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Making the move from a cot to a big bed is a very exciting time for children and parents alike, but it can come with challenges.

Some children do stay there from night one, which is great. But if your child has discovered their freedom and spends sleepy time roaming around like a nocturnal animal then this blog is for you!

Before we look at ways to keep our children in bed, it’s important to understand cognitive development as this impacts how we approach the situation.

Did you know that a child under the age of 2.5 years is not cognitively ready to understand the concept of staying in bed? For some kids it can take weeks even months to realise they can actually get out, but they will eventually, and then the fun really begins!

So if they are under 2.5 years you can expect keeping them in bed to be more of a challenge and you need to realign your expectations from the start, as it will take a longer time for them to catch on.

Unless you have a cot jumper and safety is an issue, I would recommend keeping happy campers in the cot for as long as possible, ideally aim for 2.5 years to 3 years.

For the rest of children who are in a bed but not staying in there, lets look at some tactics to help you address this problem.

  1. Decide on your game plan

Before you start both parents need to be very clear on the plan for responding to your child. How you choose to respond should be based around your child’s temperament as well as their age. Are you going to lead them back to bed for example? If so how will you do this? Will you lead them by the hand, tell them to return or pat the mattress to encourage them back to name a few?

Whatever you decide the trick is to plan your response out in full before you start. Do this when you are calm, rather than in the middle of a showdown when you are tired and frustrated as hell and desperate to return back to bed at some crazy time of the night.

  1. Get your child on side

Before starting your new plan explain these changes to your child using positive language in the clear light of day. This is an opportunity to get them on side and make staying in bed a team effort. Let them know what you want them to do with simple and clear instructions.

For example “If you wake up in the night and its still dark, lay down and go back to sleep”. The use of reward charts and sleep wake clocks are also powerful tools to teach and incentivise your child to stay in bed. But these do come with the caveat – they must be adhered to 100% consistently or they will NOT be effective.

  1. Respond Consistently

Respond consistently – no matter how long it takes. The first response should look identical to the 50th response. It’s tough – there is no way to gloss over it. But it’s a battle of wills and you the parent MUST win. And with each consistent response the length of these battles will get shorter each time. If this does not happen, I would ask you to have an honest ‘check-in’ with yourself to see if there is any variation in your response creeping in.

  1. Zombie mode

Part of the fun for a bedhopper is getting engagement out of parents. So when you respond you need to have a very bland and boring exterior to make their return to bed as boring and disincintivising as possible. Keep all emotion out of your voice, whisper and do not engage with your child in any way other than your planned response. Any additional cuddles or chats that may creep in for example will encourage your child to keep getting out of bed. So being dull and boring is key.

  1. Be wary of curve balls

Its easy to remain consistent when our children are acting in the way we expect them to. But what happens if they decide to test us by suddenly doing something totally unexpected? This happens a lot and testing boundaries is a wonderful part of development but don’t get caught off guard. You might find toys sailing over your head or your child standing in a big puddle of wee! Expect hiding or even hitting to name a few. Whatever the change – don’t let it change your response. Its an attempt to test you and a change in your response both positive or negative will incentivise your child to carry on. So be warned.

This could be the first time dealing with a bed hopper or you could have tried things unsuccessfully in the past. What ever stage you are at commit to the change. Wipe the slate clean from old plans and get your new plan in place using my tips. Most importantly keep consistent and you will see positive changes.

Good luck! x

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