Some or most of the parents may have a desire to have some free time for themselves after dinner, after the daily baby care ritual. The pre-requisite for it is that the child should be asleep! But the child doesn’t sleep without the company of his parents. So, the child has to be encouraged and trained to sleep alone, without the parents.
If you tuck up an active child in the bed forcefully and tell him firmly that he should sleep alone, you may find that the child may not sleep and instead engage in some solitary play or self-talk in the bed. Intermittently he may ask for water, request you to come to bed with him, tell you that he is feeling afraid being alone etc. If you relent to his pleas, you have to go to bed with him in an effort to make him sleep, thus defeating the whole purpose. Therefore you have to be firm in your determination to let the child fall asleep by himself.
Initially you may find that the child is sleeping quite late and just wants to be awake and enjoy “life”, in spite of the fact that he is tired and there is “sleep” in his eyes. But gradually your perseverance and patience will pay off, particularly as the child starts getting bored being awake. He realises gradually that keeping awake and “fighting” fatigue is not that appealing an idea. There are three important things to be kept in mind, as follows:
1. Anything that stimulates a child’s mind and lets his imagination work overtime should be restricted to a minimum possible after the evening e.g. an exciting game. This will help him to “wind down” his mental energy rather than stimulating it further and so making it difficult for him to sleep.
2. If the child comes in the drawing room to sit along with you from his bed and waits for you also to come in bed, it is best to eliminate all sources of entertainment and stimulation from him at that time. The parents should forego temporarily watching T.V. All this is done to make the child feel “bored” so that he will not think that being awake means fun. You will have to accompany him back to bed, but you should make it clear that you will stay with him for sometime only and then go out. In the time that you are in bed, you cam narrate to him his favourite tale. The routine might end with a positive statement like “go to sleep now, sweet dreams. See you in the morning.” And after kissing and hugging your child a final “good night”, you can come out of the room.
3. In your endeavour to make him sleep alone without your having to lie down with him for an hour or more, it is best to give him a favourite animal like teddy bear, doll etc. and tuck the teddy bear up also like a baby. The child may be told to make the toy go to sleep along with him. In this way, the child will gradually associate sleep with the toy and his association of sleep with your lying down besides him will weaken as a result.
4. Some children wish that you should lie with them for some time (say 10-15 minutes) at bedtime. Others may want that they should be told a story before going to sleep. These are genuine requests and the parents should agree to them.