Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sleep Training: 102

First lesson... Turns out, everything you learned in Sleep Training: 101 doesn't apply here.
At least not for us.
Seven months ago when Mackenzie decided it was time to scale her crib like a ninja we were forced to transition her to a toddler bed. We spent countless hours reading various parenting blogs and forums, each promising a different fail-proof sleep training regimen that would result in restful nights for all.
We settled for the old cry-it-out approach, a technique that worked fairly well for us when Mackenzie was still in her crib. Tough love? Maybe. But to each his own.
Of course, cry it out only works if the child is unable to escape. So, piled on the mean parenting train was the fact that we shut Mackenzie's door -- which we baby proofed -- essentially trapping her inside.
This decision became slightly easier for us after it was endorsed by the pediatrician's office. The doctor explained that a toddler needs to know that she has to sleep in her own bed and that cozying up with mommy and daddy is not an option. (Of course, exceptions are made in certain circumstances, such as when the child is sick.) Since Doug and I had agreed long ago that co-sleeping wasn't for us, we felt this was our best bet.
Our plan worked. The first night was living hell... Forty straight minutes of miserable, blood-curdling screaming. But after that Mackenzie was able to get herself to sleep peacefully. On the rare occasion that she woke up in the middle of the night, she was capable of going back to bed on her own.
But that all changed within the last few months, and one can only imagine that the disruption in sleep pattern had something to do with the fact that Mackenzie turned two and/or that she became a big sister.
We went from a seemingly independent sleeper to a master manipulator. Mackenzie started throwing tantrums at bedtime, kicking her door with what seemed like super human force, screaming at the top of her lungs, and - when we broke down and succumbed to her bedroom floor in an effort to appease her - playing mind games with us for hours: "I want blanket", "I don't want blanket", "I want pillow", "No pillow", "I want bunny", "I want baby", "No bunny", "No baby"... You get the picture.
Her conniving little games culminated in an all-out takeover within the last couple of weeks. That girl had us wrapped around her finger and I knew we just had to put an end to it. She knew the door kicking would drive us crazy. So she kept doing it. And eventually we caved in and stuck with her until she fell asleep. Which ended up being anywhere between 9 pm and sometimes 11 pm. And then it started all over at 3 or 4 or 5.
Ultimately, Doug and I have spent the better part of the summer curled up on Mackenzie's floor with one arm draped over the bed railing holding her hand. Try to make a premature escape and BOOM! she squeezes even harder as if to say, "You're mine. I rule this house. You will do as I say. And tonight you're keeping your ass on this floor as long as I want you there."
So after countless mornings waking up sore and stiff I had finally had enough.
We needed change.
Our solution? Leave the door open.
How, you ask, do we ensure that she stays in her room?
By standing outside of it and escorting
her to bed each time she gets up.
And over
And over
And over.
And depending on who you ask you can say something like, "Stay in bed and I'll be back in five minutes to check on you."
Like she has any concept of five minutes.
Or you can say nothing. Because making her feel ignored and unloved is really helpful and effective.
So we're seeing what works for us, staying consistent with the toddler walk of shame, back into the bedroom. Back under the covers.
So far Mackenzie has been trying her hand at every possible stall tactic...
"I have boogies."
"I have a boo boo."
"I have poops."
"I have pee pee."
"I'm scared of something."
Doug points out that these pleas for attention would work on us if they weren't lumped together. I'd go running to rescue Mackenzie if she simply cried, "Something hurts." But when it's paired with "I have snots" or "I want chocolate milk" I'm not as inclined to tend to the boy who cried wolf. (Note to self: bad idea to ever let her taste chocolate milk!)
Admittedly, my biggest fear is that Mackenzie is too damn manipulative for someone who's barely two. She knows how to push our buttons. And I'm starting to think that she just might be smarter than I am. But if we let her win, no one in this house will ever sleep again...
Except, perhaps Braden, who has endured so much noise he's now capable of sleeping through anything.

1 comment:

  1. LOL, we went through the exact same thing with our daughter when she was 2 and transitioned to a toddler bed. The escape attempts, the "I need this thing or that thing", everything. I'm glad to hear we weren't the only ones.

    What you did sounds just right, though we tried something else in between: setting up a baby gate across her doorway. This let her open the door and look out (or call to us), but kept her physically in the room. Eventually we got rid of this and did it your way. Thanks for this post!