Reader Tip: stopping the nighttime fears of 3-year-old

Up this afternoon: "What is a sleep regression?"

This is the power of the internet, people. Reader Laura sends in this idea they used to help their daughter stop delaying bedtime by complaining that she was afraid of her toys:

"My three year old daughter has just recently discovered her fears—of the dark, the rocking horse, the Piglet doll… what have you. Anything to extend bedtime and elicit sympathy.

A few weeks ago we took down the toddler bed (which was her crib, converted) and set up her big girl bed. Everything new except for the bed, which had been mine. She participated in everything to the best of her 3 year old ability.

Now the room was too crowded, so we had to rearrange the decorative items and the toys. My husband BRILLIANTLY asked her to tell him what things were too scary to stay. Everything she deemed scary was out. We honored this completely even though it meant that some items I really liked had to go. We were fortunate, because she did not take advantage. We also guided her and made suggestions such as, “We can take away that picture from your christening, but do you remember being little and how much you used to like to look at it? Are you sure you want it to go away?”  Sometimes she insisted and sometimes she did change her mind.

At the end of the day she had a “new” room that she had helped to put together. Yes, this took considerably longer than it would have if my husband had taken her to the park while I did it—but we (all three of us, I have a great husband) turned it into nice together time to reminisce about her baby-hood and play with forgotten toys. We even packed a box to give away to a battered women’s shelter.

She hasn’t resisted bedtime or been “scared” of her room since. And she stays in her room in the morning now—which turns out to be a mixed blessing because I miss the snuggly wakeups!

Lesson we learned? Its hard to be three. Maybe it would\nbe easier for everybody if sometimes she got to be in control of something affecting her. Maybe we need to find chances to give her those opportunities."

That's a great idea, Laura. (And don't you just love when your partner comes up with something you never would have considered that works perfectly?)

3 does seem to be the age of fear of imaginary things. We went through a similar phase of being afraid of "monsters" that might or might not be in our apartment. We used a "monster scarer" to keep them out of our apartment. Our monster scarer is Maneki Neko, which someone gave me years ago as a good luck charm for my kitchen. Who knew the raised paw would scare away monsters?

Another friend used a spray bottle full of water, and before her daughter went to bed at night they'd spray the monster repellent under the bed and in the closet.

I think it's important to give kids the sense that they can do something against the monsters in their rooms and in their lives. If anyone else has any monster-scaring ideas, please post them.