Changing anyone’s habits can be a difficult thing. Studies show that for adults, it can take up to 66 days to form a new, consistent habit.
I am of the belief that the younger you are, the more easily you can adapt to something new. I see this all the time with sleep training — within a few weeks, children have adapted to new and healthier sleep habits thanks to their parents’ hard work and determination.
The secret to success? Consistency.
Whenever parents make the decision to get their child with special needs sleeping on their own, they have to go all in.
Because the brain and body are getting re-wired, essentially. You are teaching your little one that all they need to fall asleep is a pillow and blanket (in some cases a lovie), and their own self soothing strategies. Nothing else.
However, it is vital to stick to your plan every single day until your child (and their brain) learns to do this. Otherwise, the process will be dragged out or you may never meet the end goal. For your child, they might not be able to see or hear very well, or maybe your child’s understanding is a little under age level. Being consistent helps keep them oriented at all times.
Consistency has to be there in all aspects, including:
– Bedtime and Naptime Routine
– Time to go to bed and naps
– Sleeping place
– The way night time wake ups and early morning rising is handed by parents
By getting your child to sleep at the same time each day and night, and by following the same exact routine or list of activities leading up to sleep, it will become easier for them to drift off. That is because the brain and body will start to predict what is coming. The more closely you follow these consistent routines with your son or daughter, the easier it will be for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.
There is another side to consistency —
Children are brilliant. One moment you are feeling strong and saying “no”, and the next moment you’ve done a complete 180 and now you’re doing exactly what they want.
You did just say “no”, right?
Children are the ultimate negotiators. They understand cause and effect. And, they can quickly figure out where the chinks are in your armor.
When it comes to sleep, kids know exactly what to do to get you in their room. Or, they will frequently leave their room to see what you are doing or to get into bed with you.
They are simply testing to see where you draw the line.
Kids need consistency in how you handle the “bedtime rules” as well. They need order and predictability and are not equipped to call the shots when it comes to their sleep. You would not let your child chose exactly what they wanted to eat all the time, right?
Being boring and predictable, being black and white (translation: consistent), is precisely what you need to be when it comes to bedtime and sleep during the night.
My recommendation is to write down whatever your “rule” is about sleep and post it for everyone to see.
This is not only for your child, but for you as well. You are going to need a reminder as to what you have agreed upon at 3am when your child has come in to your room for the third time. For the children, this is their way of knowing what parents expect of them.
Sit your child down and introduce this new rule to them and let them know exactly what is to be expected. Not sure if your child will understand this? Once it is in play, if you are consistent with it they will quickly understand the new “law of the land”.
And, be consistent in rewarding your child for good behavior and following your bedtime rules. This system I have used time and time again with children of all ages and neurodevelopmental issues successfully.
It is a sign of respect to your child and an acknowledgement of their brilliance.
Yes there will always be bumps in the road, but stay the course and you’ll get to your final destination.