Tried & Tested: How To Get Your Kid To Sleep in their Own Bed

published Feb 10, 2016
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(Image credit: Simone Duckworth)

They’ve got a super cute room with a comfy bed. Why don’t they ever sleep in it? And when they do? Why is it never alone?! If it’s time to get your little one to sleep through the night in his or her own bed, here’s advice on how to do just that.

First, let’s face facts: the issue of our kids sleeping in our beds is not totally about them. It’s also about us. We like it! We like snuggles! We like that they are little! And that’s okay. But now, for whatever reason, you need a break. That is okay, too. Kids need to learn about healthy boundaries, and this is a first step toward a whole lot of life lessons regarding healthy boundaries.

There are basically two ways that most parents get kids in the habit of sleeping in their own bed: the step-by-step method or the one-night-change. Both take time, to be honest. The decision between the two really comes down to what works best for you and your kid. If the idea of spending multiple nights tiptoeing out of their bedroom one stage at a time makes you want to poke your eye out, just make the change in one night. But if your kid or you (because this is also about you) need a few nights to adjust to the change, then go step-by-step.

The step-by-step method basically involves following your bedtime routine, tucking them in bed, saying goodnight, and then when they want to be close to you, instead of letting them sleep with you, you sleep in their bed—for the first night. On the second night, you sit beside their bed. On the third, you sleep far enough away that they can see you but not touch you. On the fourth, you sleep behind something in their room, so they know you’re there but cannot see you. Then you sleep outside their room. Finally, you sleep in your own bed.

The one-night-change method involves your usual bedtime routine, but, if they get up at all in the night, you say, “No, you’re sleeping in your own bed now,” carry them back into bed, and you do not stay. No matter how many times they come back, you make them go back to their bed. No matter the protest, they go back to their own bed. And they will try lots of different protests, because kids are geniuses at this kind of stuff.

Either way, once you have established that they are sleeping alone, in their own room, through the night, do not get back into old habits. This is super important! Chances are, in a month or two, they will try to revert back to sleeping with you. Be firm on the boundaries you’ve set. Carry them back into their room and say, “No, you’re sleeping in your own bed now.” Remind them of the independence they’ve already achieved in the past. “You’re big, remember? You can do this.”

When your little one finally does spend the whole night in their own bed alone, reward that. But don’t go overboard. Reward one time, but don’t make it expected that every night in their bed will earn them a reward.

And reward yourself, too. You’ve done something hard. You’re helping a little human grow. Spend the night enjoying your bed alone with a DVD box set and a glass of wine. You deserve it. Well done, you.