My Four Year Old Won't Sleep in His Bed-

Updated on August 12, 2009
C.M. asks from Cape Coral, FL
8 answers

My son fights me every night for at least an hour, he wants to sleep in my bed. When we moved I let him sleep in my bed at first and now, a year later, it has become a terrible habit :( We changed it to one night a week having a "sleepover," but every other night he fights me and makes excuses. When I get him to fall asleep in his bed, he wakes up every night and sneaks into mine. I usually don't wake up because he crawls in so quietly. I was wondering if anyone had any other suggestions on how to get bedtime to not be such a battle. He is starting VPK and needs to get to bed at a decent hour, and get a full night sleep. Also, we are expecting baby number 2 in December- so then he will definetly need to be in his own room because I won't want him to wake up everytime the baby wakes up. Thanks for reading :)

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answers from Tampa on

Actually you would be surprised at how much better he will sleep when he feels relaxed and secure....and if that is in your room for the time being,why not? He's still just a little kid that still needs you for emotional support day and night as he matures and develops. You don't have to follow the old fashioned advise or do what 'mainstream America' does and battle and fight with him about sleeping away from you. He knows what feels right and it's natural to want to be near others that you love,even at night. He is showing signs of being a very affectionate person, don't 'break''s not a 'bad habit' as many will call it, it is a very natural and comforting way to sleep that fulfills his emotional needs and provides security right now when he still needs it. Don't worry, he won't be in your room at 18!!!

Why not give him a small bed or just a toddler or crib mattress next to your bed if you are really opposed to him being in bed with you? He may adjust and settle in with that since he'll know your so close. And don't worry about the baby waking him, I have a 4 yr old that has slept right through a younger sibling crying for the last 17mo....they get used to it and tune it out. He will still probably sleep sounder knowing everyone is close to him.

I think that him sleeping in your bed or at least in your room will be very comforting to him during the HUGE new changes that are about to take place with the addition of a sibling. That is a very stressful time for an older sibling and will be the perfect way to give him affection, comfort and security that he is already begging for.... Enjoy these times with him. They grow sooooo fast and once the new baby is here your time with him is even more limited so keep him close :-) Best wishes!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

I know this probably sounds cruel, but we lock our door now. Since we co-slept with each of our 3 kids when they were babies, we had that problem as they grew older and the tactics suggested by the other readers worked with our older ones. However my youngest, who is 4, also would sneak into our bed at night so quietly that we didn't feel her, and nothing motivated her to behave otherwise. We talked to her about how everyone has their own bed/room and we lock our door at night and she usually stays in her room. When she does try to come over, she sees that the door is locked and goes back to her bed. Harder at first but now she pretty much stays in her room 90% of the time.



answers from Port St. Lucie on

Hi C.,

When my son was about 3, he had a terrible time staying in his bed (after a year of doing it well!) -we never let him sleep with us, so it was for different unknown reasons but what we did was this: invented the "penny cup"...took a tiny little plastic cup and every morning that he stayed in his bed, he got a penny put into his cup. If he did NOT stay all night (until it was light out) he owed us one penny. If he got up to go potty, etc. or needed us for a minute and went back to bed happily, it did not count against him. Conversely, if he woke me up by screaming and scaring me -which was part of our issues back then-, he owed us 2 pennies. When it was full, he got a prize -it took over a month to fill up but you could start with a smaller cup-he was also allowed to watch a movie of his choice on mornings he had stayed in bed all night.

For us, this totally worked and we still use it to this day but it has evolved into several other things as well -if he wakes up dry, extra penny, says NO to us - loses one, etc.

Good luck.



answers from Fort Myers on

well I know from expeirence from when I was little my parents would lock their door so me and my brother couldn't come in. It took a while but they never gave in then we started sleeping through the night in our own beds.



answers from Gainesville on

We went through this, and I got some great advice from our pediatrician. Basically, it has become a HABIT for him to sleep with you, and you need to break the habit, and instead make it become habit for him to sleep in his own bed. Once it is a habit for him to sleep in his bed, it will no longer be a struggle, it will just be habit for him.

So, how do you get him in the habit of it? Reward him for doing it. We started with five days. If he slept in his bed for five days in a row, then we would go for ice cream. It had to be five days in a row though. After the first reward, we went to 14 days to earn the reward (second reward was picking a toy from Wal-mart). After that, he had to go for a whole month, every night, to get the next reward. After that, it was habit for him to sleep in his bed, and we no longer had to use the reward system and not longer struggled.

He is old enough now that you can explain to him the idea of a bad habit, and that you are going to work on changing it. It might help him to feel like he has control over it. Make it fun for him. Remind him at bedtime what day you are on, and how close you are getting to the reward, show him on a calendar and have him count the days, wish him luck for a peaceful night in his OWN bed when you tuck him in. Make it seem like this is a really cool thing and you are so excited for him to accomplish this....whatever you can do to make it seem like a positive thing, rather than a struggle.

We also use the checking system that Victoria and Tammi have previously mentioned.


answers from Jacksonville on

if you'll scroll back through the previous requests on this subject you will find several great responses. In particular the one Tammi F gives about tucking them in and saying you will come back to check on them~right after you ____ and then leave.. then DO come back and check... this goes on for some time but eventually they sleep. Scroll back through and read the full response.

BUT, the other thing I wanted to say was this: You CANNOT continue to let him stay in your bed even ONE night a week, if you want him in his own room. Children need to know that the routine is the routine. One night a week is enough to break it. THe only exceptions to the "regular" routine (barring out of town travel type issues) is illness. And I don't mean a sniffly nose. I mean sick. At 4 years old, he is old enough to "tough out" the sniffles in his bed with a little extra TLC at bedtime - and maybe once during the night.. but even then he should be sleeping in his own bed.

Good luck to you.



answers from Melbourne on

I have a 4 year old who also doesn't want to sleep in his own room. He doesn't care what room he sleeps in as long as he is with someone. Most times he sleeps in his sisters room. We are trying to gradually ween him since it doesn't seem to be hurting his sleep habits. First we suggested he sleep in the pullout bed in his sis's room so he's not in the same bed. Then we asked him to try sleeping in his room every now and then, but he won't stay then he goes to mine or Haley's room after he wakes. He says if no one is with him he has bad dreams, but if someone is there he doesn't. We are telling him that if he can start sleeping in his room on most nights before his birthday October 27th then we will get him a bigger bed, with built in desk, dresser, and a crawl space (he's still got a toddler bed, but sis is in a full bed, and we are in a queen). The most recent thing I suggested just yesterday was for sis to stay in his room with him. It was so cute they both laid out sleeping bags, one on his bed for him to sleep in, and Haley set up a little pop up princess tent with her sleeping bag in it on the floor next to his bed. They both went to sleep right away, and did not get up. I checked on him late that night and found him in his bag on the floor next to his sis. I think we'll keep trying this and gradually try to get them to sleep separately.



answers from Pensacola on

I feel for you. I have 3 boys 5.5 yrs old, 3 years old, and 1.5 yrs old and we have dealt with this situation several levels. We have moved quite a bit and let the boys sleep with us for a night or two when we moved or one of us would read a book or work on the laptop while the boys were in their bed going to sleep. But honestly we were only allowed to let that happen for a night or two when we moved, or a night or two when they were sick. Anything beyond 1-2 nights and they start moving their stuff in :) I remember my oldest being sick while I was pregnant and man oh man did he milk that one! That was when we learned to make limits. I was tired all the time and didn't want to take him to bed so after that I started waking up my husband to take him back to bed. And funnily enough, most times he would just go back to bed and sleep. It was almost like he just wanted to make sure we were still there. Now my oldest just had sinus surgery and they want children to stay with an adult 24 hrs a day for 2 weeks. It's been 7 days now and he is having no bleeding at all and is recovering very well so last night I told him we will put him in his room (had to give him warning so he knows what to expect). But seriously, I was getting no sleep, he was sleeping adult hours instead of kid hours 10:30pm to 6 instead of his normal 8pm to 6a. One thing I would suggest for you as far as not hearing your kid come in the room and get in bed with you - put up a baby gate in his doorway. Then if he leans on it it'll make a bit of noise, and if he climbs over it you should probably hear it and can stop him before he gets into your room. Some moms I know even put up two gates - one in the kids doorway and one in the master bedroom doorway. It may take a week or so, but if you think it sucks now, wait til the baby comes. It will get 3 times as bad.
Best of luck to you!
Jen M.
Mom of 3 boys
5.5 yrs old, 3 yrs old, and 1.5 yrs old - and tired all the time :)

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