the "7" on their alarm clocks.   I taped over the minutes so there was no confusion about other 7's that appeared. If you child doesn't know what the number looks like, practice during the day matching same numbers. Begin with flashcards and look for 7's around your house, grocery store, etc.  Setting beside the alarm clock a post-it note with a seven written on it helped them remember. 

Decide a reasonable time that your child can get up.   Our children are in their beds from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.  I encourage you to involve your husband in this decision.

Step 2:  Give the Child the Best Possible Scenario to Enable Success

Think through reasons why the child is waking early.
  • Does the child's room face east and allow the morning sun to shine in?  Simple window treatments may help.  
  • Does the child hear early morning noises due to outside activities or other household members?  A sound box or calming music may help drown out these extra noises.  
  • Is bedtime routine a nightmare?  If the night hours are a nightmare for your family, begin by working on the bedtime routine.  Keep it consistent and don't fall into the drink-of-water trick.  Once everyone is going to bed without issue, then focus on the middle of night expectations.  Finally, work on the morning wake-up time.  Work on one aspect of night at a time. In most causes, once the bedtime routine and middle of the night expectations are in place only a little training will be required to ward off the early morning waking. 
  • Is your child too tired?  When Bubs got up early I thought it was because he was sleeping too much during the day or because he went to bed too early.  While this may be true of infants, I found it not true with toddlers (unless of course your toddler takes four or five hour naps).  I found that without a good nap, he was too tired to sleep at night. Once I stretched his nap time to two or three hours, Bubs began sleeping longer at night.  Also, earlier to bed helps the child sleep better at night.  Backwards thinking but it works like a charm.
Step 3:  Introduce the Child to the Visual Clue

Find a time to introduce the child to the visual clue.  (When the child is hungry, tired, or grumpy is not a good time.)  Choose a day that you can implement the new expectations for several days without schedule changes.  To make it fun and exciting, wrap the clock and give it to the child as a "big boy/girl" gift.  Explain to the child (tailor to the child's age and your situation):
Henry, you are becoming a big boy.  And because you are a big boy, it is time to give you a big boy gift.  This light/clock is going to help you decide when to come out of your room each morning.  Let me show you how it works....

This morning, you came into Mommy and Daddy's room really early.  But now that you have this big boy light/clock, you will know when it is okay to get up. 

Let's practice...

I want to you to know that if you leave your room before the light is off/clock says "7", then Mommy will take your hand and walk you back to your room.  The time before your light goes off is the time that Mommy is going to be spending with God.  It is very important for Mommy to read her Bible and talk to God, isn't it.  So, I want you to respect my time. 
If you wake up before the light turns off/clock says "7" then you may sit quietly on the floor and play with your __________ or read your books. If you need to use the bathroom _________________________________ and then return to your bedroom.
Do you have any questions?

Step 4:  The First Night

That night while putting the child to bed, remind the child what will happen in the morning.

Step 5:  The First Morning

Depending on your child's personality, the first morning may be simple or not so simple. Understand that training is not fun but it is necessary.  The rewards will outweigh the frustration tenfold.   Most likely, you will not have a peaceful quiet time on the first morning.  But with consistent discipline, you will soon!

The key is to treat the early morning risings just as you would middle of the night awakenings. 

Angel Child:  This child will not move until the light turns off or the clock says "7."  Right at 7:00, greet this child with a huge hug and praise for obedience.

Textbook Child:  This child will forget the new expectations or may check to make sure the boundaries are firm.  As soon as you realize the child has left his room, immediately return him.  Do not talk to the child except when you return to his bedroom and remind the child of the light or clock.  Each time after that the child leaves the bedroom,  return the child to his bedroom without reminding or conversation.  The no-talking policy is very important.

Spirited Child:  I wish that I had an easy answer.  These kiddos are hard to train - but not impossible.  Do exactly as I have suggested with the Textbook Child except know that you will have many, many times where she pushes the boundaries.  Be consistent and do not give in.  Yielding once will lead to even longer struggles.  If possible, include your husband for reinforcement.  A behavior chart may help as it promotes positive behavior.

Step 6:  Each Morning After

Keep the expectations firm as the child wants to see that boundaries do not waiver.  For those children who struggle with the new expectations, remember to pray with them each night.  Then together celebrate and praise God for success.  Don't talk yourself out of  this training process.  It confuses the child and shows them that you will give up on future things if it gets bad enough.  No, it will not be fun but remember that it is short lived.  This is key:  If you don't plan to finish the race, don't start it. 

Quality quiet times are in your future if you make it a priority.  While the enemy will try to create obstacles, God is stronger!

More ideas can be found in the blog post, "Little Ones Who Wake Up Way Too Early." 

  Are you desiring a quality quiet time? Read my free book:  A Quiet Time, Worth the Time

How did you train your child to stay in bed?

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The Our Out-of-Sync Life blog focuses on encouraging women to deepen their spiritual life, simplify daily tasks, and impress Jesus on the children around them.