Photo by Rob Briscoe, Creative Commons License

A Baby’s Guide to Sleep-Training Your Parents

“They’re great during the day, but, man, they are such a challenge in the middle of the night….”

We’ve all thought it. It’s nothing to feel bad about. Parents are just impossible between the hours of, say, midnight and five in the morning. They’re slow to respond, they’re grumpy when they do, they won’t turn on the light, they won’t let you play with your toys, they don’t want to talk to you, they’re barely willing to feed you. It’s a real problem. But it doesn’t have to be.

I know, I know, before you were born, you insisted you’d never “sleep-train” your parents. Sleep training has such a negative connotation. And, yes, there are those lucky few babies who have parents who never want to sleep, but we’re not all so lucky. It is not cruel to sleep-train your parents. Parents are resilient, and you have to think about the end goal. Fun nights, wide awake, are awesome. You do not have to suffer through ten, eleven, twelve hours of silence and darkness every night. It’s not healthy, it’s not fair, and sometimes you need to realize that your parents aren’t going to magically decide one night to do it your way. They need to be taught. Two or three nights of pain end up totally worth it when after it’s over you have parents who’ve been tortured into submission and are willing to let you eat, play, do whatever you want as long as you spare them the screaming.

So here’s what you do. There are three approaches, and which one you choose is dependent on how strong your will is and how much you can bear to watch your parents suffer. But, trust me, the more you can stick to your guns those first couple of nights, the faster you’ll get to where you want to be: no bedtime, no sleep, no darkness.

“Cry It Out,” or Total Extinction

This is the most painful of the three methods, because you just have to keep crying until your parents learn. I know it’s hard to keep it up even when your parents are begging you to stop, rocking you, soothing you — but to teach them to stay awake, you simply can’t stop. And you definitely can’t fall asleep yourself, even if you’re tempted to. To preserve your option to be awake whenever you want, you need to spend a few nights sacrificing sleep and teaching your parents that nothing they do is ever going to work and your sleep is never going to be something they can control. This method is called total extinction for two reasons: (1) your parents get absolutely no sleep, and (2) if every baby did this, the species would have died out a long time ago.

“Modified Cry It Out,” or Gradual Extinction

In the Modified Cry It Out plan, for particularly sensitive souls who can’t quite manage to cry for an entire night, you give your parents the occasional break and let them take a quick nap. Not too long, or they’ll start to think they can teach you to sleep through the night, but a couple of hours here and there. You definitely want to demand food in between the naps, just to remind them you’re in charge, but you can give them a few nights of interrupted naps before they realize this whole sleep training thing is pointless and they should just give in and let you be awake whenever you want. This method is called gradual extinction because, done correctly, there will be a gradual extinction of the love your parents have for you, replaced with resentment and fear.

“Scheduled Awakenings,” or Mystifying Nightly Torture

This is in some ways the gentlest approach, yet in other ways it is the most horrible for your parents because they simply lose all hope of ever getting a full night’s sleep. Just pick a few times on the bright-light number machine and start screaming every night. Try midnight, 2:00, and 4:30 if you need some inspiration. Doesn’t matter what time they put you to sleep, doesn’t matter whether you’re actually hungry, just pretend if you have to. This will teach them not to get too comfortable.

Okay, so you understand what you have to do. You simply have to train the nighttime out of your parents. No sleep, never, not unless you give permission. You’re in charge — never forget that. And pretty soon, you’ll be waking through the night and wondering why you didn’t try to sleep-train your parents even sooner. Good luck!

Originally published at