Gina from Canada needs our help motivating her daughter to stay in bed so she can have the evening “off-duty” she needs:
My daughter is a jack-in-the-box at bedtime. She’s 7 years old.
We finish her story, kiss her goodnight, leave the room – and then she calls after us for hot milk. And then she’s out of bed to go to the bathroom (she has only recently become dry at night so it is something she is working on). Then she comes down 1/2 hour later to tell us she can’t fall asleep.
It’s starting to drive me crazy! I get that she may need to go to the bathroom, or even that she’s having trouble falling asleep. But I don’t want to hear about it anymore! I don’t want any more updates!
Basically, once bedtime has begun (8:30), I consider that my time and (much as I love her) I need her to let me be.
What can I do to get her to, if not go to sleep, then stay in her room?
My first thought is: why is she getting out of bed? Is she afraid? Is she lonely? Is she bored? If you can get at the reason why she’s getting up, you can address it while at the same time crafting a temporary system of rewards to help motivate her to stay in bed.
If she’s afraid or lonely, offer to sit with her after she’s in bed. We would go through our usual bedtime routine, I’d kiss her goodnight, and then I’d sit on the floor next to her bed and read my own book while she fell asleep. The key for us was no interaction. Comforting presence, yes, but the goal was bedtime and sleep, so no talking or chatting (there was talk time during the bedtime routine).
I also referred to post-bedtime as “adult time” so she understood that, even though I was sitting with her to help her feel safe, it was my time to rest and recharge with my own book.
We gradually reduced the amount of time we stayed until it was no longer necessary.
If she’s bored, give her a couple quiet, non-screen activity options she can do while in bed. Reading and drawing are the obvious two. A gentle reading light next to the bed can double as a night light.
As for the reward system, my absolute favorite is outlined in the workbook What To Do When You Dread Your Bed by Dawn Huebner. This brilliant book is addressed directly to kids. Not only does it help kids normalize and communicate about their feelings about bedtime (whatever they might be), it takes the family through a series of exercises, including a “pass” system for staying in bed.
I’ll leave the details to the book, but the basic idea is that kids get a limited number of passes they can use to get out of bed. Once the passes are used up…well, they’re used up.
The exercises outlined in What To Do When You Dread Your Bed aren’t an instant fix, and they take commitment from the whole family. But they’re fun, illuminating, and respectful of both kids’ and parents’ needs.
Parenthackers, what’s your best stay-in-bed-at-bedtime advice? What worked for you and your kids?