Nighty-Night: 9 Ways to Get Your Child to Sleep in Their Own Bed

The exhaustion you heard parents talk about is now yours. Here’s what you can do about it.

Every night, several times a night, your toddler calls you, climbs out of the bed, and insists on sleeping with you, and every night, you acquiesce out of pure fatigue. It’s one of the more agonizing things about parenting small children, and the lack of sleep sets off a chain reaction throughout the other aspects of your life: your partnership, your work, your diet, your exercise. It’s a problem that feels unsolvable. But it isn’t.

To keep things in perspective, for most of our existence, the babies slept with us. It’s a relatively new, Western idea that we all get our own sleeping area. As one wry dad joked: “So do you think cavemen used to put the baby in a different cave to sleep?”

The modern arrangement dictates that we cordon off our children at night, and there are obvious reasons, but we should understand that on a very primal level, that’s not how mammals are set up. We are asking our kids to go against their programming to a certain extent.

That said, everyone actually gets their rest when we finally get the routine down.

People will toss lots of information at you because that is what worked for them, but trust your instincts and do what works for your family. No judgment; this is child-rearing, after all. Here’s quick list of suggestions you can take or leave.

  1. Wear them out. Make sure your child is getting all other needs met – like food and exercise.
  2. Slow everything down toward bedtime. The routine is pretty crucial in terms of indicating to that little developing brain that sleep has to happen. Lower the lights, do everything in the same order, and power off the devices.
  3. Too much light, too little light. Some kids want the nightlight and music, while other kids need complete darkness to sleep. Try both.
  4. Talk to them if you are about to start the transition to their own bed. Use positive language about getting older, make their bed a special place, and discuss this change during the day, rather than at 2am.
  5. Withdraw gradually. After story time, sit on the bed, and wait for your child to drop off. Then transition to a chair. Then move the chair gradually away from the bed.
  6. Cut a deal. When your child repeatedly tries to climb into bed with you, try cutting a deal: “Five minutes of cuddling and then we are going back to your room and I will tuck you in.” Even if they resist, keep this up every night and they will realize that this is how it is now.
  7. Hang a bell on the door. When little ones come out of their rooms, the bell ringing is a signal that they need to get back into their own bed. We are not above using Pavlovian training techniques when it comes to sleep.
  8. Color shifting clock. There are some cool digital clocks on the market that can be set to change color at certain times. “If the numbers are red, you get to stay in bed, and if the numbers are blue, I want a hug from you!”
  9. Stay calm and move along. If you get frustrated, have your mate take over, but avoid showing your child you are upset. If kids feel like they are going to get into trouble, they might not get up for important stuff, like using the potty.

The important thing to remember is that all kids move past this phase. And while you are tired now, try to appreciate that your child just wants to be close to you. Experiment and don’t beat yourself up if you give in and have to try again tomorrow. It’s not about perfection, it’s about staying sane and getting everyone to bed. Sweet dreams!




About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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