Sleep Training Our Toddler, Again

May 7, 2021
person lying on bed holding blanket
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

One of the questions I ask myself constantly as a parent is “am I doing the right thing?” It’s hard to know which actions are going to benefit my toddler to make him a well functioning , kind adult one day and which will turn him into a murderer.  I understand that sounds dramatic, but it is truly how I feel when making decisions such as how to punish him for bad behavior or coaxing him to sleep in his own room.

The latter has been the struggle these last several months and it's been a tough time for all of us. My 3 year old son, who was fully sleep-trained from 6 months onwards started coming into our bed every night starting in June. We have already lost all sense of normalcy this year due to COVID and my father in laws cancer diagnosis, but now along with all those changes, we lost our good sleeping habits all around. This led to an immediate drop in other habits we had worked so hard to create. This break in sleep patterns has had a vicious domino effect in our lives and it honestly feels like a never ending cycle.

There were moments these past couple months where I felt like I was doing the right thing by allowing him into our bed every night. I justified it by telling myself that he needed to be nurtured and at least he was going to bed on time even though he was waking up. The unfortunate truth is that Krish doesn’t sleep as soundly in our bed. He tosses and turns most of the night and even lies awake some nights, which keeps me awake. This has taken a toll on his behavior and mood throughout the day and in the long run, it was not a solution that works for anyone in the family.

Today, we made the decision to sleep train our toddler all over again. We invested in a toddler alarm clock a couple months ago that turns green when they are allowed to leave their bed so with the alarm clock on, we told him that we would see him when the light turns green, which is 6:30 AM our time. I’m writing this at 1:53 AM because we successfully got him to go back to sleep after an over 1 hour battle. We had to stay strong and not give into his sweet protest. We told him before he went to bed that we would be locking our door. We explained how it was important for all of us to get sleep in order to be healthy and have good days together. We stressed the importance of sleep on the body and his brain growth. It’s a lot for a 3, almost 4, year old to understand, but we honestly are open to trying anything at this point. It’s all in the experimentation like most parenting is.

When he woke up around midnight and walked over to our room, he was alarmed to find that we actually locked our door. He went back to his bed and cried at the camera. As a parent, you know when your kid is truly crying and fake crying. This was a fake whine-cry to get our attention. My husband spoke to him on the camera and reminded him of our pre bedtime talk. Krish was not having it. We continued to take turns on the camera to remind him that he is strong and that we believe in him. We repeated this phrase a lot. “We believe in you, Krish.” We know you can do it. Eventually, he tried our door again and it was still locked and the tears continued. I went to his room and tucked him in. I gave him another pep talk and a kiss on the forehead. It took all of my will power not to cuddle him into me and bring him to my bed. My heart hurt and it was so hard to understand if I was doing the right thing. I came back to my room and he is finally asleep in his own bed.

I have asked myself several times tonight if I am a good mother. Am I doing the right thing? I know culturally, it’s pretty normal to co-sleep. Some people honestly love it. I will be honest and say that I don’t. I do not enjoy sleeping next to either child because I truly value my sleep. I know a lot of people have chimed in and said that this is a normal part of parenthood. “They’ll eventually sleep in a decade and you’ll miss it all.” Then there are people and books that say it’s important to create boundaries  and sound sleep is what they need for proper brain development. Honestly, it’s hard to know which direction to go.

With my husband’s support, we decided that his development and our collective sleep as a family was more important than allowing him into our bed at night. I am not ignoring him because that’s impossible as a mother, but I am reminding him of why he is brave. I know that I won’t get sleep for the next several nights in hopes to get sleep for the next several years, but I am hopeful it’ll be worth it if it results in a full night’s rest for the whole family and better days all around.