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My two-year old has always had trouble settling and sleeping through the night, but recently the problem seems to have become an awful lot worse. It all came to a head one night a few weeks ago after he woke at midnight and didn't drop off again till 4am, despite our best efforts with the "controlled crying" technique. That was when we knew we had to do something proactively, and soon.

After seeking advice from various different sources (including this forum), we opted to try Supernanny's "Stay in Bed" technique. She describes it in her book and there are various clips of it on the TV show (e.g. this clip~ 24 mins & 29mins ). She says it is the best approach for a child of his age.

Basically it involves making sure your child has eaten and drunk well and carrying out a calming bed-time routine, putting your child in bed and sitting in the room with them, sitting side-on and without making eye-contact. The first time he gets out, you say "It's bedtime." and put him back. The second time, you say "Bedtime". Any subsequent times, you say NOTHING- ignore the screams, the questions, the begging for food, drink, etc- just lift him up and put him back.

It's all very well. But I've been doing it for almost a week, and so far the number of times I have had to put him back to bed (in chronological order) have been: 40,23,21,4,8,18. Last night he woke at 3am and (despite me sitting silently in his room after he woke) would not settle till 5am.

On the TV show, the technique always works very quickly and effectively when done correctly. But as far as I can see, I have followed everything to the letter, and I certainly have not once said a word to him when I shouldn't. The only doubt I have is that sometimes I lie down, rather than sit when I come in after he's woken in the middle of the night (can you blame me?)- don't know if that's important.

Has anyone got any advice on what I may be doing wrong, or maybe just some encouragement that it can take a long time?

One last point- I know there are loads of contrasting techniques out there, and I'm sure each has its merits. But I'd really rather stick with this technique now I've started, rather than start trying another one. Simply because changing it is distressing and confusing for him.

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I imagine they edited out a bunch of the repetitive "say nothing and put the child back", if for no other reason than time constraints. –  tomjedrz Apr 2 '12 at 3:57
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@tomjedrz: You may be right (I hope you are!) I'm certainly suspicious on Supernanny how every show follows the exact same basic format. 1) Family in crisis 2) Supernanny visits and gives advice 3) Supernanny leaves and family struggles 4) Supernanny returns and admonishes 5) Happy ever after. –  Urbycoz Apr 2 '12 at 7:38

7 Answers 7

up vote 18 down vote accepted

My wife and I never worried a whole lot about whether our daughter actually SLEPT after bedtime.

Our rule was that after bedtime, she had to be quiet, leave us alone, and stay in her room. We enforced that rule just like any other, and allowed nature to manage her sleeping. We modeled the same behavior ... after bedtime the lights were lowered and the house quieted. We closed her door and turned our TV low if it was on at all.

She would read, play with dolls/animals, draw, whatever, as long as she was quiet and left us alone. And she would go to bed when she was sleepy.

She is almost 20 now, and the habit is still ingrained. She manages her sleep far better than I did when I was 20. Once the house has quieted down for the evening, she quiets down too. Even if she is up late doing school work, she is quiet and lets us alone.

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I'm not a parenting expert (only one young child) but I imagine that like any advice we receive from the so called professionals we have to be prepared it won't work in the time-frames they say.

Like a cooking show, they make it sound so easy and in the perfect world everything would work exactly like they say. However, to carry on this theme like cooking, our ovens vary, ingredients can vary across countries (or even brands), and so the end result is not always as expected. I would imagine this is the same for advice in parenting. In general their technique would work for a good chunk of children. However our wee fuzz balls are all different. In your case sounds like things are pretty tough and either your child is one determined little critter or perhaps there is something else they are trying to tell you?

My advice would be to hang in there. If things didn't change after 2 weeks then you perhaps may want to get other advice from a health professional or even talk to someone for your own sanity and support. But it seems like it's a battle of the wills and it is so important you hang in there and show your child whos boss. Pure theorisation on this, but it might mean greater behavioural rewards in the future.

Also, I agree with you to stay with this technique. One of the biggest things I agree with from the stuff I'm read, heard is to keep things consistant and once started on a course stick to it and don't give in. Kids will always push the boundaries no matter how big they are. I did read somewhere that this technique can sometimes be slower than expected. A positive is that it will really show you your limits and when you succeed ( because you will), you'll feel like you can overcome anything....

Good luck and I really hope things improve for you. If something works would love to know.

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How about, for a while, have him sleep in your bed? Other sleeping people nearby can make a toddler real drowsy. :-)

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He's never been one for sleeping in our bed. Not sure why but however tired he is, he always gets excited and starts jumping around and laughing. I know some of our friends do this with their kids though. –  Urbycoz Apr 1 '12 at 8:21
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Our daughter is the same way...bring her to our bed and regardless of how tired she is, it's suddenly playtime. Our son was never like this. –  Meg Coates Apr 1 '12 at 17:12
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+1, hey it was a good suggestion. It might help others. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 1 '12 at 18:29
    
@Urbycoz: Our 2-year old son is like your son not very eager to sleep in our bed. But we sometimes do take him to our bed when he wakes up, and then takes him back after a little while. Then he tends to go to sleep when going back - maybe he realizes it's better in his bed after all or something... We have actually seen that he climbs out of our bed and into his bedroom, wanting to get into his own bed! –  awe Apr 4 '12 at 9:53

I guess the real question is why is he waking up and refusing to go back to sleep? Is he hungry? Thirsty? Afraid of the dark? Need a dry diaper? Growth spurt? I would assume that by this age he could communicate to you if it were one of the first two, but perhaps not so much one of the second three--especially if it's the middle of the night and he's all ready worked up.

If it's none of the above things, then perhaps he's legitimately not tired when he wakes up in the middle of the night. Is he still taking a nap during the day? While 2 seems somewhat young to remove the nap, it's not unheard-of (one of my nieces briefly started refusing to nap around that age, but she eventually returned to it) and that might help him sleep through the night. It might mean putting him to bed a little earlier so as to avoid becoming overtired, but it's a possibility.

At any rate, it seems like the technique is working, as the number of times you were having to put him back down is going down so it certainly seems like he's learning that he can put himself back to sleep. Just because the numbers are creeping back up doesn't necessarily mean it isn't working. When we were sleeping training out son, we'd go several days with absolutely no problems, and suddenly he'd have a night or two where he would fight going to sleep again. It sounds like you're doing the right thing, but if you aren't seeing a marked improvement by the end of this week, then I'd say it's time for some professional advice.

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One reason why he would want to not sleep is evident in my son since day 1 (he's 2½yo now): regardless of how utterly tired he may be, he just does not want to sleep and will do anything he can to stay awake, at any cost. It's not related to nightmares or such; it's just a want for staying awake because awake means being conscious. If he sleeps, he might miss something interesting. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 1 '12 at 18:28
    
@Torben That does sound like the most fitting explanation. He really fights sleep once he's woken in the night. –  Urbycoz Apr 1 '12 at 19:19
    
+1 @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun I was (and still am) the same way .. sleep is a necessary evil. –  tomjedrz Apr 2 '12 at 3:59

As a note of encouragement, it sounds like the technique is working. The number of times putting baby back to bed is decreasing, despite a rather difficult night. It looks like you have stuck with it for 6 nights. I hope things continue improving tonight, but toddlers have their up and down nights, with any sleep or bedtime technique. Toddlers can be stubborn, and so it may take longer for this to work than with infant sleep training and putting to bed. I agree with others that giving this 2 full weeks, and then evaluating the improvement is best.

Also, with TV shows, there is a lot of editing! The techniques may be great, and it sounds like this one is, but I don't believe that the technique even works for SuperNanny as easily as they make it look. My roommate was on a "reality" buying you first house show, and it was all staged. He had already bought the house before they started shooting, so they had him pretend to go through other houses like he was still hunting, change clothes and pretend to go appliance shopping (at the sponsor's store who actually gave him the appliances), and the pretend to decide to buy the house he'd already bought. So, watch the shows for the tips, but don't believe you're doing something wrong if it's not as easy as it looks.

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+1 for the TV warning. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 2 '12 at 7:23
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Wait, reality TV is not real?! –  ahsteele Apr 2 '12 at 18:03

Our 2-year old is still sleeping in a crib, but we have bought a big bed which is ready in his room. Sometimes when he wakes up in the night for some reason, one of us go into his room and sleeps in the big bed, and then he stops crying and eventually goes to sleep.

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If he has transitioned to a toddler bed it is the only reason he needs to wake and get up. It is a major deal to little ones. It's different and offers a new exciting freedom. He will test the boundaries of that just like he will test the boundaries of everything else.

Keep up the hard work! One week, while torturous, is not very long for a little one to adjust and get used to a major change. Some kids may only need a couple redirections back to bed but most will need several weeks to months. It is quite common to see a decrease in the undesired behavior and then a spike here and there. Sometimes a REALLY bad spike indicates the dance is about to end. An extinction burst happens when a child's undesired behavior has been ignored and redirected to the desired behavior and the child full heartedly resists( major spike in awakenings, tantruming, etc) Many people give up at this point but it is the most crucial time to stay consistent. Once you move through the burst, the new behavior will have replaced the old.

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