When Your Child Won’t Stay in Bed

Little girl with teddy bear  wearing  a protective  mask

It’s bedtime and you’ve put junior to bed and relaxed in front of the television, only to find him by your side requesting a trip to the bathroom, water, another story, a hug, or any other endless array of stalling tactics. As your child leaves the crib and grows into a child rather than a toddler or baby, he will begin to assert his independence in any way he can get away with. This includes bedtime and falling asleep.

Reinforcing Behavior

When your child is constantly seeking out your attention, he’s getting some form of reward for the effort. Not only is he getting four cups of water, he’s getting four more times to enjoy your company and possibly even a buddy to cuddle with while he falls asleep. How you put your child to bed is up to you, but once you set a routine, that routine should become standard.

What happens with a popcorn child (one that keeps popping up out of bed) is all those extra trips and attention seeking behavior become part of the routine making it twice as hard to get him in bed for the last time. If you’re tired of returning your child to bed, the solution is quite simple – quit reinforcing the behavior.

Advance Preparation

When it’s the night of change, you’ll want to let you child know ahead of time that there is a glass of water by the bed and be sure he’s gone to the bathroom before reading stories. Then follow your bedtime routine to the letter and remind him of the bedtime rules:

  • Close Your Eyes
  • Lay still
  • Fall Asleep

If he’s following the bedtime rules, he won’t be climbing around the bed or calling out to you for more attention. But you will have to help him learn how to follow the rules. Finish reciting the rules, tell your child good night and walk out the door.

The Return Trips

Your child, despite your reminder, will likely follow the old pattern and be by your side at the same time he usually shows up. When this happens, don’t give in to any requests as he has water by his bed and has already gone to the bathroom. Simply return him to bed, tuck him in and remind him again of the bedtime rules. Tell him good-night and leave again.

He’ll reappear within minutes and the second time you return him to bed, Remind him one more time of what he should be doing. Then put him in bed and tell him good-night. Every time he wakes up and crawls out of bed after this point, you don’t speak or make eye contact. Simply place him in his bed, tell him a quiet good-night without making eye contact and leave. You’ll likely have to continue the process dozens of times for the first few nights, but if you are consistent he will start sleeping better and staying in his bed while he waits to fall asleep at bedtime.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: