Reclaim your bedroom: How to get your kids to sleep in their own bed

If your kids have taken over your bed and refuse to sleep in there’s then it’s time to reclaim your bedroom and get your children back into their own beds once and for all.

While you may feel like you’re the only parent struggling when it comes to this problem, you aren’t alone, according to Angela Mattke, M.D. in Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota..

“This is a common thing that happens with kids, and there are things [parents] can do to help them”.

kids in bed

The reasons kids end up in bed with parents differ. Children may wake up during the night and want to see what their parents are doing, or they might be anxious because their parents were in the room when they fell asleep and now they aren’t. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to implement a strategy that breaks the child’s association of sleep with parents.

“Parents should strive to develop a bedtime routine for their children”, according to Jean Moorjani, a pediatrician at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

“We recommend that children need routine and structure,” Moorjani said. “A calm bedtime routine, so they know what to expect every night.”

You need to make a plan and stick to it, even if you’re tired.

“Talk about what will fit for you and your family and a make plan you can live with, and be consistent. Once you implement it, you don’t go back once your kids are out of bed. You don’t say ‘oh, for five minutes,’ or ‘they had a bad day’”, said Mattke.

Mattke said there are typically two groups of children: the ones who start in their own bed and come to their parents in the middle of the night and those who are sleeping with their parents all the time.

For those who start in their own bed:

As soon as your child comes into your room, take their hand and walk them back to their bedroom, kiss them and walk back to your bed. And regardless of how tired you are, be prepared to do this as many times as necessary.

“We call it the ‘100 walks,'” Moorjani said. “You tuck your child in and walk out, and your child walks out too. You walk them back and tuck them in, and it can happen many times, but if you maintain no reaction the child will realise, ‘well mum isn’t here to play with me.'”

She said the best advice for parents is to remain neutral and show no emotion and little interactions when walking the child back. That means that even if you’re exhausted you keep your cool and don’t get angry.

She notes that it’s best to talk through the new plan with your child during the day, so they know what to expect, and so you can both mentally prepare for the plan.

“Parents can use sticker charts and set goals, with low expectations at first, so the child can succeed early on”, Moorjani said.

“Kids can see [the sticker charts] and see the good things they are doing, so it’s very concrete: ‘if you sleep through one night in your bed- you get a star’”.

It may take a few nights or even a few months, but soon the child will understand that going into your room results in a swift walk back to theirs.

The phase out method:

For children who have been sleeping in their parents bed, the phase out method may help them feel safe in their bedrooms.

It works like this: for the first few nights, put your child in their bed and sleep on the floor next to them. Then gradually decrease your presence in their room, going from sleeping on the floor, to sitting in a chair until they fall asleep, and ultimately standing by the door until your child is sleepy, and then closing the door.

“This will build confidence in their ability to fall asleep on their own”. You can tell them that you’ll check on them while they’re sleeping to make them feel safe and reassured.

kids in bed article

The bedtime pass system:

For older children, the bedtime pass system may work, according to Moorjani.

Each night, you can give your child one pass to leave their room. Whether that’s for a drink, a hug or to tell you something before they go to sleep. “They only get one chance to leave their bedroom each night”, Moorjani said, adding that studies have shown it works.

“It seems so simple, but it’s a concrete way for kids to understand the rules and limits,” she said. They know that it’s bedtime and they need to go to sleep but still have some level of control and know that they can come out one more time if they need to.

Regardless of what you’re dealing with, being consistent will pay off. At some point, your child will learn that their room is where they have to sleep.