Sleep training your toddler (or grown child) is not the easiest thing in the world. Actually, it's pretty damn hard. Depending on your kid's personality, he or she might lead the rebellion against the premise before you even start a trial run. This happened to me with our 5 year old, which is why the real life hacks I use to get my kids to sleep in their own damn bed became a thing. Desperation comes in many forms and, for me, it was and is a continual state of bargaining, lying, and manipulating both of my children to get them to enjoy their dream state. Am I proud of myself? Hell yes I am. The end result is them in their beds and me in mine so, you know, mission accomplished. Isn't that what matters?
When my brother and I were younger, we lived in a low-income apartment complex with our divorced, working mother for awhile. This part of town wasn't great back then, and it's declined quite a bit since. What I remember most about that place was the fear. We feared living there but we feared it even more after dark. It wasn't uncommon to smell bin fires through the windows or to hear screaming and the occasional gunshot or firework past midnight. Because of this, my brother and I slept on an old mattress that laid perpendicular beneath the space of my mom's bed, in her bedroom. I'm not sure how long we slept this way, but there came a point where we were forced to our own rooms in our own beds, and I wasn't ready. I didn't sleep much and would often cry to go back to that old mattress in my mother's room.
The point I'm trying to make is, I remember being a scared little girl who didn't want to sleep far from her mother mom, so I feel for my kids when they protest because of whatever reason (the dark, monsters, the usual). The difference is, they're growing up in a totally different environment so, logically, if I'm taking every precaution to make them feel at ease in their own rooms, it makes no sense to me when they refuse. Plus, if you've never co-slept with a toddler kicking your face all night, it's literally the worst sleep for all involved. Regardless, I think their independence away from me (and me from them) for the night is a good thing. Here are some of the real life hacks I've come across to get my kids into their own damn beds. Sleep for all and all for sleep!
A tried and true "hack" is the use of an inexpensive spritzer filled with lavender tonic. Or, you can literally buy or make lavender spritzer (and create your own label to aid your lie). It keeps "the monsters away" and the lavender has the added benefit of helping my son drift off to sleep without much notice.
To be honest, I spray my own damn room for monsters with this concoction.
There isn't a bedroom in our house that doesn't have a window pinned down by heavy curtains. Of course I pull them open in the daytime, but when night hits (especially through the bright summer), blackout curtains are everything. They help keep the room cool and dark.
Reward charts have saved me so many times throughout this parenting journey. For potty training, sleep routines, chores: everything. Whether you use a sticker or a small toy, put a chart up and be consistent in tracking (and praising) your kid and sleeping won't only happen, they'll look forward to earning all the things.
Of course, the caveat here (as debated by some parents and scholars) is that in using a sticker chart, we're further encouraging a "reward economy," as described in The Atlantic. This is when children stop doing basic things you ask of them if they aren't promised something in return and demand a transaction of sorts. As with anything, the system can work (it did for me) but use at your own discretion.
A Sound Machine
I cannot, and will not sleep without my fan blowing in my face. Doesn't matter if it's the height of winter and the coldest night of the year. I need the sound to drown out my thoughts and the air makes me more comfortable.
My kids are the same and actually, as is nearly everyone in my family. Some use fans, and others do without the added air and spring for sound machines. They're miracle workers.
A "Special" Bed
Just as my brother and I slept near my mom's bed (but not in it), some moms swear by the use of non-traditional sleep vessels. If you're kid is into camping, try a tent or sleeping bag next to your bed and gradually move it closer to their own room.
My daughter loved sleeping in rocking chairs so we moved one into her room and, while we'd tuck her into her bed, she always found her way into the chair. The point is, she slept in her own room. Progress.
When my son first protested the idea of sleeping in his own bed, we didn't realize the placement of the furniture at the time. We decided then to wait a little longer and until he seemed ready for the responsibility of being alone. After some time passed, we moved his room around. Much to our surprise, he took to it right away. Apparently the bed was in the wrong place and it made him too scared to sleep. Now, we don't have that problem.
(And FYI, new Avengers bedding also had a hand in empowering him.)
My son has a blanket he's carried from birth and a stuffed puppy his sister handed down. If those two things are in his bed, ready for sleep, he will give it a try. This doesn't mean he hasn't pulled them out and tried to take them to my bed (or anywhere else but his bed), but with emphasis on how much they want to sleep with him, in his room and in his bed, it goes a long way.
A Consistent, Relaxing Routine
Routines are my saving grace. Without them, we'd never get through a day unscathed. Kids rely on them — I rely on them — and honestly, if you do nothing else, do your very best to put your kids on a reliable sleep routine. It should give them time to wind down with a bath, book, song: whatever calms them and puts them in sleep-mode.
(Read: this works for adults, like me, too.)
Sounds weird, right? I thought so, too, until we ditched the baby monitor in exchange for walkie talkies. Now, my 5 year old can tell us, from his bed, if he can't sleep, and we can reply without getting out of bed. It's a safety gadget that eases his/my anxieties and actually works.
Plus, it's cool. Over.
A Worry Journal
I'm anxious by nature and have a busy, chaotic brain. This means falling asleep can be challenging. My kids go through nights like this if they've had an especially busy, challenging, or thought-provoked day. A great (and easy) tool is to create a worry journal or white board. Ask them what they want to let go of for the day and let them see you write it down. It may help with an anxiety and help them sleep in their bed without you. Even if they've been doing well, but suffer sleep regression, give this a try. Regressions usually happen with my kids if they're more stressed than usual. Get to the root of it and it'll be easier to sleep.
Take it from a girl who once feared sleeping on her own: you can get your kids to sleep in their own beds. It'll take a little thought and compassion but in the end, everyone wins. Except the monsters, of course.