Please watch my video below on how to solve the problem of toddlers waking to early.
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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 Victoria. She asks:
I have a three-year-old who has gotten into the habit of coming into our bed around 5:30 and having a sippy cup of milk. I don’t mind the snuggles but I would like him to sleep later in his own bed. I know it’s the milk that’s getting him up, but he loves milk. How can I get him to stay in his own bed and end this bad habit?
That’s a good question, and there were actually quite a few questions around three-year-olds coming into bed, either halfway through the night or too early in the morning. One great tool that I use with my own children and recommend to all my clients is something as simple as a clock. Get yourself a digital clock, big enough that they can see the numbers, and then put duct tape over the minute numbers, so all your child can see is the hour. And then start talking about the number seven. You can draw some pictures; you can even put a little poster of the number seven beside the clock, so he has a visual. And you just start saying, “Bed time is number seven, and morning time is number seven, and nobody can come out of their bed until the clock says seven.” I start it with my own children when they hit the age of two, and I recommend that everyone from two up keeps a digital clock in their child’s room.
It’s an excellent way to regulate morning time, and to this day, my kids stay in their room until their clock says seven, and then they come and wake us up. So if he gets up at 5:30 and comes to your room, you will just take him back to his room, refer to the clock, say it is not seven yet, and he may not get out of bed until the clock says seven. You keep doing that and doing that until his clock says seven, and then you can let him get up.
Because he’s three, you could try a reward chart. Talk to him the night before and say, “If you can stay in your bed until your clock says seven without coming to mommy’s room, you can have something—you’d have to decide. It could be Hot Wheel or a little treat of some kind or toy from a box of little trinkets—whatever you think would be motivating enough for your child.
And the milk—I would just get rid of the milk altogether. You could just tell him, “You can have milk at seven, not until the clock says seven.” And, again, a rule is only a rule if it’s a rule. So you can’t budge. If you’ve said he can’t get out of that bed until his clock says seven, then you absolutely cannot budge. It has to be seven every single day.
If you want, you can set the clock a little late, if you find seven is just too big of a jump to start with. You could just set it a half-hour late, so at 6:30 it says seven on his clock. It needs to say seven on his clock. You can start there, and then as he gets better at this, you can work your way up to the real seven. That is a great way to keep him in his own bed.
You can expect that he’s going to challenge you a little bit on this, because he’s three and it sounds like he’s had his own way around this for quite a while now. So, you can expect a little bit of pushback, but again, you get up, you take him back to that room as many times as it takes until his clock says seven, and you’ll find that it really does work like a charm. The clock is one of my favorite and best-working tools that I have. So I encourage you to start tonight with that.
Thanks a lot for your question. Sleep well.
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