The numbers on the alarm clock read 4:46, but your child is wide awake and ready to start his day. You keep hoping you're having a nightmare, but no, your child is up and wants you to get out of bed, too. Getting up too early prevents your little one from getting sufficient sleep, but it also makes you a crabby and irritable parent for the rest of the day. Put a stop to it now. Introduce a few new rules and routines to keep your kiddo in his bed until a more reasonable hour.
1. Use a Clock
Take your child to the store and let her choose a clock to keep in her room. Steer her toward a digital clock because they're much easier for young children to read. Set the clock to the time you want your child to get up and show her what that looks like on the clock, then set it to the current time. Place the clock on her nightstand or dresser and remind her that she's welcome to get up as soon as the clock shows the time you showed her. It might take endless reminders at first, but be firm. Eventually your early-riser will accept her wake-up time as a rule and stick to it.
2. Offer Incentives
Hang a piece of colored paper on your child's bedroom door. If he stays in his bed until a reasonable hour, let him slap a sticker on the paper. Give him a sticker if he stays in his bed even if he's not actually asleep. Once he reaches a certain number of stickers, make him a special breakfast. Rewarding the behavior you want from your child goes a long way toward encouraging him to repeat the desired behaviors in the future.
3. Establish Sleep Routines
Decide on a bedtime for your child and stick to it. Don't be tempted to send her to bed early because she won't get extra sleep. Instead, she'll be up even earlier than before. You shouldn't send her to bed late either. In most cases, your kiddo won't sleep in the next morning, but she will be crabby for the entire day. Once your child reaches her third or fourth birthday, she probably doesn't need to take naps during the day. Let her start skipping daytime sleep and she's more likely to sleep longer at night, which means the sun might actually come up before your child wakes up.
4. Leave Toys and Books
If you've tried everything and can't get your child to stay asleep for longer periods, leave a few toys and books in his room after he falls asleep at night. Yes, he'll still be awake, but he'll also be in his bedroom doing something quiet while the rest of the family continues snoozing. Tell him that if he wants the toys and books, he has to sit on his bed with them, and stay on his bed until you let him know that it's time to get up. If he doesn't follow that rule, remove the toys and books. Chances are, he'll be so pleased that you're not making him go back to sleep that he'll be happy to comply.
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