Modelling has two main roles:
- To communicate your expectations (and new routines) in a fun, engaging, and memorable way; and
- To help your child to work through any emotions that arise with you right there and when your child is not too tired, before your child is expected to participate in the new routine.
An example of expectations you might communicate are:
- Your child will stay in bed after you leave the room. You will never be far away.
- If your child wakes at night, she or he should try to settle back to sleep.
- Your child sleeps all night in his or her bed.
6 Months and Older
One of the best ways to model is to demonstrate the bedtime routine with a soft toy, and allow your child to see the situation from your point of view. Consider the important elements that you want to model. You might want to include:
- The steps in the bed routine
- A demonstration that you are never far away
- A demonstration of what you will do if [question(“value”), id=”900″] cries
18 Months and Older
You can also model more abstractly, using books or routine charts. For a home-made sleep book see https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/08/02/bedtime-routine-modeling/, and you can also use design and printing services such as Shutterfly (Affiliate link – thank you). For a sleep book with a customisable routine, see The Boss of My Sleep Book by Dr Sarah Blunden and Dr Kirrilly Thompson. You can also make your own routine chart (mine can be downloaded here). Routine charts and books can provide an opportunity for your Child to guide you through the routine, which helps in avoiding power struggles. See the links below for more detail.
Links and Details
Modelling is likely to become more and more effective with every month beyond 6 months of age.
Modelling is suggested by the Dream Baby Guide. For a summary of the book see this link: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/10/10/dream-baby-guide-review/
For the research basis and practical strategies for modelling see this post: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/08/02/bedtime-routine-modeling/ Or this podcast: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2015/04/07/pr-p004-bedtime-routine-modelling/
Here is a video demonstration:
Gradual Approach (Celebrate small steps)
Define steps towards the end goal, and celebrate small wins. For example, when Alex moved to his new bed, the following morning we would celebrate if he fell asleep in his bed at the start of the night, if he resettled himself back to sleep during the night, and if he was still in his bed when his clock said 7. He would get a sticker for any of these that he achieved. I call it the gradual approach because Alex continued to sleep in our bed on and off for a couple of weeks before he started consistently achieving all the goals.
The gradual approach can be combined with rewards. Some books, like the Boss of my Sleep Book by Dr Sarah Blunden incorporate a reward system, but it is easy (and cheaper) to implement your own.
Some principles to follow are:
Make the reward easy to reach
Children need to feel like they can get the reward. The Boss of my Sleep Book does this by rewarding the bedtime routine and the overnight sleep with a sticker each. This makes it easy for the child to imagine what getting a sticker in the morning will feel like, and helps make the reward seem achievable. To hear Sarah Blunden talk about the Boss of my Sleep Book, see this podcast: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2015/07/23/prp009-a-sensible-sleep-solution-with-associate-professor-sarah-blunden-part-3/.
Make the steps to the reward concrete
The reward will seem more achievable if your child can imagine and understand the steps to achieving it. The Boss of my Sleep Book does this by saying “wait in bed until morning”. It is easier to make yourself wait, than sleep. The “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” book uses even more concrete rules (Note that it also advocates cry it out methods that I do not support): “Lie in bed, close your eyes, stay very quiet, go to sleep”. For a successful implementation of these rules see “How I taught my children to go to bed and stay there” by Heather from Rookie Moms.
Make the reward desirable
For some children, sticking stickers on a chart will be rewarding enough. For others, you may need a treat as well, such as a lucky dip prize for a certain number of stickers.
Connect the reward
I try to minimise rewards because they firmly place the motivation outside your child (“I sleep to get a sticker”, not “I sleep because it makes me feel better”). To try to reconnect the reward you could make comments like: “Wow, look how easily you put that sticker on after a good nights sleep”, or “Good sleeping darling! I bet you feel full of energy after all that great sleep!”
Please add your experiences with these approaches in the comments below. Please provide the age of your child when you tried it and how long you tried it for. If it worked, please share the effects you saw. If it didn’t work, why do you think it didn’t work in your case?