My four-year-old will not stay in her bed at bedtime. She is a wonderful sleeper, but until she falls asleep, she is constantly playing with her toys, rummaging through her dresser drawers, and basically re-arranging her room. We have tried taking toys away and letting her earn them back by good behavior, but it seems that after a few days we are right back where we started. Please help!
From: Lindsay, Portland
You don't say what time you are putting her into her bed, but I'm betting that whatever it is, it's too early for her. She probably just isn't sleepy. Tweak her bedtime so she's going in later.
The typical 4-year-old needs between 10 and 11 hours of sleep. Are you expecting too much sleep of her? Or is she one of those kids who functions on less? If she isn't cranky in the morning and she isn't demanding much of you in the time she is busy in her room, I'd say you need to make the whole thing a non-issue.
Figure out how much sleep she is getting -- that is, what time (about) does she actually fall asleep and when does she wake up? Then, rather than have a power struggle every night, put her into bed later, at a time that coincides more closely with when she is more likely to be sleepy. In addition, after you go through your bedtime routine, eliminate the struggle by giving her permission to get out of bed once or twice. I've known kids who, even at 4, were happy to read two books on their own before they were ready to fall asleep. Not a bad life-long habit, if you ask me!
I'm intrigued by your words, though, that she goes through her dresser and basically re-arranges her room. Is it possible she's a child who has specific ideas of what everything needs to be like. Some kids have tendencies toward perfectionism, meaning they have an idea in mind for the way things have to be and they can't accept anything less. What helps these kids is learning about the idea of something being "good enough." Ask her ask if she has an idea in her mind of how she likes her room to be in order for her to go to sleep. If she does -- bingo! -- you can incorporate that into your bedtime routine or simply acknowledge it and let her continue as she is.
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