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The Toddler Bed Transition: An Update

Stories with dad before the blue light turns on!

Stories with dad before the blue light turns on!

Last month, I told you all about how we moved my toddler to his new “big boy bed.”  At the point that I wrote that piece, we were still in the blissful beginning stage where my son hadn’t yet realized that he had the freedom to get out of his bed, and eventually out of his room.  I knew it was only a matter of time.  Everyone I know who has made this same transition had warned me that after the initial transition period, the toddlers start to explore their new freedom.

Oh, and did he ever.

It started with him getting out of bed and wandering around his room.  We have a video monitor, so this wasn’t really a big deal.  His room is a safe space that I am happy for him to explore, and most of the time he was just sitting with toys on the floor or reading books in bed.  Pretty adorable, actually.

But then he discovered the world outside of his bedroom.  The quiet hallway, the empty bathroom, and the ability to roam at hours like 4 AM.  Suddenly, we had a major battle on our hands.

Many people suggested getting a small lock for the outside of his door, but I felt pretty strongly that I didn’t want to do that.  I realize he was essentially “locked in” when he was in a crib, but I didn’t feel right locking him into his room.  I wanted him to know that if he was scared or sick, he was old enough to come get us and tell us.  At the same time, we needed to establish that he was not allowed to simply wander around the house just because he was able.

And so we battled.  Hard.  For several weeks.  Going to bed was relatively painless.  He’d usually come out once and then stay in his room after an initial warning.  But nap time was another story.  We’d battle for hours — in an out of the room constantly, and with another little one to take care of now, I was at the end of my rope.  I ended up pulling out a pack n play in a moment of desperation and containing him in there when he refused to stay put.  Thankfully, he hasn’t discovered that he can climb out of it just yet…

And so for the past few weeks, we’ve had some growing pains.  The fact of the matter is, I just don’t have the time and energy to battle Cullen on staying in his room for hours on end.   Now he knows that he gets one warning — a chance to get back in bed.  If he comes out of his room a second time, he goes into the pack ‘n play — end of story.  I don’t like to discipline with threats, but I’ll admit it has worked.  I knew this was just a short-term solution though, as it doesn’t feel great to do.

So, now we’re using a lighted alarm clock method called the Sleep Buddy.  It is a totally simple concept — classical training at its best — when the blue light is on, it’s time to sleep.  When the blue light turns off, it’s OK to get out of bed.  Simple, yet effective.  It has taken a few weeks to have him get the hang of it, and we’ve had to be persistent with reminding him to pay attention to the light with every nap and bedtime.  But slowly but surely, it seems to be working.

This morning he woke up at 6:10 AM, and stayed in his room reading books and playing with toys until 7 AM when his light went off.  It’s giving Cullen a feeling of ownership and pride, as I believe he feels like he’s in control of the situation (critical for toddler power struggles).  But in reality, we are setting the “wake up” time, and it’s giving me a chance to shower and get some work done in the morning.  Most importantly, he’s in a safe place in his room and is learning independent play and boundaries, rather than roaming our hallways in the dark.  Here’s hoping we all continue to sleep well in the coming weeks and months!

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