Kids love attention and rewards (but let’s be honest, don’t we all?). So when it comes to getting them to get into bed and stay in bed long enough to fall asleep, we need to reward them for good or desired behavior (like staying in bed) and limit attention or ignore undesired behaviors (like leaving their room when they’re supposed to be trying to sleep).

Before Your Start

  • It’s not generally recommended to make significant sleep changes before a vacation or when a kid is sick.
  • A better time is when you don’t have an important thing to do the next couple of days (if you have a big presentation for work, or will be working doubles or switch shift, it might not be the best time to start).
  • Consistency is key. It’s better to find a time when you can commit 2 weeks so that you can follow through on the plan rather than stopping and starting multiple times. It’s okay to decide that now isn’t the time to take this on.
  • Make sure you have a good reason for making the changes. When you are in the thick of it, this “why” will help you pull through if it gets tough. Remind yourself of the importance of sleep to your child’s overall health.

How do I reward them for doing well?

  • One way to manage this challenge in preschool-aged kids is to say goodnight, leave the room, and then pop back in after a short period of time and give another round of hugs and kisses and say something like, “I’m so happy that you stayed in bed and tried to fall asleep.”
    • Leave the room again and repeat this until the child is asleep. 
    • Gradually increase the time you are away. For example, start by leaving two minutes every night for 3-5 nights. When you’re having success, you can then increase to five minutes for several nights, then eight minutes, and so on.
  • Another option is a simple sticker chart. In the morning, you can give a sticker if they stayed in bed the night before.
    • They can then earn a small reward if they get two stickers in one week.
    • Over time, you can make it harder: three stickers in a week, four, etc. You want to start small so they feel successful and motivated! Download our sample reward chart below.

Bedtime Passes

  • Using bedtime passes is another good option for children over age 3 who keep “curtain calling” (leaving room for another hug, to get a drink, to get a snack, to use the bathroom, etc.).
  • Depending on how often your child is leaving their bedroom, you can start with 3 or 4 bedtime passes each night. Be sure to explain to your child what the passes are and how to use them.
    • They will get so many passes and they can only get out of bed if they have a pass to use.
    • They’ll need to turn in their pass, do their task quickly and go back to bed.
    • If they still have passes left in the morning, they will get something special.
  • When the child gets up from bed allow them to do what they need to quickly (2-5 minutes), take the pass, and send back to bed.
  • If they are out of passes, send them back to bed with little attention.
  • Download our bedtime pass to try it out.