Just as a little background: My husband and I have 3 children ranging in age from 22 to 15.
Last week a friend of mine was telling me that she and her husband were trying to get their 2 year old to sleep in his own bed. I think that he slept in his own bed for a while but they have recently moved into a new house and one night for some reason, instead of putting him in his own bed ..... you know the story.... Anyways, it has been over a month now and he is still there! They decided to wait until they bought his new "big boy" bed to make the switch. Monday was the day (I mean night). The plan was for dad to put him to bed and then slip out when his son was asleep. Sounds simple enough, but when my friend woke up there was her husband and her 2 year old just like normal. Her husband confessed that after several attempts, he decided that if he was going to get any sleep at all, it was just easier to just let his son sleep with them.
So, I say to my friend, the bad news is that there is no easy way to solve this problem, but the good news is that you will probably only have to sacrifice 3 nights of sleep to get to your goal! Since there is no perfect time to loose 3 night of sleep, I usually suggest starting on a Thursday night and just accept that you will be tired Friday and the weekend. If you know up front that you will not be getting much sleep it will be easier to stick to your plan and accomplish your goal.
Here's the plan -
1) Give your kid a bath. A warm bath artificially raises body temperature. When we go to sleep, our body temperature naturally starts to cool down, so the idea is to trick the brain into thinking that we are going to sleep early!
2) Only quiet calm (boring) things after bath time - reading in bed, with very low lighting is perfect.
3) Try playing soft lullaby music while you are reading and leave the music on when you leave the room. This is all part of setting up a bed time ritual that will work anywhere. Now when you go visit grandma just remember to take a book and your bed time music and you will be all set!
4) Don't negotiate with your toddler - They are way better at it then you are and you will always lose! Kiss them goodnight and tell them that you will see them in the morning, leave the room and shut the door. You may need to prepare them earlier in the day for this change in routine, but make it positive and tell them how proud of them you are.
5) They will probably cry (that's why you haven't done this yet right?) Let them cry. Use a digital clock or the timer on your phone if you need to make yourself wait 10 minutes (longer if you can) before going back in the room to reassure your child that you are here and everything is okay. Important - make this short and sweet with as few words as possible. If for some reason you are not able to make your child stay in their room you can sit on the floor near the bed, but do not talk to them or make eye contact. Your goal is to make them stay in their bed all night tonight - even if they don't get any sleep. If you need to stay in the room tomorrow, move closer to the door and make sure your child stays in bed (even if you have to keep picking them up and putting them there).
6) Repeat step 5 until its time to get up!
7) Tonight and tomorrow night you get to do the same exact thing again. One down, 2 to go - YOU CAN DO THIS! At least you will know what to expect tonight - and so will your child. If you give in, you will have given up one nights sleep for nothing. You are not being mean, you are just being a good parent - and everyone knows that it is not always easy.
Children need to be able to comfort themselves and to get to sleep without any help from a parent. Think about it, you wake up at least once or twice every night - everyone does. This is a huge step in your childs development.