10 Steps to Getting Your Child to Stay in His Own Bed
Families who are transitioning away from co-sleeping or even those who are new to dealing with a child who won’t stay in his own bed after moving to a toddler bed that’s easy to escape are no stranger to the challenge that is mastering the full night’s sleep. There are as many reasons why kids won’t stay in their beds as there are kids themselves, and as many motivations for coming to find a parent after waking abruptly as there are sleepless nights. Finding a method that works for your family may require a bit of trial and error, but with a bit of dedication, you’ll find your child sleeping the night away in his own bed before you know it.
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- Find the Root of the Problem – The first step to getting your child to successfully spend the night in his own bed is to find out why he’s having trouble doing so in the first place. Some kids will get out of bed at night because they’re afraid of imaginary monsters, other because they’re simply awakened by something and aren’t able to self-soothe until they fall asleep again. To solve this particular problem, you’re going to need to uncover the root of it and work around what you discover.
- Start a New Routine – Allowing a bit of wiggle room in your child’s bedroom routine can have a major impact on the success or failure of your ability to keep him in his bed at night, especially if he’s getting up because he’s having bad dreams or is afraid. Make room for a “monster check,” take the time to work a bedtime story into the routine, or allow him to wind down a bit by starting the routine earlier and working towards the goal of getting in bed with less pressure.
- Encourage Self-Soothing – If part of your child’s established routine includes you spending time in his bed or in his room until he falls asleep, it may be time to rethink your strategy. After all, a child who’s dependent upon you in order to get to sleep will naturally come searching for you when he wakes up and can’t accomplish the task on his own. Start working on helping your child to fall asleep on his own and you may find that the bulk of your problem is already solved.
- Keep Your Language Positive and Optimistic – When you talk to your child about staying in his bed, make sure that your language is upbeat and positive, rather than stern or overly authoritarian. Make spending a night in his bed sound like the major milestone it is, not something he must do because he’s afraid he’ll be punished or you’ll be disappointed.
- Work Gradually Towards Your Goal – You may not be sleeping in a child free bed the night you start working towards that goal. You may not even be there a week from starting your routine. It’s important to keep the end game in mind, though, rather than focusing on immediate results. After all, you want a lasting solution, not one that’s temporary.
- Get Kids Involved in the Process – Giving your child a bit of ownership over the situation by letting him pick out new sheets, select a special animal to sleep with or even have a bit of say in his bed time can go a long way when you’re trying to reach an understanding about sleep. Let your child know that you want him to be excited about this new chapter in his “big boy” life, and give him some control to reflect that status.
- Make a Game of The Situation – If you set up a system of rewards for every successful night in bed or make each night seem like a fun, new challenge, you may find that you’re having better results than if you’re just trying to lay down the proverbial law to your struggling child.
- Maintain Consistency – When little feet come padding into your room in the wee hours of the morning, it can be easier to just let it slide than to get out of bed and meet the challenge. Consistency is key, though, because you don’t want to send mixed messages to your child. Just get up, lead him back to his bed and avoid engaging with him along the way. With consistent repetition, your child will learn that coming to your room is not a means of getting the results he had in mind.
- Be Patient – It’s not easy to keep your cool when you’re sleep deprived and frustrated, but losing your patience and lashing out is a surefire way to inspire a setback. Make a concerted effort to be patient and understanding, rather than exasperated and angry.
- Reward Successes, Don’t Punish Setbacks – Instead of shaming your child or punishing him when he’s struggling, make a point of rewarding his successful efforts. Understand that your child wants you to be proud of him, and wants to earn your approval, even though the change you’re asking him to make is a big and sometimes scary one.