A Sleep Manners chart is one type of tangible reward system that can be used to help your child develop good sleep behaviors. A very simple chart can often be introduced once your child is 2 1/2 years of age and is easily adapted as he grows older. Sleep Manners charts are used to praise positive behaviors, help develop problem-solving skills and to change negative behavior patterns. Here are the steps for creating your own family Sleep Manners chart:
- Be specific. Give your child a simple description of the behavior you are looking for. Don’t change or add behavior goals until he has almost mastered his first goals.
- Be realistic. Work on developing or changing 1 or 2 behaviors at a time. Be sure to include at least one skill that your child is already successful at doing on the list.
- Use positive words. Children understand “do” more readily than “don’t”.
- Be consistent. Read through the chart together at bedtime. In the morning, review how the night has gone and give out rewards promptly. If he has not achieved one of his sleep manners, keep your tone neutral and hold out hope for the next night: “You are learning lots of sleep manners. I know you will be able to do it all by yourself soon!”
- Keep rewards simple, and always include hugs and praise. Tangible items, such as stickers, often motivate younger children. Playtime with you, time with a favorite toy, or a special outing can also be effective rewards. You may need to add extra incentives for older children (such as earning a special treat after completing a certain number of successful nights) or remove some privileges in order to change sleep behaviors.
- Be trustworthy. If you have promised a reward, then keep your word or your child will not be motivated to change his behavior.
What do Sleep Manners look like? Consider these:
- Lie quietly in bed.
- Put yourself to sleep without Mommy lying down next to you.
- Follow your Sleep Story if you wake up in the night.
- Stay quietly in bed until your wake-up light comes on.
- Put yourself back to sleep in the night without calling for Daddy.
- Put on your own PJ’s at bedtime.
- Help brush your teeth.
- Play quietly at naptime.
Discuss Sleep Manner goals with your child when you are both well rested. If he is old enough, he can help decide which Manners to work on first, and what rewards he would like to work towards (make sure you provide reasonable choices!). Decorate the Sleep Manners chart together, and incorporate his interests (a train lover might treasure Thomas the Tank Engine stickers). Put the Sleep Manners chart where he will see it often throughout the day – on the fridge, on his bedroom door, or in the bathroom are good options.
Use your Sleep Manners chart along with a personal Sleep Story to help your little one learn good sleep skills.
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