Sleeping/punishment for Not Staying in Bed

Updated on May 17, 2010
W.S. asks from Santa Ana, CA
16 answers

My 4 year-old is waking up most nights 3-5 times a night and will not stay in her bed? How should this be handled? Should she be punished?

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answers from Charlotte on

W., if you don't want to co-sleep, just walk her back to her bedroom every single time. If you don't accept that she can be out of her room, she will eventually stop waking up.

Don't talk with her in the middle of the night, don't stay in the room with her. Make it oh so boring for her to be up in the middle of the night. Good luck,

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answers from Los Angeles on

I don't think he should be punished for not staying in bed. There has to be a reason he's not staying in bed. See if you can get it out of him. Then I would use a Positive Incentive chart to help keep him in bed. He gets a sticker for each night he stays in bed (remind him that it's ok if he has to go to the bathroom or is sick, or had a nightmare, etc.). After a certain number of stickers he gets a treat or present. This kind of chart works on a variety of behaviors and can usually help within a few weeks.

Hope this helps!

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answers from Los Angeles on

I read this idea on this site, I think, and tried it with my four year worked like a charm!

We gave him five pennies in his room at the start of each night. Put them in a dixie cup by his bed. We told him if he got out of bed he would lose a penny for each time. If by morning, he still had pennies in his jar, he got to put them in his piggy bank. We also wrote on his calendar "In bed all night" with a happy face when he got all five. He was so into getting FIVE CENTS each day, that it worked really well and cost us like nothing. We told him when he saw sunlight, he could get out of bed or if he had to get up and got potty but that was it.

We did it for about a month and then told him he didn't need it anymore because now he was such a big boy, he was past it...

Good luck!

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answers from Las Vegas on

God no don't punish her. Instead make it into a reward system... (for example) My son was the same way he would not stay in his bed for anything so, we set up a sticker chat. We did 2 nights stayin in "big Boy bed" all night long he got to watch one of his favorite movies with some popcorn. 4 nights in a row he got to take a trip to the park to play and feed the ducks. then we went to 7 nights in a row and he got to go Mcdonalds and have a happy meal and play in the play house. For us it work and by the end of the 7th night he was sleeping in his own bed all night long. It has been 2 years now and the only time he gets us is either he is Sick, has to go the bathroom, or has a nightmear. So Don't punish your daughter. Try other things to see they work.

P.S. we also let our son go and pick out the stickers that we used that made him excited to try the sticker chart. Also during this whole prosses and he did get out of bed, we took a sticker away, He did not like that at all and we told him that we would try again the next night. that only happend twice. So I hope what ever you try works for you.. Have a good day.

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answers from Rochester on

A child should not be punished for waking up--she cannot help that. If she is behaving inappropriately when she wakes up, like painting the bathroom in toothpaste, pouring water on a sleeping family member, or leaving the house, handle the action. If she is staying quietly in her room, make sure it is safe for her to be awake and unattended in, make sure she has anything she might need (like a glass of water), and leave her be. My husband could not sleep as a child and spent a lot of time lying in bed awake or reading in his room. I was awake a LOT as a child, too, and fell asleep with books hidden in bed with me, or hiding by the door to see with the hall light. Address any specific behaviors that come up when she wakes at night. Not being able to sleep is not a bad behavior in and of itself, so please, please do not treat it that way.

It is also not typical for children that age to wake up that much, so there might be some other concerns for her. Try working on her bedtime routine, etc. so she is settled and ready to rest. If you don't use one, try running some white noise in her room like a fan, sound machine, etc. Not sleeping well stinks, especially for kids who need the rest.

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answers from Washington DC on

Well, don't punish her for something she can't control (waking up). As for what you should do...maybe she just needs a little more comfort right now. Is she going through something big developmentally? Have there been any big changes in her life recently? Personally we co-sleep, so my advice would be to let her crawl into bed with you. She'll outgrow it, or return to her normal pattern when she's ready.

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answers from Boston on

Te best thing to do is show NO emotion. when she gets up, put her back to bed - say it is time for bed, see you in the morning. Don't say it meanly or overly lovingly either. NO emotion. Do this over and over and over again. No yelling, no kisses or tucking in, etc.
It will take a few nights, but she will catch on. Do not give her the option of staying anywhere else. Let her have a tantrum if needed, and tell her it is ok - it is just time for sleep.
You can say things like - I know, I'd rather be awake too. I know you do not want to go back to sleep, but it is night time. I'm tired. We can play tomorrow.
Good luck!

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answers from St. Louis on

My 5 year old recently went through a period that she would wake up 2 - 3 times and night and come in to my room and wake me up. She would tell me that she was going to the bathroom or tell me she couldn't sleep. For the first week I would get up and tuck her back in with a kiss. Then I got tired of that (not to sound mean, but I am the mother of 4, the yongest being 15 months, so I NEED what little sleep I do get). So when she would come into my room I would ask her if there was an emergency. When she would say no I told her it was not very nice to wake mommy up and ask her to go back to bed. Her room is next to mine so I would watch her go back into her room and listen for her to get back in bed. And, much to my surprise, this worked!! It took a couple of days and then she stopped waking me up. I tell her if she has a bad dream or needs something she can wake me up.

At bed time when you tuck her in, explain to her that she is only to get up to use the bathroom. Tell her that if she wakes up she is to stay in bed, and if she gets up for no reason, the next night she has to go to bed early. The first time she gets up, tuck her back in. You may or may not want to talk to her. ( i myself don't like to put my kids to bed without one last kiss) If she gets up after that then the next night she has to go to bed 15 minutes early.

Even though a 4 year old has no concept of time, when its getting close to bed and you tell her she has to go to bed early because she didn't stay in bed the night before, she will get upset. Then you tell her if she stays in bed tonight then she'll be able to stay up tomorrow. You will not be punishing her for waking up, you will be punishing her for not following rules. The rules are if you don't have to use the bathroom, you stay in bed.

You may want to make sure that something out of the ordinary isn't going on. Bad dreams, too hot or too cold, growing pains etc. If this doesn't pass in a few weeks maybe a call to the doctor.

It all comes down to what YOU want. If you don't have to get up early and you don't mind getting up, then wait this out and she what happens. If you are tired of her not staying in bed, then you need to be firm.

Good luck and I hope things get back to normal soon.

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answers from Chicago on

Is your daughter being made to sleep too much during the day? what time does she get up in the morning? does she have a nap time? I would check into a lot of things before deciding she needs to be punished. a typical 4 year old should be sleeping anywhere from 10-12 or 13 hours a night. Now having said that. It won't work if she sleeps till 8 or 9 each day and then has a 4 hour nap. also is she hungry at night? my daughter used to wake up each night and we finally realized she was hungry. we started feeding her a bowl of cereal before bed. she would eat a big bowl of rice crispies and then sleep till 8 the next morning. I would check into whether she is hungry and whether she is being made to nap too long. If it is none of those things then put a gate across her door or shut the door and tell her she can't get up unless the door is open except to go to the bathroom. good luck



answers from Washington DC on


Here is what I would do:

1. Look into the placement of your daughter's bed, and see if it is conducive to good sleep. I personally believe in the "art of placement", or feng shui of a room:
Sometimes changing the placement of the bed/cleaning up some clutter/adding some soothing music/comforting colors, etc. can help. You can make it a fun project to makeover your daughter's bedroom, and let her help you - then she will feel more in charge of her own space, and perhaps more able to self-regulate and fall asleep, too.

2. After looking into the harmony of the room placement, I would follow the advice of lots of the moms who've already given advice. Be gentle, but firm, when your daughter awakens, and lead her back to her bed and let her know that it is her job to sleep right now, and everyone needs their sleep. Kids will use any excuse to stay awake, but you can explain that you need her to sleep, so you can all play in the morning. Sometimes, if my son seems distressed when he wakes up, I give him a cuddle, and tell him something nice about the next day (like we will have blueberry muffins for breakfast, or we will picnic at the park and play ball..) and he is able to fall asleep with happy dreams. :)



answers from San Diego on

Walk her back EVERY SINGLE TIME!



answers from San Diego on

Hi W., Our so0n did that at age 3, and after not complying by staying in his bed my husband told him if he does it again he was going to swat him on the butt, well he did my husband gave him two good swats, and he never did it again, he did get up to go to the bath room, he did get up if he had a bad dream or did not feel good but knocked on the door and waited to be invited in. J..



answers from Fresno on

As long as their is no reason for her getting up I think punishment may be neccessary. You could try doing a sticker chart with her and give her a sticker each morning if she stays in her bed all night. After so many stickers she could get a toy or treat. It seems like she is just testing the boundaries. I have a 3 year old who does the same thing. She doesn't get up often, but when she does it is usually for no important reason.



answers from Los Angeles on

Insomnia is a serious problem, and really no fun. To be punished for something that can't be helped is even worse. Create an environment that is conducive to sleep (dark and quiet - or at least relatively so). If she is taking a nap, make sure it isn't too late in the day - could be interfering with sleep. I have never been a great sleeper, and one of my biggest triggers is light. I need a DARK room or I can't sleep well. It's very frustrating. See if you can figure out what would help her stay asleep better.



answers from Fort Wayne on

how about have a reward chart??? Buy her something that she really wants and a calendar that for every night she stays in her bed asleep or other wise she gets a gold star.and for every five days she gets a really big star and when she earns 3 big stars she gets her prize. just remind her every night what she is working towards. and be sure she can see it that way she will not forget that its already at home waiting for her. gl


answers from Austin on

Have you figured out why she is waking?
Maybe she needs a sound machine to block out noise?
Let her know, if she wakes up, tell her she can quietly look at books in bed, but not to get out of her bed.

Take her back to her room every time.. No conversations, just the words, it is time to sleep.

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