14 answers

4 Year Old Won't Stay in Bed!!!

My son 4 years old, will NOT stay in in his bed at night. He'll get up a couple of times a night and tell us that he "doesn't know how to go sleep". I feel bad for my husband because he is the one usually getting up with him. Meanwhile our almost 2 year old sleeps all night. My husband will take him back to bed numerous times a night and this has been going on for quite sometime. I don't know if there is anything else we can do. I don't know if he is sleep walking some of the time or if its just a phase, but if it is just a phase, when will it go away? We will not give him "treats" for staying in bed. we have done that before and it worked for a while then just like it started it was gone. And we will also not "contain" him in his room, i.e. put a gate up. anything I am not thinking of?

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Featured Answers

Someone once told me a great little trick. Place three quarters on the floor outide his door. Each time he gets out of bed he has to pay you one of the quarters. When all 3 are gone he cannot come out of his room any longer. Also tell him he gets to keep the quarters he doesn't give you and put them in his piggy bank. Good Luck

More Answers

I've dealt with this one on and off over the years, I have three boys and they all have this problem from time to time, like you don't want to give them treats for staying in bed nor will I lock the doors. and with three if they each wake up once a night that means I'm up three times a night, so I do understand what lack of sleep is like! my 7 yr old gets up the most in the night, and this summer has been hard, but here is what I find... and it is not that different from your previous advice,

I have to get his energy out during the day!!! make sure he doesn't go to bed hungry, I always make him go potty before bed. when he does get up I take him straight back to bed with as little interaction as possible, sometimes he has a bad dream (which I think is because of eating to close to bed time) if he has a bad dream we often pray to give comfort then straight to bed. we have had a bed on the floor before and sometimes he still does this on his own, it didn't make the problem worse, but it did give me more sleep, so I do recommend this as an option, just explain to him that if he does come in he can not wake you or Daddy up but he can sleep on the floor in your room, but he will need to bring his own pillow and blanket, I prefer to make it harder for them rather than make the bed for them or it is to easy if it involves an effort on their part they might think twice about having to drag bedding in with them, (my kids had a smaller blanket that they could drag in easily). but it did require work on their part, and it wasn't a very comfortable bed either, if they want comfort they have to stay in their bed.

before bed time I discuss the importance of staying in your bed... just because you wake up doesn't mean you cant go back to sleep without telling me about it, just go back to sleep, if you are sick then that is a good reason to come tell mommy or daddy... that kind of thing, no threats here, just honest conversation, which really does help in our house.

All three of my kids keep water bottles by their beds, the no spill kind so they can get a drink of water and go potty during the night without waking me up, which I also encourage them to do that and try to go back to sleep on their own before they wake me up.

best of luck, if you need more encouragement please feel free to contact me


Lock your bedroom door and tell him he must stay in his bed, otherwise no TV. Hopefully he will eventually "get it." Good luck!

Someone once told me a great little trick. Place three quarters on the floor outide his door. Each time he gets out of bed he has to pay you one of the quarters. When all 3 are gone he cannot come out of his room any longer. Also tell him he gets to keep the quarters he doesn't give you and put them in his piggy bank. Good Luck

I'm having the same problem with my 5 (soon to be six)year old. We made him a pallet on the floor and told him it was necessary for me to get my sleep to be healthy, just like him. I told him it was fine for him to come into my room, lay on his pallet, but not wake me up unless he was sick.

He stayed in his room the first night. Last night he started with an ear ache :( so he woke me up. I know it's legitimate because I had to take him to the doctor a few days ago and he's on antibiotics. Mine has started with nightmares and is afraid to be alone as well as the dark. We travel a lot in our business. So it's hard for him to come back to his house (3600 sq ft) after we've been all together for 6 weeks in a hotel room (500 sq ft)...

I sure hope whatever it is, he outgrows it soon. Hang in there, you are not alone...


Hi there:

first - if he's napping at all during the day that should be eliminated, then see if you can find some activity that will WEAR HIM OUT before bed time. Maybe your hubby and he can go into the yard and have races or something (anything!)....daddy may not be too into that but it would so be better than getting up with him 5 or 6 times a night -then, if he still does it, tell him and re-enforce that he is to stay in his room and play quietly if he can't sleep - my guess is that you'll get up in the morning and he'll be asleep amongst his toys on the floor......Good luck!

Make sure he's asleep when you go to bed that way you know he is asleep. And, take him to the bathroom.

If he wakes up during the night, just take him back to bed. NO conversation. Then, in the morning, ask him what wakes him up. Maybe he is having bad dreams or something. Also, look at how many hours he is sleeping and track it. If he's napping during the day because he is tired don't let him nap.

Lastly, talk to your pediatrician.

My 4 yr old daughter is doing the same thing right now. It is soooo exhausting. You are doing the right thing. Keep taking him back to bed. Does he have a night light? if not that may help. I know some of my friends let their kids make a place on the floor next to the bed for the child to sleep if they come in but sometimes it perpetuates the problem. I just walk her back to bed. And I do it a lot. Sometimes it is 1 time a night and sometimes it is a lot of times a night LOL! But it does slow down, for us it has typically been between 4.5 and 5 yrs old. Be encouraged you are doing a good job!

Make sure you wear him out during the day! Take him to a park, let him play outside and teach him how to skip and hop on one foot, do races with him. I have the same problem with our soon to be 4 yr old and when he goes outside to play with his siblings or we go to the park or hiking or something physical he sleeps through the night(as long as I don't let him nap during the day) but if we have just been playing inside all day long or he doesn't get worn out he is up 2 or 3 times wanting to sleep with me.
Good luck- it will help you sleep better too!

You might try taking him to potty before putting him to bed the first time. When my son did this at around 4 years old, that's what I did. He was then able to get back to a restful sleep an not bother us anymore. Then I just started taking him to potty before I went to bed (around midnight, so he'd been asleep about 4 hours). He stayed asleep most of the time, and then eventually got to where he would go to the potty on his own during the night. He is now 5 1/2 and he rarely wakes up at night for anything, but usually just potties and goes straight back to bed. I didn't talk to him when I was taking him potty, either. It is just a matter of training their brains to do something different when they wake up. Best wishes- I know it's hard!

i have several thoughts.
first of all make sure you put him back to bed without words. no hugs, kisses, i love yous. no talking, straight back to bed. that way he is not getting any extra attention. personally i would give him a spanking and put him back to bed.

i don't know if you would consider this a 'treat' but something that has worked with us in potty training. we went a bought a diego dvd, let our 3 year old pick it out, made a big deal about it. you could get something like that and let him watch in in the morning only if he stays in his bed all night long.

along the same lines is there some sort of discipline that could happen in the morning if he gets out of bed at night. maybe something he usually gets to do that he won't be able to or something that gets taken away from him for a while.

hope you find something that works.

I am in the same boat too!!! And very tired!!! I am almost grateful for the nights when it is only one time. Last week he was up at 1am, 3am, 330, and 6!!! I also have an 18 mos old girl who sleeps through the night and I am hoping she continues. He was a good sleeper until about age 2 1/2. Was hoping it was just a phase, but it has been over a year now. We did try and lock the gate upstairs 6 mos ago, but then we went through a remodel upstairs. I keep threatening to lock it again, but I am scared he will just start yelling and wake up his sister and then I will be in double trouble. It will be interesting to see if you get more responses because I need help too!!! My son even knows when we have had a bad night that I am in a bad mood the next day. He calls me "angry mommy." I hate that, but I can't help but need my sleep!!!

I always locked my son in his room. Years ago I saw a couple that had burns all over them. They came to get their hair done at a salon I was working at. She told me their house caught fire and they kept going back in to find their 2 yr old. But they never found him. Later they found he had hid behind the tv. I always knew my son would be safer in his room. He would get up and I never heard him. Got into the refer and ate raw hamburger. Then one time he had eggs lined up and I thought next would be the medicines. If he wanted out of his room he had to bang on his door. One of my customers also was told by his doctor and he said the doctor said a lot of parents would disagree but he told him to lock his kid in. He got up and broke the toilet bowl top lid. You are giving in every time you give him attention taking him back. And the candy as you saw did not work. G. W

Some 4 year olds really digg sticker charts. If he stays in bed all night he gets a sticker- if he has a sticker (for a day, a week- whatever works for him) then he can earn small rewards here and there... and they really don't have to be huge things, just something your child likes (my daughters favorite reward is cottage cheese of all things).

Does he have soft music playing? Does he have a nightlight? Could he look at books until he falls asleep? Does HE have ideas of what might help him? You could even try some yoga with him before he goes to bed to help relax him, and warm milk, and have him pick something he would like to dream about (esentially giving him something to daydream about till he falls asleep). Sometimes kids really do have to be taught how to allow themselves to fall asleep, just like adults they can't turn off the day and wind down.


Our two year old stinker also wouldn't stay in his room. Our problem was solved when we put childproof doorknob covers on the doorknob!! He can't open the door (most of the time - once in a while, he figures out how to get it off the doorknob), so he is forced to stay in his room. Yes, he cries, but you need to practice "tough love." He eventually stopped crying. He is fine with it! You and your husband need to get your sleep! Getting woken up throughout the night is only acceptable if you have a newborn! Go to Babies R Us and get those doorknob covers! Good luck and get some zzzzz's!

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