Saga of the big-boy bed

Bed or crib? Apparently, neither. He prefers to run around and rattle the bars of his prison.

We’ve been trying for the past couple of weeks to transition N to his toddler bed. He loves the bed: he hurls himself into it delightedly, pulls up the covers, and sucks his thumb. You’d think he could just stay in there and fall asleep, wouldn’t you?

Alas, as good as N was at going to sleep happily in his crib, he isn’t transferring those skills to the new bed. He gets up and runs around (we finally closed off the kids’ room with a baby gate.) He climbs into K’s bed and disturbs her. He opens and closes the bedroom door, thus darkening the room and causing K to panic (“I can’t see! It’s too dark!”) He rattles the baby gate. He babbles.

Okay, so it’s clear that he’s not ready for the responsibility of the big-boy bed, right? Mr. December and I reluctantly put N back in the crib to sleep… and he started screaming. “Bed! BED! BED! BEEEEHHHHD!” And suddenly we’re in a no-win situation: put him in the crib and he screams, keeping K awake and causing her to be exhausted and miserable the next day; put him in the bed and he fools around, keeping K awake and causing her to be exhausted and miserable the next day. You can see the bind we’re in.

This is not, strictly speaking, a Montessori-related problem. If we were “classic” (read: “hardcore”) Montessori parents, N would have been sleeping on a mattress on the floor from day one. He would understand that bed is the place to sleep, and we would be fine with him moving around his room quietly until he was ready to fall asleep. Oh, wait – that IS the state of affairs (his understanding and our acceptance of moving around until sleepy.) The only complicating factor is that N shares a room with his big sister.

It leads me to wonder – what do hardcore Montessori parents do when their children share a room? Does the situation even come up very frequently? Is Montessori parenting a phenomenon of the middle and upper classes? Does every young child of Montessori parents have his own bedroom? Or am I missing some semi-obvious way of teaching a very young child (20 months now) to respect his sleepy sibling?

It is an often-heard criticism of Montessori that it’s an expensive program and only available to the rich. It’s also incorrect. There are some (albeit not many) public-school Montessori programs. In fact, Maria Montessori developed her philosophy while teaching working-class Italian children. Nothing about Montessori requires affluence, because although there are many beautiful – and expensive – Montessori materials, you can just as easily apply most of the philosophy without them.

Which is all fine and good, but I’m still stuck with the problem of how to keep N from pestering K until he’s ready to fall asleep. They have to share a bedroom, and that won’t change unless we move or renovate (maybe in a couple of years, but not now.) Do I put her in a loft bed that he can’t climb? Sit in their room until K falls asleep, since N won’t get out of bed if he thinks we’re watching him? Get one of those puppy shock collars that zaps him every time he leaves his bed? (I kid! I kid! … okay, I considered it for a millisecond, but you know I’d never do that. Put down the phone. There’s no need to call CAS.)

Advice, anybody? What would Maria Montessori do?

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Princess
    Mar 22, 2012 @ 23:37:19

    I am not in this situation so I am not sure how well this would work…. but we do have to put my son back to bed many many times some nights. Could you ‘camp out one or two nights’ demonstrating that once you are in bed you stay there? Treat it like you might a montessori lesson. Perhaps involving K in N’s getting ready for bed process to encourage him to look to her an follow her lead (e.g helping pick a snuggly toy to take with him and tucking him in). If all else fails some picture books or puzzles, that keep him quiet and in bed might help; particularily if he can only use them when he’s in his bed.


  2. michelledupontlatelier
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 02:52:53

    She may have already done this, but has K told N what he should be doing at night?
    Not sure what their dynamic is, but maybe she can show her brother how and what one is supposed to do at bed time. This will give her a “job” as well as show him what his “job” is during the bed time routine… good luck


  3. Sheryl
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 13:30:09

    We approach bedtime from an Attachment Parenting perspective, rather than a Montessori one. That means that either Jake or I lie down with the kids until they fall asleep, and then we get up and do what we need to do in the evening. Sometimes they fall asleep right away, sometimes they don’t. Either way, it is a nice way to reconnect after a busy day, and we even get a bit of rest out of it.
    Also…maybe take the empty crib out of the room? Maybe it is confusing him?


    • RKT
      Mar 24, 2012 @ 23:30:33

      We just moved A into L’s room, and I agree that a bit of an AP approach is useful. Both of our girls need us to sit there while they fall asleep (L actually falls asleep faster than her little sister–we figure it is because A still naps), but it also keeps them from keeping each other up.


  4. Shaby
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 15:35:56

    We are in this situation! Actually for the second time. When we first moved Ezra to Aviva’s room (he was 3 months, she had just turned 2), she was a light sleeper and he is a NOISY one – just his presence would keep her awake. That lasted a coupld of exhausting weeks, but she eventually learned to sleep through his noise (which came in handy when he started teething and was waking at night).

    Now it’s the other way around – often after lights out, Aviva (now almost 3) will run around and play in the dark and wake Ezra (now almost 1) up. But again, we’re just going to let it be, until she moves out of this phase or he learns to sleep through her noise (whichever happens first).

    So my advice, let it be. K will be cranky and sleep-deprived for a few weeks but will likely learn to sleep through her brother’s playing (or the thrill of big-bed freedom will wane and he’ll learn to actually go to sleep).


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