Keeping an 8Yo Child in Her Bed at Night.

Updated on August 19, 2010
E.A. asks from Erie, PA
12 answers

I have an 8 1/2 year old daughter who will not stay in her bed at night.
She has three older brothers. All of them co-slept with us until the age of 3, and the boys all transitioned well into their own beds (in rooms they shared with their sibs). My daughter also transitioned into a room she shared with her older brother until she was 5yo, then we rearranged things and now she has her own room.
She will go anywhere so as not to sleep alone. I often find her curled up at the bottom of our bed. She will sleep on the floor of either boys' rooms, sometimes even crawling in bed with them. They boys will kick her out if they wake up and she is there, but she will just go into someone else's room.

We have talked to her about it, she says she doesn't know why she does it. Or she had a bad dream. Or she heard something and was scared. None of this was a problem until she turned 6 or so, since I have a high tolerance for issues like this, thinking they will work themselves out, and they usually do.

But this is getting ridiculous. I have threatened to lock her in her room for the night with a toddler's potty, but I haven't followed through. Doesn't anyone have any ideas to make her stop? She knows how angry this makes her brothers, she knows we HATE it, but she just refuses to stop. I'm at my wit's end, and so are the boys.

edited to add:
She has a cat, stuffed animals, and a radio with a cd player, none of those things have worked.
She helped decorate her room.
My husband and I have recently gotten our marriage back on track after a couple of years of various difficulties, and after TWELVE YEARS of sleeping with kids, you have to understand we are more than ready to be left alone at night. All night. Barring sickness or the rare nightmare.
I know I shouldn't lock her in her room, which is why I haven't done it. We thought about giving the boys locks, but doesn't that pose the same dangers?
She's not sleep walking.
Enough with the co-sleeping put-downs. I'm looking for help here, not criticism. My boys all transitioned JUST FINE, and had I to do it all again, I would do it exactly the same way. Co-sleeping worked for us, somewhere in between then and now I didn't do something right and I'm trying to figure out how to help her.
We have four bedrooms. The two older boys share a room and the two younger kids have their own rooms.

I am going to let this stay open for another day or so, while I attempt an incentive program for her (the best advice yet, thank you for those who suggested it). I'm open to more suggestions, but please keep them respectful, and keep your anti-co-sleeping comments to yourself, I'm not interested in hearing them.

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So What Happened?

Thank you for your responses.
Things have been stressful for us (lost two businesses last year, our income was cut in half, marital issues, you name it), and I have bi-polar 2 (marked by deep depressions and hypomania - yes I am on medication but the docs are still tweeking it), so those who mentioned I should make sure to spend extra time with her were right on the mark, as it's easy for me to seclude myself so the kids don't see my mood swings. I didn't connect it with this problem, though, and am thankful some of you pointed that out. All of my kids are loving and affectionate, I gravitate toward gentle discipline measures because of my moodiness, it provides strict boundaries for me, ie no spanking. Their dad works very long hours and isn't here to parent most of the time, I get really burnt out and just send them off to bed most nights. We used to have a very regular routine with baths and stories when they were little, but fell out of the habit as they got older (for those who asked, they range in age from 8-16). We will be reinstating that kind of routine when school starts. The boys have all agreed to help.

The boys and I took her to lunch today and talked (gently) with her about it again. We're going to do a 30-day sticker chart for her, and the boys have promised to be her cheerleaders through this, too. She picked out her reward (a DVD she wants) and we also agreed she would lose a sticker for nights she didn't follow through. They love their sister and want to help her, they don't want to lose any more sleep or resent her, they are actually quite close as siblings.

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answers from Little Rock on

If it is noises or nightmares, playing kids music or stories on cd with the cd player set to repeat all night may keep her mind distracted from her fears.

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answers from San Francisco on

I'm not quite sure why you hate it, are at your wit's end, unless she keeps you up at night too, or if she is not getting enough sleep and shows it in her behavior. Practically, I had to beg my son from coming into my room too because he'd wake me up every night. It got better when I made a little sleeping nook on the floor. If you need to leave your bed, you lay on this lame sleeping bag, this is the only place to be and you are NOT allowed to wake anyone. Turned out he'd rather be comfortable in his own bed than less lonely on my floor.

If it's more about her sleep and fears and loneliness, then I would turn it more into a problem to solved, including her completely on the issue and possible solutions. She's old enough to understand that it is a problem and she has to come up with options and then use them.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I don't want to be harsh on you but YOU are the one who did this to her. Co-sleeping sets the child up to need someone there when they wake up at night. The fact that your sons did OK with the transition and she does not should not factor into it at all. Every kid is different. Please do not threaten her with locking her in with a child potty. That is just wrong on so MANY levels. You are making your little girl feel terrible about something that she most likely cannot control and is not responsible for starting. She will eventually stop doing this but for now I would not make too much of a big deal about it. I bet she is stressed out every morning when she wakes up and realizes that she is somewhere else and knows that she is going to be in trouble for it. NOT a good way to start the day.

I would tell your SONS to lock themselves in if they don't want their sister in there. Leave only your room open with a blanket set up on the floor.

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answers from Williamsport on

At 8 years old she is very mature and set in her ways. She obviously would rather have a roommate. If you don't want to rearrange and put her back to sharing a room with someone, it seems like your only option is to start enforcing consequences to "No getting out of bed and going and sleeping with people" for her. And at her age, since it's not really a clear cut discipline issue, I'd use an incentive not to as well. Like maybe if she stays in her bed all night, you and she do something really fun spending time with her the next day to celebrate, or she gets a party at dinner (but no SUGAR!) and choice of meal or something-but something you can do repeatedly until she's comfortable.

But you'll also need a negative consequence to doing it, and this is tricky, it has to be a strong deterrent, but there shouldn't be bed time anger going on. A calm warning of an imminent swat always sent our toddlers right back to bed the first time, but your daughter is way too old for that. You may have to remove some important stuff and have her earn it back, or loss of a privilege of some sort, but not too after the fact and removed from the issue. It would be perfect to remove her favorite bedroom stuff and then have her earn it back piece by piece by staying in bed, but that might make it harder for her to sleep. Think of your daughter's preferences and get creative. Maybe put a wish list on the inside of her door for things and activities she can earn by staying in bed.

I wouldn't lock her in the room for safety's sake (but maybe that's just mental-if it's totally safe I guess it could get her used to not going out...hmmm, maybe I would...) Consistency on your part should do the trick with the consequences. Just a clear calm consequence for doing it or a celebration for not or put her back with a roomie! I do feel the co-sleeping caused this innate need and you may need to just let her outgrow it on her own as the outcome of creating the need, not judging, just saying.

Also, be sure she is very full of healthy food from her day and tired form lots of exercise. Give her a whole grain carb a half hour before bed, plain toast or something-it helps with sleep. No liquids to make her need to pee, and No sugar after noon for this one! She needs to be sleeping more soundly. Sorry about this, I hope you get it solved!

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answers from Dallas on

I don't mean to be rude, but you co-slept, then she shared a room. All she knew for the first 5 years (very formulating time) of her life was how to sleep with someone.
It seems like she will have to be helped/taught now how to sleep alone. Maybe you can start off by making her room extra special- cool decorations, glow in the dark stars on the ceiling, etc...? Make sure she has a night light; does she have a favorite stuffed animal?
Just my two cents,



answers from Provo on

Find her button. What does she want? Set goals that are a reward for the behavior you want. Start with a one-night goal. Then move on as she's ready--two nights/a week/two weeks. I heard a great reward is itunes. But my girl is dying for a Build A Bear. A one-nighter reward might be as simple as mom time with a mani-pedi, etc. Find her button and push her that way. My suggestion, at least.



answers from Harrisburg on

I'm not here to criticize. Co-sleeping works for some but didn't seem to work for your daughter, hence the problem. My suggestions were some you've already gotten, night light, soft music with no words like nature sounds, stuffed animals, etc. It sounds like her personality really thrived too well with co-sleeping so you have to do baby steps. What steps? Hmmm. Sounds like you've tried a lot. The mystery is what is going on inside of her to still be so attached? I know the age of 8 can be a hard age for a girl. Puberty starts coming, many busy thoughts in the brain. She'll need to help you find some things that will comfort her besides Mom and Dad. If she gets up to potty, how about putting up a gate so she can go in the bathroom but not further down the hall? We do that for one of our 5 year olds. He doesn't need as much sleep and is always waking up his brother. There's something she's missing for comfort and she needs to find out what that is. With my now 15 year old I had to give him a happy dream every night when he was about that age. Giving a sticker or some other reward may be a good idea too. Just remember, she won't be in college and showing up at the foot of your bed with her roommate! LOL

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets
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answers from Harrisburg on

Sounds to me like she is just really used to sleeping in the same room as someone. Have you tried putting a mattress on the floor at the end of your bed that she can sleep in if she gets up in the night? My brother did this with his youngest and she eventually stopped getting up at night. I think it may have been around 9 or 10 when she stopped. Just remember, she will stop doing this at some point. I can't imagine a 15 year old trying to get in your bed at night! Also, I saw a PP suggested a reward system. You could try that too. She gets a sticker for every night she stays in her bed and then X number stickers gets her something special she really wants.



answers from Philadelphia on

My older daughter nursed and "visited" for about half the night in my bed until she was 3, and had a hard time transitioning to sleeping alone. We made up a sleeping bag on the floor beside our bed for when she needed company. She sometimes still asks for a "sleepover" in our room, but is not allowed in our bed.

It seems to me your biggest issue here is not wanting her in others' beds. A transition-helping comprimise might be to give her a sleeping bag to use when she feels the need for company. (At least she won't end up inappropriately in beds with you or your boys!)

Secondly, I'd encourage you to make sure she gets a lot of physical affection before bed. Some children simply respond well to being hugged a lot! My daughter says she has a "mommy attention bar" (like in the Sims computer game) that needs to be filled up, and if she goes to bed with it low, it empties and she needs attention during the night.

It could also be partly a temperature thing. If her body was used to sleeping next to someone else, it could simply have adjusted it internal temperature gauge to produce less heat at night, and she could be getting cold, even if she seems to have plenty of blankets/etc. During the winter, try getting her an electric blanket and see if it helps!

She has to have a reason to want to sleep in her room! Put up a calendar and put a sticker on each night she stays there the whole night. When she has 30 stickers or however many you think seems fair, you'll take her out to a restaurant of her choice... or some other treat she really wants. It takes 30 days to form a habit, so ultimately you want 30 days in a row.

Finally, from my observations, children who co-slept generally are friendly, affectionate, loving and well-adjusted. Make sure your daughter doesn't feel like you're pushing her away from you in terms of affection and closeness. Just because she can't sleep with you doesn't mean you don't love her anymore. It's just a step in growing up!



answers from Pittsburgh on

First of all, I think locking her in her room at night is a terrible idea. What if there was a fire, or she was sick? The idea of a toddlers potty is humiliating and unkind. She's 8--- you need to solve this issue, not punish her for her insecurities. She's co-slept her whole life, and doesn't know how to sleep alone. She needs to be taught how to do that, not punished for the fact that up to now, no one has helped her learn to fall asleep on her own.

The boys are right to be annoyed, they deserve their sleeping space. I'd suggest that they close and lock their doors so she can't bother them-- this way they can get out when they need to, but she can't get in to bother them. Hopefully in 6 months or so, she'll have learned how to sleep on her own, and they can unlock their doors if they like.

As for you, I think you need to a.) make her night time experience pleasant and develop good sleep hygiene and b.)incentivize her to do what you want. Is she being exposed to scary things (TV, news, etc.) that is increasing her anxiety about being alone at night? Do you have a security system? Point out all the things that keep her safe at night (locked windows, alarm, smoke detectors, etc.) If she is scared or has a bad dream, talk to her about ways of managing that stress. Night light, progressive relaxation techniques, deep breathing, get up and read for a few minutes, whatever she needs to learn to deal with stress. She's not too old for stuffed animals-- does she have a "friend" who sleeps with her? Make her room the place she wants to be, however that is for her. Secondly, you need to incentivize her to stay in her room-- do a sticker chart or whatever and have progressive prizes for 1 night, 2 nights, a week, etc. for staying in her room. You basically have two options for when she does come in your room, get up and take her back to bed, quietly, and with out fuss. Everytime. No exceptions. Or, give her a sleeping space in your room (and make it as uncomfortable as possible), and ever week or so, move it closer to her room. Only you can decide which is better for her, but I'd say at her age, it is just time to take the bull by the horns.

All of this is, of course, if she knows she's doing it and not sleepwalking. Sleepwalkers can look and sound awake, but aren't. You need to establish that first. If she is sleepwalking, I'd check with your pediatrician about the best way to handle it.



answers from Philadelphia on

Maybe you can get her one of those full body pillows, so she has something to cuddle up to....

Good luck!



answers from Philadelphia on

Well I have a few questions for you. How old are the other brothers and how many rooms do you have? She is the only girl and she is different because of this. She may see this as a sort of punishment for being different. I know that sounds crazy but I was the only girl with two brothers, one older and one younger than myself. When my younger brother transitioned out of the crib my mother put the two boys together and me in the room by myself. I was wretched over it. I felt so alone and unhappy. Everyone had someone to sleep with but me! Get her a puppy or cat!

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