When your child has difficulties staying in bed – for any reason – and you are looking for assistance to get your child to sleep in their own bed, it is essential to first look at how you can change your own behaviour.
In Nonviolent Resistance Training (NVR), an exercise is often used that was originally developed by Ross Greene: The Three Basket Exercise. This exercise can also be used in SPACE (which is Applied NVR) as a method for parents to understand and negotiate between them the types of bedtime behaviours they are willing to work with, and which behaviours are undesirable.
Parents prioritize unwanted behaviours by placing them in three differently sized baskets.
- The green basket contains the largest number of behaviours and are to be ignored with determined resistance. Think of these behaviours as “choosing not to pick a battle over.”
- The yellow basket is for behaviours to negotiate over using dialogue, explanations, and encouragement.
- The red basket is for the one or two behaviours that the parent is going to resist actively. The small basket must not contain more than two things. Typically, these behaviours include harm to self or others, or deliberately breaking a promise such as going out at night without permission.
Goal one of this exercise is to help parents reach an agreement on behavioural priorities, as well as to create a hierarchy of behaviours that will need continued efforts.
Haim Omer, the founder of NVR explained that behaviours in the red basket do not encompass the totality of parental actions, but create a hierarchy that determines which (few) points are going to encounter resolute resistance.
When the red basket contains a few behaviours, parents can do all they can to continue to resist these behaviours through parental presence and vigilant care. Such will increase parental influence significantly. however, jumping from one red behaviour to another is going to lead parents to use “No” all the time, which results in conflicts and loss of influence.
When a child sleeps in the parent’s bed all the time, how would you qualify this behaviour? Would it fit in the green basket? Perhaps, however, when sleeping in the parent’s bed starts to impact the relationship between the adults, then such “green” behaviour should be actively resisted.
How about the “red” basked? Is a child sleeping in the parent’s bed harmful to themself or others? Probably not, yet, when one parent chooses the child over the partner and chooses not to actively resist the child’s behaviour, such might impact the longevity of the relationship between the parents.
When the described bedtime behaviour is caught early, parents can start to think about a plan about how to get the child to sleep elsewhere (and not in the parent’s bed). See how I did not write, “the child’s bed?” Perhaps there are subconscious factors in place that prevent the child from sleeping in their room. Maybe a scent, faint noise, or even a memory of a bad dream.
The goal is to get the child to sleep in their own bed (which of course will be happening in the end), however, in the meantime other methods of sleeping can be acceptable as long as an arrangement is negotiated between the child and the parents.
Let’s say the parents negotiate with the child that after resting in their own bed, they can sleep in a play tent, which would be acceptable, as long as the child does not sleep in the parent’s bed. Can the child seek comfort in their parent’s bed with a parent? Yes, for a short time, as long as the parent actively resists the child staying in the parent’s bed and brings the child to the new sleeping place (tent in this case).
What is essential is to address the sleeping behaviour “when the iron is cold.” During the day – hours away from going to bed – address bedtime with your child, practice it, and ask how you and your child can make sleeping in their own bed more comfortable. When alternative sleeping arrangements are made, gradually make those less desirable than the child sleeping in the child’s own bed.
Are you looking for assistance with getting your child to sleep in their own bed? Take a look at your SPACE and Applied NVR can help your family members manage these and other unhelpful childhood behaviours.