Posts Tagged ‘ toddler bed ’

Part 1: Can You Top This Sleep Training Saga?

Monday, April 21st, 2014

I’m not talking about myself in the title, but rather my friend Jennifer and her husband Matt, whose battle to sleep train their daughter reached dramatic heights that involved urine, feces threats, and lots of screams.  This 2-part blog post follows the story of how this family went to battle for one of the most crucial elements in life: sleep.

Here is some background: The girls both slept in cribs, then their own beds. But when the nighttime fussing began out of nowhere, both parents found themselves too bleary-eyed to be consistent with sleep rules. Jennifer began getting in bed with Eleanor or vice versa and everyone was waking up multiple times.  There were tears, thrashing of limbs and feet in mouth (literally). They tried Ferber, various techniques, but nothing was changing. The whole family became walking zombie’s, unable to function during the day. I watched them all disintegrate into madness.

Eleanor is the cutest little girl, full of spunk. She’s also incredibly strong-willed.  This is a girl who is either going to be President or the world’s best criminal (kidding of course–at least on the criminal part). She doesn’t back down. Even if it means sleeping in her own pee. Or worse.

Remember the best-selling book, Go The F-ck To Sleep? Well, here is Jen’s own version of her sleep training hell.

NIGHT 1:

After many months of not sleeping (it’s been such a blur that I don’t even know how long it’s been since we’ve slept through the night) and many attempts at sleep training, we finally cave and hire an experienced sleep consultant to help us figure out what to do.

For an all-inclusive fee, Renee Wasserman, P.T., M.P.H.  from Sleepyheadsolutions talked to us on the phone for over an hour and e-mailed us a detailed plan to follow. She will be checking in with us every morning by phone for two weeks to advise us, encourage us to stay on course, and listen to my boring and very detailed sleep stories.

After a few weeks of procrastinating (we have friends in town, Eleanor is sick, we’re traveling…) my husband and I finally force ourselves to buckle up and start the sleep training process. Per our sleep consultant’s advice, we have a family meeting after dinner on the first night. We try to make it fun and pass around a toy microphone while we discuss the importance of sleep for our bodies, how we feel when we don’t get enough sleep, and the new sleep rules for everyone in the house.

We talk about how we all need to stay in our rooms and sleep in our own beds until morning. We tell the girls that we love them very much but won’t be coming into their (shared) room if they cry.

Our older daughter Cece (4 years) gets it and is up for the challenge but she’s a great sleeper and has been sleeping through the night since she was six months old.

Eleanor hears the plan and says, “Not Yet. How about tomorrow?”

Unfortunately they’re in this together. If we want them to successfully share a room, we have to sleep train them both. In other words, Eleanor’s problem is Cece’s problem too.

We tell Eleanor that we know she can do this. We’re all going to try our best.

Per Renee’s instructions:

  • We hung up the blackout shades
  • We set up our new light-up sleep clock and explain to the girls that the cow goes to sleep at bedtime and when she wakes up (at 7am) they can get up too.
  • We unscrew the light bulb from the ceiling so Eleanor can’t switch the light on and off in the middle of the night (which she has been tormenting us with).
  • We set up a potty and a roll of toilet paper on a towel on the floor so Eleanor can’t use the potty excuse all night long. If she has to go, she goes in her room, in the potty. (We hope.)
  •  We read our new books about sleep.
  • We go through the sleep rules again: “We will sleep in our own beds all night. We will stay in our beds until the clock changes color. You can hug your bear and talk to each other but we won’t be coming in if you cry…”

We kiss them good night and close the door. There’s a child lock on the inside so they can’t get out.

It’s 7:00 pm. I’m scared of what the night will bring. I hate the thought of Eleanor screaming for us all night. And taking her clothes off and being cold. And peeing on the ground or in her bed. And waking up her sister who would otherwise be sleeping soundly through the night.  But we all need more sleep and I feel like we’ve hit rock bottom. We need to do this.

7:30pm:

Cece is asleep in her bed and Eleanor gets out of bed and is crying at the door. She gets down on her belly and screams at the small crack above the floor. It sounds like she’s yelling through a megaphone. “I need to make a pee pee!” I stare at her on the monitor. “I need to go in the big toilet in the bathroom! Not the little potty in here!” I watch her expertly remove her pajamas and her diaper. “I need a new diaper!” She pees on the new wood floor. It’s going to be a long night. As hard as it is, we don’t go in.

8:00pm:

Eleanor screams like crazy and tries to wake up her sister.

“Cece, you need to wake up and open the door for me!”

When that doesn’t work she yells, “I need to make a poop!” “The poop is coming out!”

This is when I would normally rush in. I would put Eleanor on the potty and move Cece into our bed so she can sleep. This time we stay strong.

Next she resorts to calling me by my name: “Jennifer! Jennifer!” she screams at the gap under the door. If I wasn’t so nervous, this name-calling would be kind of hilarious.

We watch the monitor. We don’t budge.

She leaves the frame and comes back holding a summer dress. We watch her pull it over her naked body – inside out and backwards. After more crying she goes to get pajama bottoms from her dresser, sits on Cece’s bed, and carefully puts them on. She climbs into bed with Cece and goes to bed. I know that since she is diaper-less she will pee in the bed tonight but I’m very relieved she stopped crying. It lasted around 45 minutes and now she’s asleep. Wearing a dress – but asleep!

I get into my own bed, holding my breath. I have no idea what the night will bring.

In the wee hours:

The screaming begins at 12am. It starts again at 2am, then 4am. Each bout lasts about 15 minutes. In between crying fits she’s in her sister’s bed. She stands up on top of Cece’s back to reach the light switch – click click. Nothing happens since we removed the bulb. She tries a few more times before giving up.

Cece wakes up and they scream at us together in harmony. We’re awake all night staring at the monitor but we don’t break and go into their room. At one point Eleanor rolls off the bed onto the carpet. Minutes later Cece gets poked in the eye. Everyone is yelling “Owwwiiieeee.” It’s impossibly hard but we stick to the plan and don’t go in…

I continue watching the monitor so I know they’re ok. And I know that if we walk in because Eleanor rolled off the bed, she’ll pretend to roll off the bed again. And if the eye poke gets us into the bedroom, she’ll fake-poke her sister in the eye next time. She’s that good.

We’re all exhausted in the morning but we (try to) celebrate that we stayed in our rooms. There’s plenty of pee on the floor and in the bed and lots of laundry to do before school/work. I find out later that an exhausted Cece falls asleep at her preschool while eating her lunch. Oy. I feel terrible.

–Tomorrow is Part 2 of Sleep Training Hell. Tune in to see if it gets better. Or worse.

 

Pic of family bed via Shutterstock

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Bedtime Invasions: Can They Be Stopped?

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at jdeprospero@gmail.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

Every parent has an opinion on this. And it’s happened to all of us at least a dozen times. It’s 2:00 a.m. Your four-year-old daughter comes scampering into your bedroom unannounced. You can’t see or hear her, as she’s standing silently in the dark. Afraid it may be a ghost, you hold your breath and peer into the darkness. You finally see her, of course, when she’s within arm’s length, frighteningly staring at you with a blank expression, like that girl in The Ring. At this point, a ghost would’ve scared you less. So what do you do?

There are two camps, and they are quite distinct. You either welcome your terrifying child into the bed, a spot religiously left vacant for her where your sex life used to lay, or you send her packing, refusing to bend to your children and their ongoing, selfish quest to invade your pillow space.

Even if you don’t have kids, you likely know a parent who is one these two extreme types. Let’s break them down.

The first one, let’s call her “Clingy Parent,” sleeps next to her 6-year-old son every night. The boy, let’s call him “Tommy” sleeps between her and her husband. Every. Single. Night. Any half-hearted attempts to break the cycle have been quickly thwarted by Tommy, with little to no resistance by his over-accommodating parents. From what I understand, relations between mom and dad…they’re not so good.

The second type, which I’ll call “Stiff Arm Parent,” has never once let either of her children into the bed in which she and her husband (or boyfriend, girlfriend, dog, hey, I’m not judging here) sleep. I mean, maybe once or twice when they were babies and were teething and miserable, but certainly not once since they became toddlers, and full-fledged kids. They say no, and by God, they mean no.

Personally, I take issue with both of these approaches. Now, I don’t judge either parent, because I’m a big believer that there is more than one way to skin a cat and there is certainly more than one way to raise a happy child. But both methods are extremes, whereas I believe the healthy approach to anything usually lies somewhere in the middle.

When dealing with this issue, there are two clear, distinct goals, and to ignore either would be irresponsible.

  1. To ensure your child is given age-appropriate guidelines for when it is acceptable to come running to their parent’s bed and when it is not
  2. To ensure you’re getting enough sleep to deal with their nonsense and have enough space to sufficiently relax after a long day of dealing with their lovable, yet occasionally absurd behavior

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a believer in nurturing our children, giving them a neck to wrap their arms around when their alarm clock casts a menacing shadow on their dresser. However, I’m also a believer in setting boundaries so compassion doesn’t transform into a bad habit that becomes increasingly difficult to break.

Put simply, there’s a reason that “Tommy” in the “Clingy Parent” scenario is an only child. His poor parents are never alone to conceive another! If we allow our children access to our beds every night and never allow them to be nocturnally independent, they’ll take even longer to “let go of our legs,” so to speak, ultimately making it much harder for us to break them from the habit later on.

And the “Stiff Arm Parent” approach is a bit too cold for my liking. I see it as ultimately more beneficial to the child’s well being when compared to “Clingy Parent,” but seriously, how do you muster the will power to follow through on a child development plan at 3:00 in the morning? This, frankly, is where I crumble. If I’ve had a stressful day at work, operating at 35% mental capacity and my son crawls into my bed and starts snoring, guess who’s letting him stay there for the night? You got it. In fact, most of the time I’m not even aware he’s there until the next morning, when it’s far too late to put my foot down.

Ultimately, I’ve opted for positive reinforcement. My older son will go between 10 and 14 days without a nighttime visit, then suddenly starts popping in three or four days in a row. My wife (who, if it needs to be said, is the real brains behind this whole parenting thing) has implemented a rewards system. It just started this week. We put a magnetized “reward calendar” up in his room, and for every night he stays in his bed until morning, he gets to put a magnet of his choosing on the corresponding day. The kicker? He gets a surprise each time he’s successful. Not like a bike or anything, but something as simple as getting to pick out his dessert after dinner that night. It’s a little way to motivate him and to get him excited about doing something he wouldn’t normally be excited to do. Some people call it bribery. But those people would understand if they were parents.

So, while I firmly believe that our children’s needs override our own, I don’t think we’re being fair to ourselves (or potentially our significant other) by ignoring our needs completely either. It’s a delicate balance of instilling confidence and comfort in our kids while also maintaining a healthy “bedroom lifestyle” for ourselves as adults. In truth, splitting the atom was probably less complicated.

So, what tactic do you employ when approached mid-sleep by your child (if any at all)? Send me your feedback and thoughts by adding a comment below!

* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

 

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