Does your child get out of bed at night, causing both you and them to lose sleep? Here are a few helpful tips to help your child stay in bed at night.
by Mikki Stone | Certified Behavioral Specialist and creator of the Ask Mikki column–a Q&A column dedicated to helping parents navigate behavioral issues with their children. You can follow her on Instagram @mikkigaffentstone.
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How do I get my child to stay in bed at night? She calls out or gets up every few minutes, saying she is scared or thirsty, or some other thing. She’s 6 and everyone tells us she shouldn’t be doing this. What should be do?
I appreciate your question. You are asking about something a lot of parents deal with, so this is going to help a lot of people!
The first thing I need to say is that other people are well-meaning when they tell you what you or your child “should” be doing, but please don’t “should” on yourself. Your child and their child are different, so the same rules and routines may not apply.
Do you have an established bedtime routine? If you do, great! Keep that and we’ll build on it.
If you don’t, great – you get to start one!
Bedtime routines are a signal to the child, their body, and brain that the day is winding down and it’s time for sleep. Routines work best. They let the child knows what’s coming next and hopefully, you both enjoy it.
Possible routine: Bath time, followed by pajamas, a glass of milk or water, brushing teeth, reading a story–or telling a story you make up on your own works well. If your child has an active imagination, you could build the story with your child! “What did the cat do next? (let the child answer) It jumped out of a plane? Wow! What color was the parachute?” Etc. Or you could sing a song. Children don’t care if you are pitch perfect, but they love the attention.
At the end of the routine, assure your child that you are there and all is safe, and you will see them in the morning. Ask if there is anything else needed before you leave the room. Once settled, remind your child that you expect them to stay in bed now, then give a kiss and leave the room.
Ahead of bedtime, it is a great idea to teach your child some coping skills for any feelings of nervousness, such as deep breathing techniques–breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 4, out for 4. If they can’t get to sleep, ask them to imagine their toes yawning and falling asleep, then the feet, then the ankles and so on, up the body.
Think of things that they can learn to do on their own that will help them stay in their room and sleep. If she is still calling out (and she is very likely to fo a while) tell her you’ll see her in the morning and no, you are not coming into her room right now. The key is consistency. When you decide the rules, tell her what they are and then keep to them. She can’t learn if you are inconsistent.
Let me know if this helps! I always appreciate feedback.
Don’t forget to share this post with your friends. And if anyone you know has child behavior questions, have them contact me via email [email protected].