And we tried everything to coax her back into the bed. I would lay down with her. And fall asleep. Reward charts. Stickers. New Barbies. Fun adventures. Daddy would sit in her room. Fear. Threats. We took away privileges. I will never forget the day she threw a fit and I had to eat $40 for the Princess Breakfast tickets I bought from a local high school. And I showed her pictures of her cousin enjoying the morning. Her response: Looks like she had fun. And she was back in our bed the next night.
If, by some miracle, she would actually go to sleep in the bed in her room, we would find her in our bed the next morning – some time in the middle of the night she would find her way in between our covers.
The pediatrician said lock her in the room. To close the door and lock it and not go in until the next morning. In a moment of weakness, I did this. And it was horrible. I sat outside her room and sobbed. And as she incoherently screamed for me to save her, I opened the door and let her fall into my arms.
And I took her to my bed and snuggled her.
I’ve struggled for years with this. Actually, the entire family has. And by years, I mean years. Plural. It has been a horrendous battle of will and time and fear and emotion. We will have the most wonderful day as a family and then nighttime turns into something from a horror movie.
At some point, my husband and I decided that we couldn’t live like that. And it was in that moment we stopped fighting her. And everything changed.
Every night, we offered her the opportunity to sleep in her bed. She would refuse and opt for the couch in our room. Without arguing or fighting or fussing, we’d tuck her into the “bed” next to us. She knew the rules: if you sleep in Mommy and Daddy’s room, no iPad the next day. That was it. I’ll never forget the night she slept in her Big Girl Bed for the first time (in months). She woke up and said: I want to play the iPad now. And we let her. That night, she refused to sleep in her room. No iPad. And for months, it was a give and take. A struggle. But not a fight.
We were at a party recently and a Mom that I respect immensely with two teenage boys and a tween girl told me that her fourth grader still struggles sleeping in her room. I told her about our situation and I’ll never forget what she said to me: she has an irrational fear and you have to make her feel safe, whatever it takes.