Toddler popping out of bed, with complications: twins!

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  September 19, 2012 06:00 AM

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My daughter is 2 1/2 & has been getting out of bed at night for months. I have twins & they sleep in the same room. That is currently our only option. My husband & I are at wits end trying to keep her in her room. She'll scream for what seems like hours. We have pocket doors so locking them is out. We just have to stay up & take turns holding the door shut. Is there any advise you can give us?

From: Tina, Mundelein, IL



Dear Tiina,


You probably moved her out of the crib too soon (to make way for the babies?) . So here's Option 1: Bring the crib back. That may sound counter-intuitive and perhaps downright weird/wrong, but the trick is in the presentation: Not, "I guess you're not a big girl, after all," but: "Look! You missed your crib so much, we brought it back."

Option 2: Use a gate at the doorway. That essentially makes the entire room a crib, so you want to be sure that there's no way she can hurt herself, and it also sets the "stay-in-your-room" limit that she's developmentally unable to meet on her own. As I've said here before, I'm not a big fan of gates, but I certainly prefer it to a locked door, or to your current solution which is not sustainable over time. It does, however, raise the question of: what about the twins? Won't she wake them up? In his best-selling book, "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, expanded edition)," Richard Ferber writes that this is a typical concern for parents but unnecessarily so. Most of the time, the other child/ren will either sleep through the disturbance or fall back to sleep without difficulty, or return to sleeping normally after a few nights. In the worst case, he writes, move the other child/ren to another room (yours!) for the time you are training your daughter to re-learn to sleep on her own.

Option 3. Make a pallet for her in your bedroom, with a sleeping bag or blankets. Tell her she can come sleep there when she needs to, but she can't wake you up. She may be too young for this but, depending on how sleep deprived you are (!), it's worth a try. The obvious down-side, of course, is that you create another habit that will need unlearning down the road.

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8 comments so far...
  1. Call me crazy, but I secretly love when my 4, almost 2 and 18 month are all sleeping in my bed.I always feel like a circle then. My husband tries all ideas to get them to be more independent in that area and i always gently remind him that, this too shall pass...

    Posted by marisela September 19, 12 07:20 AM
  1. A 2.5 year old is too old to safely be in a crib. All of the kids in my family started jumping out well before that age. We all got beds before we cracked open our skulls!

    Posted by AP September 19, 12 10:36 AM
  1. I know what you mean marisela! Believe me! But it won't pass for a long time if the LW doesn't stop it now. Our 6 year old still does it... Shame on me and my husband for not stopping it when he was younger! ;) Hubby makes more of an attempt than I do, I admit. But he is getting way to big to be in our bed.
    I am a fan of gates.....when it is necessary and keeps them safe, that is. I think Option 2 is best option of the 3.

    Posted by jd September 19, 12 12:05 PM
  1. I wouldn't say kids in the bed on a regular basis is crazy, but I don't believe it is a good idea for many people. If the parents don't get enough sleep and are trying to care for the kids, drive a car, go to work, you don't want to be a zombie.

    Definitely you need a gate, especially if you have stairs...what if the kid awakes or is half-awake and starts wandering around unsafely and you sleep through it?

    If she's waking in the night that often, make sure you've got her on a sleep schedule that will give her an appropriate amount of sleep at once and a waking time that isn't ridiculously early, and don't over-nap during the day. A lot of people feel it's just wrong to not nap so much, or to have a small child have a late bedtime...everyone remembers "going to bed when it was still light out." Well, if you remember it you weren't 2 1/2, you were 4 or 5 and didn't have a nap or two during the day. If she'll sleep for seven hours, do you want it 9 to 4, 10 to 5, or 7:30 to 2:30? Your choice.

    Posted by di September 19, 12 01:25 PM
  1. My mom, who had six kids in ten years, pointedly told everyone NOT to be quiet when the then baby was sleeping. She didn't want a child who could not sleep through a ruckus. Maybe she was just lucky, but it seemed to work. We could all fall and stay asleep no matter what was going on in the house.

    Posted by Susan September 19, 12 10:40 PM
  1. I'm finding the description of this to be a little disturbing. You stay up and hold the door shut? I can't even imagine staying up all night doing that. Do you try to take her back to her room? Have you been able to figure out if there is some reason she is not staying in her room?

    Otherwise, I like Barbara's advice. I feel like she needs some sense of security here and unfortunately holding the door shut against her is probably exacerbating the problem. Back to a crib if possible! Good luck. SLeep stuff is hard.

    Posted by ash September 20, 12 01:08 PM
  1. Couldn't you put a hook-and-eye latch on the pocket doors? We use one on our bathroom, home office, recycling closet, etc. Unobtrusively, like up at the top. If you're like us, a gate won't work on the kid's bedroom b/c of light/noise from the rest of the house after bedtime. Good luck!

    Posted by serafina September 21, 12 09:25 AM
  1. My daughter was happy in her crib until she was almost 3. She never tried to jump out and it was only when she was getting too big that we decided to put her into a twin bed. However, when I moved her to the "big" bed, I explained that the rules were the same. If you need me in the night, call for me. Do not get up and wander around. Just call me and I'll be right in, I said. This has worked perfectly. She stayed in her room and did not scream at all. When necessary, I would go in and hang out with her until she fell back to sleep, or I would rub her back to soothe her, but she always knew she was not to get up or be disruptive. If there was another child in the room with her, I would even be more adamant. Night time is for sleeping, not screaming. If you want something, call me and we'll fix it. Otherwise, you go back to sleep.

    I don't mess around with sleep. End of story.

    My husband always thought it would be cute to have her in bed with us on those nights she was not able to sleep and needed me to hang out with her, but I didn't want her in my bed. My bed is for ME. It is where I go to recharge after a day with HER. To give her my best, I have to be at my best. To have a great day, she needs to have a great night. I don't think co-sleeping is helpful at all. It makes the mom feel good? That sounds awfully needy. It should make you feel good knowing your children are happy and safe, sleeping in their own beds. Hug and kiss them all day, have them call you if they need more, but put them in their own bed and make them feel good about being independent!

    Posted by Judi September 25, 12 10:53 PM
 
8 comments so far...
  1. Call me crazy, but I secretly love when my 4, almost 2 and 18 month are all sleeping in my bed.I always feel like a circle then. My husband tries all ideas to get them to be more independent in that area and i always gently remind him that, this too shall pass...

    Posted by marisela September 19, 12 07:20 AM
  1. A 2.5 year old is too old to safely be in a crib. All of the kids in my family started jumping out well before that age. We all got beds before we cracked open our skulls!

    Posted by AP September 19, 12 10:36 AM
  1. I know what you mean marisela! Believe me! But it won't pass for a long time if the LW doesn't stop it now. Our 6 year old still does it... Shame on me and my husband for not stopping it when he was younger! ;) Hubby makes more of an attempt than I do, I admit. But he is getting way to big to be in our bed.
    I am a fan of gates.....when it is necessary and keeps them safe, that is. I think Option 2 is best option of the 3.

    Posted by jd September 19, 12 12:05 PM
  1. I wouldn't say kids in the bed on a regular basis is crazy, but I don't believe it is a good idea for many people. If the parents don't get enough sleep and are trying to care for the kids, drive a car, go to work, you don't want to be a zombie.

    Definitely you need a gate, especially if you have stairs...what if the kid awakes or is half-awake and starts wandering around unsafely and you sleep through it?

    If she's waking in the night that often, make sure you've got her on a sleep schedule that will give her an appropriate amount of sleep at once and a waking time that isn't ridiculously early, and don't over-nap during the day. A lot of people feel it's just wrong to not nap so much, or to have a small child have a late bedtime...everyone remembers "going to bed when it was still light out." Well, if you remember it you weren't 2 1/2, you were 4 or 5 and didn't have a nap or two during the day. If she'll sleep for seven hours, do you want it 9 to 4, 10 to 5, or 7:30 to 2:30? Your choice.

    Posted by di September 19, 12 01:25 PM
  1. My mom, who had six kids in ten years, pointedly told everyone NOT to be quiet when the then baby was sleeping. She didn't want a child who could not sleep through a ruckus. Maybe she was just lucky, but it seemed to work. We could all fall and stay asleep no matter what was going on in the house.

    Posted by Susan September 19, 12 10:40 PM
  1. I'm finding the description of this to be a little disturbing. You stay up and hold the door shut? I can't even imagine staying up all night doing that. Do you try to take her back to her room? Have you been able to figure out if there is some reason she is not staying in her room?

    Otherwise, I like Barbara's advice. I feel like she needs some sense of security here and unfortunately holding the door shut against her is probably exacerbating the problem. Back to a crib if possible! Good luck. SLeep stuff is hard.

    Posted by ash September 20, 12 01:08 PM
  1. Couldn't you put a hook-and-eye latch on the pocket doors? We use one on our bathroom, home office, recycling closet, etc. Unobtrusively, like up at the top. If you're like us, a gate won't work on the kid's bedroom b/c of light/noise from the rest of the house after bedtime. Good luck!

    Posted by serafina September 21, 12 09:25 AM
  1. My daughter was happy in her crib until she was almost 3. She never tried to jump out and it was only when she was getting too big that we decided to put her into a twin bed. However, when I moved her to the "big" bed, I explained that the rules were the same. If you need me in the night, call for me. Do not get up and wander around. Just call me and I'll be right in, I said. This has worked perfectly. She stayed in her room and did not scream at all. When necessary, I would go in and hang out with her until she fell back to sleep, or I would rub her back to soothe her, but she always knew she was not to get up or be disruptive. If there was another child in the room with her, I would even be more adamant. Night time is for sleeping, not screaming. If you want something, call me and we'll fix it. Otherwise, you go back to sleep.

    I don't mess around with sleep. End of story.

    My husband always thought it would be cute to have her in bed with us on those nights she was not able to sleep and needed me to hang out with her, but I didn't want her in my bed. My bed is for ME. It is where I go to recharge after a day with HER. To give her my best, I have to be at my best. To have a great day, she needs to have a great night. I don't think co-sleeping is helpful at all. It makes the mom feel good? That sounds awfully needy. It should make you feel good knowing your children are happy and safe, sleeping in their own beds. Hug and kiss them all day, have them call you if they need more, but put them in their own bed and make them feel good about being independent!

    Posted by Judi September 25, 12 10:53 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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