What to do about a Jack in the Box at bed time?

At the Tot Center today, in the nap room with the two year-olds, I had a little Jack in the Box.  A child who gets out of bed every two minutes.  This is challenging in any circumstance, but  has some extra challenges in group care.  For one they are all in the room together, only a few feet apart on cots on the floor.  Also, this is not home, with their favorite bear in their cozy bed with their Mommy.  

So here are some guidelines that helped me today:

Napping is a good thing.  It helps if you approach it like it’s a treat.  If it seems like a punishment,  "Now you have to nap!” you’ll get more resistance. Instead try, "You are so lucky, it’s nap time.  Your body will feel so good."  Sleep is one of our basic needs.  It recharges us, and it feels good to sleep when we are tired.

Keep your cool. I know it can be frustrating the 555th time your child gets out of bed.  Especially when it’s your child.  For some reason the kids at the tot center don't get under my skin the way my own are capable of.  However, if they see that they’re having ANY kind of affect on you that will just make them do it all the more.  Calmly and Confidently put them back to bed.

A consistent naptime/bedtime ritual is tremendously helpful. I read a book, I sing two songs.  The last song is always the same and when they hear that song they know the next thing is rest.

No more talking.  I keep my talking to an absolute minimum.  I let the children know I will answer questions or talk about things at snack after rest time.  But at naptime I am pretty much silent.

Let them find their own way.  Some kids flop some kids hum quietly, some need a stuffed animal to snuggle.  As long as it doesn't disturb the others then it is fine.  Sometimes we put kids to bed and expect them to be asleep in 2 minutes.  How long does it take you to fall asleep?  Give them some time.

So with these directions in mind, when my little Jack in the Box popped off her cot this is what I did: I put her right back.  Now, how you do this is important.  First, don't rush.  Go very slowly.  Again, be calm, unaffected, very matter-of-fact.  Do not let this seem like a burden or difficulty for you.  Keep your mood as light as possible -- remember naptime is a good thing.   Also as little talking as possible.  

When she did it again, I did the same thing. No talking. Slowly and calmly, I walked her back.  Several times she was back up before I even go back to my chair.  I turned around slowly and calmly walked her back. I sat down next to her cot.  I half-closed my eyes and lowered my head.  I did not engage with her when she tried to talk with me. I felt at one point that it was disrespectful not to answer at all, so I told her we could talk at snack.  And that I would sit here for a bit before I would go to my chair, but now I was going to be silent.   I did nothing else to sooth her.  I just sat nearby.  When I could tell she was very sleepy, but not asleep, I moved back to my chair.  She did not get up again, and in about ten minutes she was asleep.

I know helping children find their way to good sleep habits can be frustrating, but hopefully these  pointers can help. You may very well find that an extra 30 minutes of calm conviction, on occasion, may help build a foundation of healthy sleep habits that could last a lifetime.