Getting Your Toddler to Stay in Bed
Just when you think you've made it through the worst of baby-induced sleep-deprivation known to man, along comes your toddler. Awake, bouncing off the walls at bedtime. Or even worse, awake and in your room in the middle of the night! It's enough to drive a tired mama (or papa) batty!
If you haven't already embraced your inner sleep stickler, now may be the time. Children are nothing if not creatures of routine. Establish a soothing and consistent bedtime routine and stick to it. Religiously. Worship at the altar of bedtime routine. Inconsistency to a kid is like a slot machine to a gambling addict I didn't win this time, but next time, maybe they'll cave, and I'll hit the jackpot!
Once kiddo has gone to bed, if he gets out, practice what Dr. Marc Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child, calls "the silent return". At bedtime, say"I love you. It's time to sleep. If you get out of bed tonight, I'm going to put you back in bed, but I'm not going to talk to you when I do it."
Then, anytime your child leaves his bed during the night, return him to bed without saying a word. This can be challenging, but engaging your child by talking with him, even if you're expressing your disapproval, rewards your child with attention and gives him incentive to repeat the behavior.
Another kid sleep guru, Kim West, aka "The Sleep Lady", outlines a whole regime for getting challenging sleepers to stay in bed, including what she calls "The Sleep Lady Shuffle". Basically parents start out spending the night in their kid's room to reassure him or her—briefly!—and then gets him back in bed. After a few nights, parents can sit outside the child's room and do their reassuring from there, so the child knows that mommy and daddy are still nearby even if they're out of sight.