Well, we’re on night #4 of Operation Bedtime, implementing the Positive Discipline approach in a (somewhat desperate) attempt to train N to stay in her bed, once and for all. It’s a simple theory: every time she gets out of bed, we’re supposed to kindly but firmly put her back into bed — no words or interaction, just a kiss on the forehead.
According to the method’s author, Dr. Jane Nelson, it takes 3-5 nights to sink in — i.e., for the kiddo to realize that every single time she experiments by getting out of bed, the result will be the same — Mom and Dad will be standing guard outside her door, waiting to scoop her up and carry her back to bed.
On the first night we tried it, N got out of bed (and we calmly, firmly put her back into bed) a total of 78 times — as if this was a fun new game — until she (and we!) were so exhausted that sleep finally came on its own.
On the second night, we were thrown for a loop. Before we could begin implementing the method, N deployed her tried-and-true delay tactics: cries of “I have to go to the potty,” which turned out to be fake; imploring us to turn on the light because she’s afraid of the dark (which also conveniently allows her to easily navigate her room, picking up books and toys to bring to bed with her); and even the classic hysterical fit in which she screams, “I don’t want to be alone! I need someone to stay with me!”. Once we finally quieted her down enough to start the method, it was way past her bedtime. We chased her back into bed a mere 25 times before she finally fell asleep.
We were feeling tentatively positive about our progress — until night #3. We both came home from work exhausted and hungry, but had to take shifts standing guard outside N’s door while the other ate dinner. By the time 10:00pm rolled around, we had put her to bed a total of 44 times.
Throughout the process, N has expressed curiosity about the method. A couple of times she asked me, “Mama, are you starting to get upset?” to which I replied with a Nelson-approved kind but firm “no,” and a kiss on the forehead.
Another time, N was chattering away happily while I put her back to bed silently. She asked, “Mama, did you lose your voice?”
Now we believe we have completed night #4 — tonight’s tally was 27, bringing our back-to-bed grand total to 174.
Overall, the method seems to be working — though I have to admit that I’m skeptical we’ll be done by tomorrow, night #5.
What Dr. Nelson doesn’t mention is that there can be unintended consequences of methods like this. Last night, N woke up at 1:30am and came and crawled into bed with us for the first time ever. We were caught off-guard and weren’t sure how to respond. She just looked so darn cute that we couldn’t bear to haul her back, so we let her stay. In the light of day, it’s clear that this could send a mixed message: stay in bed at bedtime, but it’s okay to get up out of bed in the middle of the night — huh?
N was cute in our bed until 5:30 this morning, when she woke us up by grumpily complaining that we messed up her blanket and to stop touching her. We put her back in her bed, but she was up and so were we.
So tonight we are one tired family. But I have to keep believing that soon we will get a handle on the sleep issues that seem to be multiplying daily. If Dr. Nelson’s method works I may erect a small shrine to her in my living room.
If not, then maybe there’ s a silver lining to standing guard outside her door: that’s how I wrote this blog post (with the help of my iPad)!