I've always been a bit of a sleep *** and although it worked like a charm with my baby girl (1 year) it was and still often is a long hard struggle with my 4 year old. both my kids have an absolutely unwavering bedtime and pre bed routine.
baby - dinner 5pm bath 5.30 bed 6pm
4 yr - bath 5pm dinner 5.30 bed 6.30
my hubby and I divide and conquer for this to make it happen. my girl is no problem at all so i won't talk about her. I have found with my son that he was happy to go down without assistance at night if we had a solid routine and an earlier bed time than I would have expected and absolutely no TV.
I start the bed routine at 6pm for him - loo, teeth and a story and then we turn out the light and briefly discuss the day and what will happen tomorrow. then i draw a pattern on his tummy and make up a silly little story, we call it a tickle picture, then we kiss good night and I say if he goes to sleep without calling out then I will come back to give him a special frog kiss. I was given this technique by a sleep consultant. she said ask him to choose a frog kiss or a monkey hug. tell him you will only come back to give this special hug or kiss when he's asleep. it's to reassure him that he doesn't need to call out and check in on you, that you will check in on him. then you commit to going in to him 3 times or so before you go to bed and providing your child does submit and go to sleep then you make the kiss or hug bold enough to elicit a drowsy response like a sigh or a movement. the idea is that you checking in on them marks on their subconscious that you've ben there. these special hugs/kisses only come to kids who are asleep. for us this worked wonders after 3 nights and although we go through periods of wakefulness a star chart is a great back up and works a treat for us.
I feel that a firm loving routine for bed is the only way to make them feel the reassurance they crave. although i think sitting in the room with them is one strategy there should always be an exit strategy. try reading the techniques in the book called toddler taming by christopher green. worth a read.
hope that helps
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