Parenting

Sleep solutions: Getting your kids to stay in bed

Ian finally found a solution to his youngest daughter's sleeping problems — thanks to the basement.

Photo: bowdenimages/iStockphoto.com

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how we were having major problems keeping our youngest daughter in her bed at night.

The story ended with me storming out of Lily’s room with her dollhouse because I wanted to teach her a lesson about staying in her room. A lot of people were curious: Did taking something away from her solve the problem?

The short answer is no — it actually didn’t help at all.

The next few nights, Lily kept waking up and pulling the same stunt. Having Lily at our house is a lot like hosting the kid from The Sixth Sense — only that kid was waking up at night because he legitimately saw dead people. As I’ve stated before, Lily just makes up stories about phantom spiders and noises that don’t really exist.

So a couple of days after the dollhouse drama, I decided to step up my game.

A few friends and family members had suggested that we try locking Lily inside of her room. To us, this seemed like a drastic step. Locking a little girl inside her room probably has some long-term consequences. I’m fairly certain Rapunzel was in therapy for years after she was finally rescued by a prince.

With neither of us comfortable with that route, I tried something different the next time Lily woke up in the night and refused to go back to sleep in her own bed.

I threatened that she would have to sleep by herself in the basement.  

As you probably know, fear of the basement is probably one of the top five phobias for children — right next to separation anxiety and fear of that creepy host from Yo Gabba Gabba.

But before you accuse me of being cruel, I should point out that we don’t have one of those creepy, unfinished basements that has an exposed furnace and a history of unsolved mysteries. Our basement is completely finished, with a playroom, two bedrooms and a bathroom. The only mystery in our basement is why there are so many stuffed animals on the ground.

So two weeks ago, when Lily woke up in the night I told her that if she came out of bed one more time, I would make her sleep by herself in the basement. Well-versed in my idle threats over the years, Lily figured I was bluffing again. Two minutes later, she popped out of her bed and said she couldn’t sleep.

Without hesitation, I picked her up and said, “That’s it. You’re sleeping in the basement.”

I marched down two flights of stairs and with each passing step, the reality sunk in for Lily: She was really headed for the basement.

I didn’t even bother to turn the lights on because I wanted to make this as dramatic — and as scary — as possible.  As we reached the basement, she was clutching me tightly, yelling “Please Daddy — no!! I’ll be a big girl. I’ll be a big girl!”

The distress in her tear-drenched eyes was palpable. At that point, I knew I had her.

“Lily, will you go back to sleep in your own bed now?”

“Yes — I promise Daddy. I’ll sleep in my room.”

And with that, I took her back to her room and she went to sleep by herself. In the past two weeks, she’s woken up in the night — but every time, she’s gone back to sleep in her own bed. No more nighttime shenanigans and yelling and screaming. If she gets up to use the bathroom, she just goes right back to bed in her own room.

So if you’re having disciplinary issues with your young child, I highly recommend using your basement as a scare tactic. Even nicely carpeted basements can be used as a fear tactic if you play your cards right.

And for the record, I’m saving the attic for their teenage years.