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How do I teach my 4 yr old daughter to fall asleep by herself?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hi there.

I have a 4 yr old daughter with whom we coslept for a long while, then when she transitioned to her own bed, when she was about 2 1/2 or 3, we parented her to sleep (books, prayer, back tickles/snuggles). She has always been welcome in our bed if she wakes in the night.

I am 5 months pregnant and she will be 5 in OCT. For the last year we have discussed teaching her to go to sleep on her own. We would still do the normal bedtime routine, but would like to minus us being needed for her to fall asleep. Is this possible? How do I achieve this goal. Her room is upstairs ours is downstairs. I have mentioned the idea to her and she gets very panicky and informs me that she does not want to do that. She has talked about wanting to spend the night at a grandparents house, but I told her that she needs to be able to put herself to sleep before she starts having sleep overs. Still no interest.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to make this transition smooth and loving?

post #2 of 6
We have done with great success something Dr. Sears describes in his baby sleep book.

Most of the time, we basically tuck our children (4 & 2 years) into bed after the same bedtime routine every night. We tell them we are coming to check on them in 5 minutes, and we do. Then another 5 minutes, another 5 minutes, etc. Neither can tell the exact time or number of minutes, but they like us to be able to come back to them before they fall asleep.

If they are having a rough time settling for the night, we tell them we will sleep with them for 5 minutes, then check on them in five minutes. Sometimes with my 4 year old we also tell him we have ___ to do first (feed the baby, wash up from dinner, etc) and if he's not asleep by the time we're done we will come sleep with him. Sometimes he's asleep by the time we're done our chore, sometimes he's not and likes cuddling with us to go do sleep.

Neither my 2 or 4 year old are welcome back into our bed because we are cosleeping with a baby in a queen sized bed. We do not feel this would be safe to have them in as well. However, when we have night time waking, there is a sleeping bag in our bedroom they are welcome to sleep in on the floor beside our bed. This has worked as a good transition for us as they used to come sleep with us as needed before ds was born.
post #3 of 6
Like the pp, I do the five minute thing too. We just recently made the transition with DS of him falling asleep by himself. We do the routine, kiss him good night, and tell him we'll check on him in a few minutes. If he cries or calls for us we go back in and soothe him, and again tell him we'll be back in a few minutes. He's fine with it now, although we do still have some nights where I need to go in and spend a few more minutes with him, but that's fine. We recently had a test of our routine since Grandma did it for nap, and it worked great! That was the first time my mom was able to put him to sleep...he's still not willing to do an overnight, but someday hopefully! A lot of the time DH does still go and sleep with him at some point overnight if DS wants that, I don't want him in our bed because of my 5 month old.

Maybe she's scared because she feels so far away from you with her bedroom being on a different floor from you ? What if you told her you would stay outside her door with a book or something until she falls asleep? That might ease the transition a bit...
post #4 of 6
We finally got DD to fall asleep on her own a few months before her 4th b-day (I had an infant and couldn't handle parenting 2 kids to bed.) Before, I nursed her to bed and then snuggled her to bed (after I nightweaned her). I ended up slowly transitioning to just sitting next to her in bed, and then did the check on her in 5 minutes thing. I also had a whole reward system going, which really motivated her. I also played lullabies to help her fall asleep. Oh, we also have a video monitor, so she knew I was watching her (which made her feel more secure.)
post #5 of 6
No time to type, but just wanted to answer quickly... we've tried everything with our DD (just turned five this week). She has a hard time sleeping, no matter what, whether we are there or not. So falling asleep on her own has been a long road.

In addition to making her feel safe, as other posters have touched on, I just wanted to add what is helping us right now: cds. Both music and books-on-tape help her. It keeps DD's mind occupied on something else so that she isn't just lying there in bed wondering how soon we'll be back to check on her. Books (or poetry) on cd that she knows already are most effective. (For instance, DD loves Shel Silverstein's poetry, we read her the poems all the time so when she hears them on CD she knows them but it is someone new and different reading them.)

My other advice is go slow and help her feel like every little step is a big accomplishment so that you avoid making her feel like this is some awful task she *has* to do because she's getting older.
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

Just wanted to post....there is hope. My 6 year old daughter now puts herself to sleep at night (minus the story and prayer routine with us before bed). We started a motivation reward system when she turned six in OCT. She also knew that we would not allow sleep overs at grandma and grandpa's to happen until she was able to put herself to sleep and back to sleep at night. So that was also a motivator. I never thought I would see the day, but it has come and it feels wonderful and relieving to know that she has reached a point where she feels comfortable enough to accomplish this goal. :)


As a reward she earned a Japanese Eraser (something she liked) for every night she could put herself back to sleep. We started with that goal.


Then, once she could put herself back to sleep, we moved on to the goal of going to sleep on her own to start. With the first goal accomplished, she felt empowered to reach the next. This next goal was a huge one for her. So the reward was a big one. She picked a 10.00 gift at the end of the first week and another 10.00 gift at the end of the next week. The price was a small one to pay for such a huge success for all of us!



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