July 02, 2015

Q: My 2 1/2 year old son has a horrible habit of laying down on the floor of his room, and kicking the walls/door when he wakes up in the morning. What's worse is that he has been waking up around 5:30 am, and the kicking wakes everyone, even my 10 month old. We've tried to teach him that it's too early to be out of bed, but even when we go into his room, and move him back to bed, he just gets up and goes right back to it. How can we get him to stop, or sleep longer in the mornings?

A: This is one of the reasons I advise to keep children in their cribs up to 3 or even 4 years of age -- they're more contained that way! You can try one of those toddler alarm clocks that flash colors when it's time to get up, or set the alarm to kids' music. Offer a reward for staying quietly in his bed until the alarm goes off, and praise him for any progress. But you may also have a different issue -- your child sounds like an early riser. You can try to give him less of a nap during the day (many children give up their need for a nap at this age), and/or give him a later bedtime to see if that helps with a later wakeup time. But some kiddos are simply early risers -- and in that case, your approach needs to be one of coping. Take turns getting up early with him so that he doesn't wake up everyone else. Eventually, he may start sleeping in later on his own.

Answered by Dr. Heather Wittenberg