Our 8-year-old daughter won’t stay in her own bed at night and says she is frightened. She ends up sleeping in our bed. What can we do?
This an issue that can have real ramifications if it isn’t dealt with by parents. Not only is it extremely tiring for all concerned, but it can set a pattern of behaviour that feels almost impossible to break.
As parents, you become so tired and worn down by it that you end up giving in and so it goes on. So, before I offer you any advice, you must understand that if you act upon it, it’s vital to follow it and see it through to the end point. Before you begin, it’s important to discuss it together as a couple and make sure that both of you understand that you must stand together and support each other on it.
First off, choose a good day to start. Not one where you know you might be busy as you need to create a calm environment. Then sit down with your daughter in the afternoon and explain the new bedtime routine very clearly to her. It’s important to be upfront and transparent about what you are doing and why you are doing it. Now, you might encounter sobs and upset, but this is where you need to detach yourself and stay solid. Don’t interact too much if she keeps asking questions, simply repeat the same short phrases about what is going to happen and move onto some other topic.
When it’s time to begin the routine, make sure that she goes nowhere near your bedroom and maintain the focus on her room alone. Ensure she has no reason to get up for a drink or the toilet and that all of her physical needs are met. Be upbeat, clear in your instructions, affectionate, but minimal in your interactions
This is now going to be the crunch time. Your daughter is likely to get up, because that’s what she’s used to doing. When she does it the first time, put her straight back to bed, remind her this is where she sleeps, tuck her in with a kiss
and cuddle and then leave. When she does it again repeat with a firm voice.
From this point on, when she gets up, you take her back to bed and don’t speak. You keep repeating the process and this can take many times. Of course, the behaviour is going to heighten with crying and other techniques she is going to employ to pull on your heart strings, but it is essential you stand firm every single time.
Accept that you will feel guilty, but remind yourself that you are doing this for the good of your daughter and your family. After all, it is a normal expectation for a child of 8 to sleep in their own bed.
Initially, it would be great to motivate her with a reward chart too. Children feel secure with consistency and routine and that involves having clear boundaries and expectations. Once you achieve that where her sleeping is concerned, she will stay in her own bed and you’ll all get a good night’s sleep.
Russell Hemmings is a life coach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, and author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting. Contact Russell on 055 286 7275 or russellhemmings.co.uk.