Most parents are familiar with the various theories surrounding teaching infants to sleep. Chances are good that most parents have fairly strong feelings about their chosen method. There are many parents, though, who don’t consider the issue of sleep habits past the point of getting their babies to sleep through the night. Unfortunately, a baby that has been sleeping through the night for a year can easily become a toddler who refuses to go to bed. Crying it out or nursing the child to sleep may very well no longer be options. Does a parent with a restless toddler son have any recourse?
While there are many girls who develop sleep problems after having been successfully sleeping through the night for a long period of time, boys may have an even more difficult time going to sleep, staying asleep, or getting good sleep. The reasons for this discrepancy vary, but, in many cases, boys are simply more susceptible to sleep issues than girls. One of the most common sleep problems for both genders, but more common in boys, is enuresis, or bedwetting. The causes and treatments for enuresis go beyond the scope of this article, but its presence can be a significant factor in contributing to poor sleep patterns in children older than infants. Similarly, sleep apnea, night terrors, and sleepwalking can disrupt a child’s sleep.
What if you have ruled out all of the above, though, and your son is still not sleeping well at night. What should you do? First, always be mindful of the fact that every time you make an exception to a set family rule, your son makes note of it. The more you fail to enforce bedtime rules, the more your son will likely seek to exploit your weakness. Thus, make sure you have a plan in place before your son begins to experience sleep problems. Therefore, if problems materialize, you already have an idea of how you will deal with them.
Having that plan could very well make dealing with your son’s sleep problem much easier. Naturally, every family needs to handle sleep problems in its own way, but the following tips could be beneficial:
• Put your son to bed at the same time every night
• Limit the number of times your son is allowed to get out of bed and/or call for you. Make sure your son is aware of that limit by letting him know that after the first (or second, or whatever you decide) time he calls for you, you won’t be responding.
• Follow a bedtime routine every night. Plan to start your routine at least half an hour early so that your son will actually be in bed at bedtime, rather than just starting to get ready.
• If you don’t want your son to be sleeping in your room forever, think very carefully about allowing him to sleep in there at all (past the point of babyhood, of course).
For many parents, mothers especially, enforcing bedtime behavior can be difficult, since it can feel just plain mean to send your son back to bed when he gets up, or to ignore his calls from his room. As hard as it is, though, some kind of sleep training is necessary if you ever expect your son to be able to sleep well through the night, go to sleep quickly, or stay in his room at night. Just as with baby sleep training, choosing a method and using it consistently is the key to teaching your son good sleep habits. After all, a well-rested son is a huge bonus for the whole family.