22 answers

Bedtime Wars

i need advice on getting my 4 year old to sleep in her own bed, she will sleep on the couche but not in her bed. the doctor said to sit with her till she falls asleep, but that is time consuming for me and she will just lay there with her eyes open because she knows i will leave when she falls asleep. please help i am at my wits end here

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Hi T.,
It's hard and I know some people won't like this but I had to make my son stay in his bed and just let him cry it out. It took one night and he stayed in his bed. It was terrible for me to listen to him cry but nothing else would work. You have to be tough and not give in. He has never had trouble since and he's 14 now. At the time I was a single mom too. It's very hard but trust me you don't want this to go on any longer especially when she gets ready to go to school.I'm married with three kids 14,9,3.

2 moms found this helpful

I understand the sitting with her on the sofa but I asked this question 2 years ago and I felt the best help was put her in the bed and walk away. Then when she gets up do it again, and again and again and again and again. Eventually she will just stop. Also talk to her about her bed. Take the sheets off and have her help you wash them and put them back on the bed so that she feels apart of the situation. A few nights of putting her back in the bed without talking to her will create that habit. She will just give up and sleep in her own bed. Good Luck

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers

Nearly any technique you try is going to be time consuming so while it will be completely inconvenient for you, you need to stick with a technique and give it a fair shot if you want it to work. In the long run, having your daughter fall asleep in her own bed in a timely manner is not a 'mean thing', it is a good healthy habit.

Start on a Friday night (so you have the weekend to recover from loss of sleep if need be) and tell your daughter that there is going to be a change in the way bedtime works. Inform her that the new routine is that she will put on her pajamas, brush her teeth, get a story read to her, then it is lights out and she is to stay in bed. After the routine, leave the room. If she gets out of bed, take her by the hand and lead her back into bed - no discussion, no eye contact, nothing. Make these trips as boring as possible. I can guarantee the first, second, third nights will probably be hell. She may get up over 100 times, scream, cry, throw a tantrum, etc. but you have to be consistent and let her know that when it is time for bed, she needs to get in her bed and fall asleep. If you follow through, she will learn that you are not coming back and she will figure out a way to fall asleep on her own. If you do not follow through and you give in, she learns that all she needs to do to get her way is protest, scream, or tantrum and eventually you'll come running.

You could also choose to couple this with a reward system. Make a chart and for every night she is able to go to her bed and fall asleep, she gets a sticker. After she accumulates 5 stickers, she can have a reward - maybe keep a clear jar of treats on top of the refrigerator or take her out for a special lunch.

You have to understand that you have some hard work in front of you. Be patient and consistent with whatever technique you choose, because most things we will do as a parent will be time consuming but well worth it!

2 moms found this helpful

I understand the sitting with her on the sofa but I asked this question 2 years ago and I felt the best help was put her in the bed and walk away. Then when she gets up do it again, and again and again and again and again. Eventually she will just stop. Also talk to her about her bed. Take the sheets off and have her help you wash them and put them back on the bed so that she feels apart of the situation. A few nights of putting her back in the bed without talking to her will create that habit. She will just give up and sleep in her own bed. Good Luck

2 moms found this helpful

Hi T.,
It's hard and I know some people won't like this but I had to make my son stay in his bed and just let him cry it out. It took one night and he stayed in his bed. It was terrible for me to listen to him cry but nothing else would work. You have to be tough and not give in. He has never had trouble since and he's 14 now. At the time I was a single mom too. It's very hard but trust me you don't want this to go on any longer especially when she gets ready to go to school.I'm married with three kids 14,9,3.

2 moms found this helpful

You didn't even mention whether you talked to her about WHY she won't sleep in her own bed. Afraid of the dark? Closed doors? "Monsters under the bed?" etc. Hard to address it if you don't know WHY!

Make SURE you spend time reading at least one book - or make up your own stories taking turns adding to the story - and then say some prayers. THAT CALMS CHILDREN and takes the focus of the issues for both child & parent. I've done it MANY times while babysitting or being a nanny. NEVER has it failed.

1 mom found this helpful

There's no way out but the hard way on this one. You'll need to tell her,"From now on we sleep in our own beds." Then when she gets out, you put her back. A hundred times, if that's what it takes. Camp out beside her door with a book if you have to. Just put her back, calmly and firmly. I did this with a toddler recently who decided that climbing out of the crib was fun. I put her back five times the first night, and she yelled for over an hour. The second night she got out once. I put her back and she rolled over and fell asleep. End of fight. Your little one will get it. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I don't think it is really an issue of couch vs bed. I think it is more "being around mommy" vs "being alone".

Although I am not a single mom, I occasionally play the role when my husband is out of town on business. I too work full time and really respect and admire how single moms go through this day after day - it's tough and exhausting.

Although you are exhausted and may sometimes take the path of least resistance (I know I have), remember that that path always leads to times tougher than what you were trying to resist in the first place. By conquering the hurdle head-on, you will make your job easier down the line.

Here's my suggestion. Maybe try to do a bedtime regimen with her that revolves around her, but you are still taking care of everyday mundane tasks. Maybe give a horsey-back ride to the bathroom, followed by one-on-one bath time where you help her color pictures with bath crayons, & then help her brush teeth. Then, in her bedroom, have her pick out her PJ's (whatever she wants to wear - even if it is a princess dress-up gown! Honestly, does it really matter for bedtime?), say prayers together, read a book of her choice, and then maybe even talk about the next day's events at pre-school/daycare. Show her lots of love, kiss her goodnight, explain that it is time to go to bed and leave the room.

Every time she tries to do something other than stay in her bed or go to the bathroom, reiterate that it is bedtime and it is time to go to sleep. As long as she is staying in her bed, you have made progress. Eventually, she'll fall asleep quicker as well. She should begin to look forward to that time of night.

Best of luck with everything!

1 mom found this helpful

I would sit outside her door instead. Get a good book or a stack of bills or whatever to keep you occupied and every time she gets up, don't say anything to her, just place her back in her bed and shut the door. I really don't think it will take longer than a couple nights for her to get the point. As long as you show no reaction, she isn't getting attention by getting out of bed. She will get tired of it and give up.
Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi T. -
I had little trouble in this area... a bit more with my now 5-yr-old daughter. I think you should strongly consider advice from Deb K, Melinda, and Mi R. We didn't have a big problem with our daughter not staying in bed but the few times she did come out after bedtime, this is what we did (taking her back to her bed). When my son was around 18 mo., he suddenly began waking up calling us, and crying when we left after we discovered everything was fine. I took him to the dr. to make sure there was nothing physically wrong (ear infection, etc.) and after I got the "all clear" we let him "cry it out" - it literally took one night. We looked in on him to make sure he wasn't hurt or stuck somehow and then went back to our bed. It worked. We've always had the bedtime routine since they were both infants: p.j.s, teeth brushing, bedtime book & prayers and then a lullaby c.d. when we leave the room. At this age (5 and 8 yrs) they sometimes choose to have no music playing. It does help to have a calming transition to bed, especially if it's been a busy/exciting day. You may have to endure some crying and tantrums but IT'S WORTH IT. Not saying it's easy (wasn't for me) but again, IT'S WORTH IT.

1 mom found this helpful

I don't promise to sit with my son but we have a regular routine.
Brush our teeth, read a book, say our prayers, turn on the music and night light and then I leave the room. When he is having rough nights and to get him into this routine I would check on him every 2 minutes the first few nights, 5 minutes the next few nights, 10 minutes after those nights. Now to the point I don't have to go and check. I wouldn't make a big deal of going in the room. We made "kissing sounds" If I made a kissing sound, and he was awake he was to respond back with a kissing sound. If he didn't then I would know he was sound asleep and it was OK for me to go to bed. :) Because in the "Mommy rules" I am not allowed to go to sleep until he is asleep in his bed. :) They get tired of waiting for you to come back in and check on them and fall asleep.
Best of Luck!

I had a similar issue and I created a chart that I hung on her wall. One row had #'s 1 - 5 across the page, the second row had 1 - 7, Third row has 1 - 9. I told her that I would circle each night that she successfully slept in her bed and at the end of each row, once all the numbers were circled, she'd get a present. Needless to say, she's been in her bed ever since. I made a real big deal about it too! and made the chart really cool looking. Might be good to even have her help you make it.

Good luck!

T.,

Good for you for easing your daughter into sleep and not making her to "cry it out".

Now that she is older, and can understand more, you can start to ease her into getting herself to sleep. Explain to her that you have some grown up things to do before you go to sleep and you need to get them done after she is in bed. She will probably protest, but stick to your guns.

As you sit with her, you could start to leave for a couple of minutes at a time. "I'll be right back, I have to go to the bathroom" is a good one. Make sure you do come back. As she gets used to you leaving, you can start telling her you have some work to do. You'll "check on her" in a few minutes. Gradually stretch that few minutes. When she falls asleep on her own, you can say "I checked on you and you were asleep. " For me, checking in means standing at the door--if she speaks to me I go in. If she doesn't see me, I can still say I checked on her.

Good luck.

Not sure what to tell you about this one. I had very little trouble about this one and so did my Mom when they kept her. You could try to wear her out playing, take evening walks (the air usually tires everyone)and then don't let her go to sleep until late, even if she says she is tired. Every time she falls asleep on the couch, wake her up. Tell her she has to stay awake because it is too early to go to bed. If she takes naps, try to cut them out. I did and she slept when she went to bed. A warm glass of milk and a bedtime story usually did the trick then.

with my son we used pennies(his favorite item at the time), we would put 10-15 pennines on his dresser away from his bed, and tell him he could have them if he went to sleep, or i would tell him if he went to sleep we would make pancakes the next morning and he could make them whatever color he wanted(mixing food coloring together), that always worked like a charm, i still use it on occassion when he has trouble getting to sleep.

First, I will tell you what I would do, then I will tell you what schedule has worked well for us for several years. I have 2 boys. A 9 yr old and a 20 mo. old and sleeping problems are a thing of the past.
I would not sit in her room with her. Everytime that she comes out, send her directly back to bed. Don't follow her in there. She will have to take responsibility for her actions by putting herself back in bed. Don't let this garner her extra attention. Just tell her very matter of factly, go back to bed.
Does she have some kind of time to unwind or just from activity to bed? Here is what we have done with our 9 yr old.
By the way, this is during the school year.
He showers at 7pm, then he has time to play or have a snack, whatever, then at 8pm it is bedtime. He is allowed to watch tv or read until 8:30 for his unwind time. Then it is time for sleep. He sleeps from 8:30pm til 6am. I think that kids really need that transition time to unwind.
This is what we do. I hope it helps you to find a system that works for you. We've never had any trouble with it. He knows that this is just the way it is. By the way, right before his unwind time, he has to brush his teeth and set out his school clothes for the next day.
I do hope you find something that works even if my system doesn't work for you. I would be happy to answer any questions for you about what we do. Just drop a reply here and I'll get back to you. Best of luck and good wishes, Shannon G.

Hi T. - Could you possible try a sticker chart? That if she sleeps in her bed for a night - she gets a sticker and after so many stickers she gets a special treat - such as a campout in the living room or whatever.

Good luck!

My niece used to be like your daughter. My sister finally let her choose a CD to listen to in her bed in the dark, then she rubbed her back for one song. She had warned my niece that one song was the limit. After one song my sister left the room, but my niece could listen to the whole CD as she relaxed and went to sleep. The music served to distract her from teh fact that she was alone in her room. They wore out a Bible songs CD that way. ;) Anyway, if you try this, make sure it isn't a CD that has many fast paced songs on it or it won't calm her down very well.

Does she say why she's scared? When I was four and all through my childhood I was terrified of my room. I found out as an adult that around that age I switched rooms with my sister and she had a friend come to what he thought was her bedroom window. Well it was mine windo by then and I didn't know who it was and I was traumatized.

Perhaps you could find out why she is afraid and come up with ideas to address those. It isn't going to change until she feels safe in there.

I went through this with my now 5 year old. I tell her that Mommy is so busy and I will sing her one song, and let her pick the song. Then I turn the CD player on and leave. Usually the one song makes her happy and sleepy enough that she falls asleep right after I leave. My husband, on the other hand will lay on the bed with her. He usually falls asleep and she doesn't, so she gets back up and comes out to tell me that "Daddy is asleep on my bed, please get him out." I wake him up and send him out, so that she can go to sleep! In my humble opinion, its much easier to set a clear limit and stick by it, than to let the silliness go on!

I occasionally have problems with my 2 yr old wanting to sleep with us. I'm not sure if your daughter is too old for this, but what we do with my son is we'll give him an option of like 4-5 stuffed toys(or all if he wants them) and he can sleep with them. He basically just doesn't want to be alone and it helps to have something there with him. Sometimes we'll tell him to sing the suffed animal and pat it on the back like we do to him to get him to sleep. Works just about every time.

The easiest answer might just be to have her sleep with you or with a sibling. At 4 years old, kids have overly active imaginations and she may be imagining a monster in every corner. In addition, as much as you tell her there are no such thing as monsters, cognatively she is not able to completely separate reality from fantasy. If sleeping with her isn't an option, try to figure out why she doesn't want to sleep in her bed and find a way around it. (Like if she's scared of monsters, chase them away every night and then put a can of monster spray by her bed.) Good luck!

I am going through the same thing with my 4 yr. old boy. I let my son lay on the couch and watch a movie until he falls asleep. Sometimes I let him stay on the couch and other times after he's been sleeping for about 20-30 min. I pick him up and put him in his bed. Don't sit with her get up and go about doing things and eventually she will fall asleep. After she falls asleep carry her to her bed. Good luck.
D.

I am 31 and have been married for almost 12 yrs. My husband and I have 3 boys together ages 10,7 and 4.

Has she always had her own room? Do you use a night light, leave her door open, play soothing music for her when you put her down for the night? If you don't, try it.
Put her to bed, read her a story, put on the music, give her kiss and leave the room. If she comes out, put her back. After a couple of weeks it will all work out.
P. R

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