How Do I Successfully Implement "Love and Logic" Bedtime for My Preschooler?

Updated on March 27, 2010
M.E. asks from Bellingham, WA
13 answers

Really leave the light on and let her play until the cows come home, as long as she stays in her room?

For the last week I've been leaving the light on and letting my four going on five year old play until she feels like sleeping, but so far the results are a mixed bag. Slow down time (1 hour ritual before bed) is fine, but with the exception of one night when she basically fell into bed dead tired, she's been staying up late and keeps coming out of her room to try and get things. Each time I tell her lovingly yet firmly that it's mommy and daddy private time, and also her private time, and that she needs to go back into her room and I'll see her tomorrow morning. I think she mostly understands, but what I'm worried about is whether at this age it's likely that she'll learn to choose an earlier bedtime for herself, even after the natural concequences (ie/ tired at school etc) come into play. It's just that 4 year and 5 year olds are still not entirely consequential thinkers, so .. will it just frustrate her and in turn me, instead of teaching her to be responsible for the time she turns off lights? Should I wait a year and instead push the lights off flat on back thing? I have to say one thing I've noticed from the little time I've been doing it, is that she LOVES having this control of her lights out, and "private time" is destined to become one of Sierra's favorite words, for sure, but I need some guidance on how to interface it in a way that benefits positively a 5 year old.

Ideas, stories, whatever, is WELCOME. Thanks in advance!

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So What Happened?

Thank you to everyone who responded with positive constructive advise. I guess I didn't make it clear that she already has a bedtime routine filled with tonnes of choices - it runs about an hour every night - and retrospectively I'm glad I didn't, because I picked up some great tips on how to make bedtime more interesting, particularly the sticker chart idea where she gets to put a sticker on a card for every step of bedtime fun she completes (ie brush teeth, take bath) .

I know there are a lot of people skeptical that this is L&L and I was shocked also the first time I read the Bedtime Chapter and other examples in "Parenting with Love and Logic", but I can assure you it's there in black and white, clear as day. Any interested party can pick it up at the local B&N .. the book is filled with wonderful advice useful for any parent with compatible outlook to the author. Everything else I've practiced from the book worked like a dream so I figured I'd finally take the plunge and do the bedtime thing. Admittedly I haven't read the L&L Early Childhood book, so perhaps there's a transition phase before the whole "bedroom time not bed time" thing, and maybe it sounds irresponsible and outlandish to people that have never heard of that aspect of L&L, but it really does make sense if you read the book- I won't go into it here but I think the author's techniques are ingenious if used correctly. I'm glad I tried it, even if I don't plan on going to that extreme (bedroom time instead of bedtime) until Sierra's a year or two older. What I'm doing instead is leaving the hallway light on (just enough light so that she can mostly see the pictures and her toys) and letting her visit with a few toys and books until she feels ready to sleep - provided of course that she stays in bed lying down with the light off. This is working rather well with our already established routine, so thank you everyone for the suggestions! Sierra seems happy with the amount of control she has, yet it is assured that she drops off fairly quickly by having her still in her bed.

More Answers



answers from Seattle on

Briefly: no naps, even if she falls asleep in her dinner plate, get her up early, the same time every morning, and more exercise, and get a gate. Ignore her screams if she cries because she can't get out. Always be pleasant and firm. If you must scream, go outside and shut the door. I used to scream in the shower, until my daughter figured out how to open the door!

You can't make her sleep, but you can arrange for her to be tired. My son was one of those children who wanted to stay up all night. When he was 7 he asked why he had to go to bed when he wasn't tired. I told him I understood that he was a night person, but 7 year olds, had to be in bed a 8 o clock on school days. I then told him he could do anything he wanted as long as he was horizontal in bed. He taught himself to read (he was a slow to learn reader and a sight reader rather than phonics).

Your daughter is not that old to use that much reasoning. But your repetition of mommy time and Sierra's time is good for her age.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

A bedtime routine is essential as well, and at 4-5 years old she can have a simple chart to show the order of things like teeth brushing, potty, books bed, lights out.

Still let her do it, but if you make it a part of the overall routine, then she still has the control. Let her make checks in the chart too (or stickers) and thats another thing she is doing herself.

This teaches her responsibility, and the investment you make tucking her in will let you have more time with DH.

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answers from Portland on

She needs a few more 'natural' consequences. She's five; she does not naturally make the connection between not enough sleep and being tired and cranky. That ability to make those connections independently doesn't happen developmentally for some time.

Try adding some consequences that are more obvious to someone her age. For example:
-if you choose to come out of the room during our private time then we'll have to have our private time when we were supossed to take you to _____
(Get ice cream, the park, the zoo, etc)
-if you choose to go to bed late then we can't... (again fill in the blank with something appropriate.)

As a teacher and mom I use 'natural' consequences often, but you have to sometimes wiggle the 'natural' a bit depending on the age of the kids. Basically,as long as they know what the consequences are for their choices ahead of time. My husband calls me the 'Queen-of-choices-that -aren't-really-choices.'

Also, when giving the choices and implementing the consequences make sure you use a nice calm tone.Don't think of consequences as punishment but rather teaching opportunites.

Simple pictures also help convey the links between choices and consequences.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Hello M.,

Having a daily after school schedule including her bedtime routine on a poster board at her eye level might help.

Please create before bedtime consistent family routine. Some kids need longer routine than others.

Brushing teeth, reading storybooks together for 15 minutes with Mommy/Daddy. If she is not sleepy after that , let her have more reading time/ alone time in bed, with lights on.

As long as you and your husband are consistent with her and encourage her to learn to get used to this routine, she will adapt in a few weeks.

May be you can set up a weekly reward system for her when she does well. Have a nightlight in her room, some relaxing music/ soothing ocean waves sounds etc. May be have a small flashlight she can keep next to her pillow,

**You can always check on her and turn off the lights, if she forgets and falls asleep with light on.

My husband and I take turns reading bedtime stories with our son. On Fridays/ Saturday we are more relaxed about bedtime and let him stay up longer than usual. We watch favorite show/movie together, play geography games, find a country/city on the map etc.

We also have a daily conversation about the best part of his day.

Give it a try and see how it goes. Keep your cool but be firm and consistent.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

We allow 2-3 books in her bed, and then leave the hallway light on, and her door open. She is not allowed to "play" in her room, but she can look at books in her bed until she is tired, or sing, etc. It is the best solution I have found thus far! Looking at books makes her sleepy, playing only keeps her awake. Also, not leaving her light on. We use the hallway light, or maybe you can get a night light, that would allow enough light into her room for her to see the book. It works well for us. Sure, she gets out of bed now and then, but she goes to sleep quicker. Good luck to you!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

For those who have said this is not L& L they are wrong. We just talked about this in our class we just took. First we started by letting Our daughter 5 in May choose the order in which we do our bedtime ritual, it is the same stuff they we had set up she just tweaked the order a bit. Now we Brush our teeth, read a book, then get dressed, it use to be get dressed, read a book and then brush our teeth. Not a big deal to us just seems weird but made a huge difference for her because she got to make a choice. We did this before starting the you can stay up as long as you want as long as you stay in your room part. (remember the most important part is "as long as you stay in your room") If you know the room is safe you can lock her in (keeping in mind to check on her, and unlock when she finally goes to bed) She doesn't seem to be following this important rule! They will learn their lesson about sleep and it is perfectly fine for them to learn at a young age about the need for sleep. Sure they will be tired for a few days because of not going to bed on time but they will learn, that is a part of life. those who don't let their children learn on their own are keeping them from being able to make important live decisions. Reminder her of the rule of staying in their room and remember that you do not have to follow L&L to the dot, you can tweak it to what works for your family. Oh and we also put a ceiling of glow in the dark stars in her room that our daughter and now son love makes it so much fun to turn the lights off. Just a suggestion. And they made their ceilings (we decorated black paper with the starts and then hung them up in the room with some hanging off string from the ceiling) We no longer have to keep the door on and the hallway light on for our son 3 yrs old at night because he wants it dark in his room to see his stars!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Whoops! I don't think this is Love and Logic. L and L says that you do have rules and requirements and if the child doesn't follow them their is a natural consequence.

Have a specific bedtime. The lights are to be turned off and she is to be in bed. You enforce that bedtime and lights off. I suggest that you spend a week end putting her back in bed each and every time she gets out of bed. That is a natural consequence. It may take a couple of nights for her to realize that you mean business and that she will stay in bed.

The second part of this natural consequence is that she gets up at the same time each morning no matter how tired or sleepy she is.

You are the parent. You are correct. She is not a consequential thinker yet. You are teaching her to be one by giving her natural consequences. First you have to make the rules.

She can decide when to turn off the lights. She can turn them off now or 5 minutes from now. She can have private time to play or do whatever she wants the 15-30 minutes before lights off time. You are the adult and the parent. You decide the big things such as bedtime. She decides the small things such as exactly when to turn off the light. As she matures you give her more decisions based on her level of maturity.

When my grandchildren stay overnight at my house they can decide if they want me to read a story to them or if they want to listen to music or a story on CD. They are 6 and 9. It has only been in the last few months that my grandson has been given that choice. He didn't expect to choose.This is Grandma's house and we follow Grandma's rules.

I am much more lenient than my daughter. She thinks I spoil them. I let them choose what to have for breakfast. I don't even list possibilities, tho I'd suggest a mother should do that. Being able to choose what for breakfast from whatever is on hand is a treat. My daughter doesn't allow choices most mornings because there are 4 of them to get off to school and work I do stock many of my grandkids favorite foods.

To have an organized well run home there have to be boundaries. Someone has to be in charge and it better be the adult. You are in charge. Please go back and read your Love and Logic book.

I am glad that you are trying out L and L. It's really a very useful skill that does teach children to make good decisions and have control in their lives so that they don't have to rebel. I think what you've missed is the need to have a basic structure put in place by the parents first. And it's a structure that the parent's build upon, keeping in mind the maturity level of their child(ren).

As a foster parent I've attended a couple of workshops put on by both Foster and Kline. They have a therapeutic treatment center in which children with attachment disorders come to live. Their rules are rigid and the consequences immediate. It takes this sort of consistency for children who have thus far not been able to attach learn to trust.

Parents of children who are attached or bonded do not need to have such a rigid structure but they still need a structure. I did like Neerja's suggestion that you could let her read in bed with a light on if she's not ready to go to sleep. But.....the rule still is that she stays in bed. At this age you don't need to keep repeating that it's because you need private time. That is one reason but it's really the least important one. She needs enough sleep so that she will be healthy and happy.

Actually, I don't think you have to keep repeating reasons. I fell into that trap with my daughter. As long as I gave reasons she felt that she could give reasons for staying up later. What I also learned in these work shops is that yes, it's OK to give a reason, but state it once. Then be a broken record and repeat, "it's time for you to stay in bed." Then the child has no doubt that you mean what you say and cannot be talked out of your reasons. What is important is, "it's time to stay in bed."

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Richland on

Hey there. I have the L&L CD that has that exact story....and I can understand your resistance to this at this technique - at this age. If I did this with my 16 month old twins, the results would be disastrous, but I"m not sure it's all that much different with a lot of 5 year olds. I think that possibly, this was meant for kids old enough to understand that when they feel terrible the next day, that they can (and should) prevent it by going to bed early.

One possibility would be choices about smaller, less consequential things: whether she goes to bed at 7:30 or 7:45? Whether she takes the green puppy, or the pink bunny to bed with her? The blue pajamas or the red ones? 2 stories or 3? Since you've started the "private time" thing, you might offer "10 minutes of private time," or "no private time tonight." Anyway, that might give choices and control over bedtime, while still giving you some time with the hubby. Good luck! Man, this just makes me happy that mine are still caged in a crib! LOL! I'm sure it's going to be interesting all too soon.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

My boys have been going to bed at the same time since birth. Now that they are older (4 and 6) we allow 5-10 minutes with lights on in bed to look at a book, and then it is lights out. We have to teach our kids what is expected, and fostering poor sleep habits will make school difficult as they age.

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answers from Seattle on

I'm with Marda P. I just took the love and logic course last weekend and what you're practising is definitely not it. Give her many choices leading up to bedtime (i.e. Do you want to wear the pink pyjamas or the green ones? Do you want a story or 10 minutes of play time before bed? Do you want to turn out the light or do you want me to turn out the light for you? Etc.) But definitely turn out the lights and enforce bedtime and yes, do keep bringing her back to her bed and use the technique whereby eventually you just don't say anything when you put her back. The first time she gets up say "it's bedtime sweetie" next time "it's bedtime" and the times following, just say nothing and keep putting her back until she gets the picture. I would also impose consequences as I think she's too young to get the natural consequences, like being too tired the next day. Maybe you'll have to cancel a trip to the park or something like that as she's too tired...

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answers from Burlington on

I think a small child like this is far too young to know when to put themselves to bed. Helping a child establish good sleep and eating habits with solid routines is one of our main jobs as parents so I would suggest putting your child to bed at time that will allow 11 to 12 hours of sleep each night. Good luck. It can take time and dedication to that bedtime hour to get your child comfortable and feeling safe before you find success but it is worth it. L.

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answers from Detroit on

she is a small child so shes havin fun she is not going to choose to slepp, thats what your for. you need to establish and enforce her bedtime. It has been proven children without routines can have anxiety because they dont know what coms next. my girls have always been on a strict eating and sleeping/quiet time schedule. my girls are in bed by 830 . a child needs their sleep as well because it weakens their immune system to not have it. I would reccommend around 8 ish winding down watch tv and cuddle, let her know in about a half hour is bed time ok. then at about 815 have her get her pjs and brush her teeth and go potty. then tuck her in at 830 do this every nite, she will def fight you at first but then fall into it. good luck

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answers from Bellingham on

Yikes! I think 5 is way late to start a bedtime battle. And I don't think a 5 year old should really have a choice in whether or not they are going to bed. Sure, they can choose to pee or brush their teeth first, but going to bed? Not an option.

I have 4 children, this is what we do for all of them, none of them get out of bed (they've each tried once, but we've told that it simply isn't acceptable):
8:00-- brush teeth, go potty, get in jammies
8:05-- under reading age kids are told a story or listen to a story on CD (lights out with the story), readers read in their room
8:30-- lights out for readers

As parents, we need to realize that if we love our kids, sometimes we have to enforce healthy habits. I'm not a love and logic fan for many reasons: I dislike the "lingo" (private time? geez, I really want my kindergardener saying that at school), but also the tone of voice that teachers take toward children when "teaching" this method offends me. I think it insults the intelligence of a child-- and I get very uncomfortable when I hear this tone being mimicked and used by parents toward their children. It sounds more like talking down, not like love. There will be many who say, "then they aren't doing it right" and that's dandy, but if 90% don't do it right, is it really an effective program?

Next question: Those of You Who like "Love and Logic"