March 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm , by Sue Erneta
I remember the night like it was yesterday. Sophia was nearly 3 years old, I was six months pregnant and all the impending baby excitement had turned our little angel into a terror. Then I said it, “Sophia, if you don’t get into your bed now, then you won’t get your binkie tonight”. Pablo — knowing that I never make empty threats — glared at me as if to say, “Really? Are we really doing this tonight?”
Sophia had never been the kid that walked around all day with a pacifier in her mouth but it was a sleeping crutch. She used it at nighttime, during naps, even for a little shut-eye in the car. We knew that it needed to go. But how?
I think we dreaded losing it more than she did. Anything that gets a kid to sleep is a blessing, no?
As you can guess, she didn’t get into her bed that night and I did take her pacifier away. She cried for 15 minutes, then went to sleep. The next night she asked for it and I told her she was a big girl and she didn’t need a pacifier anymore and pacifiers are for babies. This time she cried for 5 minutes, then went to sleep. The next night, she didn’t ask for it and she didn’t cry. We were shocked. Taking away the binkie — an act we had dreaded more than she did because, let’s face it, it was more of a crutch for us — was done in 2 nights. And Sophia felt great too. Realizing she didn’t need the binkie made her feel like a big girl and we gave her lots of positive reinforcement and love to support it.
We tried this tactic again after Lily was born and Sophia started refusing to go to bed. I used a method I had learned from watching The Supernanny. (By the way, that woman is amazing.) The concept: Just keep putting them back in the bed. No yelling. No talking. No negotiating. No singing to them. No laying down with them. Just say “It’s bedtime” the first 2 times, then silently put them back in bed until they stay there. We estimated that I put her in her bed at least 60 times in 90 minutes. I kid you not. It was one of the most grueling and emotional nights of my life. She was screaming the whole time, I was three weeks post c-section (ouch) and I felt like a horrible beast who had ruined this little girl’s life by bringing a new baby into her house. But a funny thing happened. The next night, it was only 30 times in 45 minutes. (Believe me, after the previous night, this felt like a huge relief.) The next night, it was 10 times in 15 minutes. The following night? She. Went. Right. To. Bed. We were thrilled. Including Sophia, who woke up feeling well-rested for the first time in weeks. (Check out this link of The Supernanny in action. I welled up with tears watching this. All the pain I felt that night came back to me. But I promise you, this method works.)
Listen, I’m no child rearing specialist. I’m just a mom who can tell you what has worked for me. But the fact is this: We know better than our kids do. We know that a huge snack right before dinner is not a good idea. We know that they need to brush their teeth. We know that it’s not good for anyone when they sleep in our bed with us all night. (That’s right. I’m talkin’ to you. And me too sometimes! I mean, how can I kick Lily out when she shows up in the middle of the night, reaches up at me and looks at me with that little sleepy face ? See, I’m not perfect either. Not that you thought I was.)
Anyway— from my experience, if you enforce the rules you will have a couple days of hell, but if you stay tough and show them who’s boss, everyone will be happier in the end. (And please wish me luck with getting Lily to stay in her bed!)
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