Please watch my child sleep video on what to do when your toddler wakes you up during the night.
To ask a question about your child’s sleep, just leave it in the ‘Comments’ section below! I’ll choose one and create a new video answer each week!View the Video Transcript
Hi! I’m Dana Obleman, creator of The Sleep Sense Program. If you’d rather read than watch, I’ve transcribed the text of this video below.
This week’s question comes from a mother named Donna, and she’s wondering what to do with her two-year-old daughter! She asks:
“Our girl is two years old and two months. She goes to bed fine every night, but wakes up all through the night and runs to our room. It can be once or 10 times a night. All she wants is for me to tuck her back in and she goes right back to sleep, but she just does NOT stay there! I wonder what I can do… or is it just that she needs to know that I am there?”
Good question! This is a common problem with toddlers, especially when they are out of the crib and already in a bed. I doubt she even really thinks that through. It’s just that as soon as she wakes up in the night, she jumps out of bed and runs to your room. Then you march her back and you tuck her in and you go back to bed and it just keeps happening. The good news is it does not sound like you lay with her in order for her to sleep and it does not sound like she needs you to stay with her until she falls back to sleep at night. So it is just a habit she has, of running to you every time she wakes up and so when this is a case, there needs to be a consequence.
If you get mad or frustrated with her or even if you tell her sternly to stop coming to your room and you are giving her negative attention, it is still attention and she will keep doing it and doing it because really, why not? There is really no reason why they should not. You march them back and you put them in bed and that is the way the night goes so there really needs to be a consequence, a reason “why not” to come to you room in the night.
Depending on her verbal skills and her comprehension level, you could try giving her a reward. You could say, “If you sleep all night without waking up mommy and you can have a smarty.” or a sticker; some sort of little reward first thing in the morning.
I would put a clock in her room. I really love the clock because it gives a toddler a visual. Something that they can look at and know when is morning. Cover up the minutes so all she can see is the hour number and start talking about number eight meaning bedtime and number seven meaning morning time. Tell her she cannot come to your room until the clock says seven. Let’s say she goes to bed fine and midnight there she is. After that first night visit, march her back to her bed and show her the clock “It is only midnight and not seven, do not come out again until seven.”, and then say “If you come out again, mommy is going to have to lock your door.” Obviously, you are not going to lock her door, but if she comes again, now there is a consequence for it.
If it happens again, you take her back to her room without saying anything. You just take her back to her room, put her back in her bed and now you hold her door closed for five minutes. I have yet to meet a child who likes this. Even if she is at the other side pulling and crying and kicking, you just hold it closed for five minutes, that’s okay. After five minutes, you tuck her back in and remind her not to come into your room again. If she comes to your room again, you return her to her room and now you hold the door closed for seven minutes and each time she comes, you close the door for two minutes longer each time. Again, I have yet to meet a child who likes this and it usually only takes two to four tries before they realize that they do not like that and think “I am not going to get out of my bed again.” Most children like the door to be open, even if it is just a crack, so the idea of it actually being closed fully can be enough that they just do not get out of their bed.
A reward for staying in bed, a consequence for getting out of bed and it should work! Thanks so much for your question and sleep well.
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