Saturday, February 5, 2011

Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?

Q: My kids refuse to sleep in their beds. How can I get them out of mine?

A: Co-sleeping is a heated topic, and there's no right or wrong - only what's right or wrong for your family. If no one's getting any sleep, if it's causing discord between Mom and Dad, or if for whatever reason you want your kids out of your bed, then it's not working for your family. If that's the case, consistency is the key to getting your kids out of your bed for good.

First of all, tell them in no uncertain terms that sleeping in Mommy and Daddy's bed is not happening anymore. You love them very much. Don't follow this with a "but." The "B" word negates the entire first half of the sentence - any time you use it. Tell your kids they're big boys and girls. They are to sleep in their beds, you will sleep in your bed, and you'll spend lots of time together during daylight hours. Nighttime is not for spending time together - it's for sleeping.

Do they have a fear of something in particular? If so, address it. Do they need a nightlight? Do they need the door left open a crack? Do they need you to yell, "Monsters, monsters, stay away!" into the closet and check under the bed for the boogeyman before you leave? These are all acceptable ways to resolve children's fears. (Don't tell your kids that there's no such thing as monsters. They're not going to believe you, they're just going to think you're not on their side. Instead, come up with a way to keep the monsters away.)

Maybe your kids feel that they're not getting to spend enough quality time with you during the day and are trying to make up for it at night. If this is the case you're going to have to make more time for them. This can just be an extra 15 minutes a day. Fifteen minutes amounts to a few extra stories, a quick arts and crafts project, or a game of catch. It's quality here, not quantity. These few minutes can make a huge difference in your relationship with your kids. I highly recommend finding the time, even if your kids don't have sleep problems or security issues!

Once all underlying issues have been addressed, this is what you need to do:

Let's say your kids go to sleep fine in their own beds, but creep into your bed in the middle of the night.

I know you're tired and it's easier to just scootch over and let them in, but if you ever want this to stop, you need to get up and take them back to their beds. Do this as many times as it takes. It might happen 10 times in one night, but don't give in. If you give in once, they'll learn that all they have to do is keep trying and eventually they'll wear you down. I promise you, if you do it 10 times in one night, the next night (or maybe the night after) it'll only be seven or eight times, and after about a week they won't be coming to your bed anymore. It's just not worth their time and energy if they see it's not going to get them anywhere.

If your kids won't even go to sleep in their own beds and insist on going straight to your room at bedtime, here's what do to:

Put your child to bed in her bed. Sit on the bed with her for a few minutes (quietly - don't get her into another habit like singing her songs or rubbing her back, unless you want to keep doing this every night forever. Which is fine, if you want to do it every night. Just be aware that if you start in with something like this, it will become another routine that your child won't want to let go of). If you pray with your children every night, this is a good time to do it. If your child is the type that falls asleep very quickly, it's fine to sit with her until she falls asleep. If not, choose an amount of time and then say good night and leave the room. Do this every night for a week.

After a week, when you put her to bed, sit on a chair right next to her bed. (Make up an excuse if you have to - your back hurts or there's not enough room for both of you on the bed.) Sit there for a few minutes for several nights to a week. Then move the chair a foot or two away from the bed, towards the door. Sit there for a few nights. Continue moving the chair until it's outside the bedroom door.

You did it! You're free!

P.S. It's perfectly OK to reinforce good nights slept in their own beds with stickers on a sticker chart in the morning if you know this will help motivate your kids!


  1. Couldn't have said it better myself. Routine is key, especially for kids.

  2. This is a very good article. I have 1 comment, and one constructive criticism. The comment: One of the best things that anyone has EVER done for us? Just after our son was born, my mother stayed with us for about a month. From the VERY FIRST NIGHT she put our son in his own crib, in his own room, and that was that. He has never slept a night with us. The constructive criticism: I have OCD, and one of the main things that reinforced the OCD in me as a child, was my mother saying this sort of "Magic" prayer to keep the bad things away at night. Now, she had no idea that it would have that affect, but it would seem to me that a parent yelling "Go away Monsters, Go away Monsters", would at the very least send the message to the child that there are in fact monsters, obviously, because Mommy/Daddy believe in them! Look they even yell at them to go away each night! Just a thought :)

  3. I disagree. This is a really sad article. I feel bad for these kids. Our son is 2 1/2 and he sleeps with us at night, as most little ones have throughout history. The time will come soon enough when he is off in the world and has no time for his mama and papa. Now is the time still to nurture him and cherish him. And as for the parents who have to "find" 15 minutes to give your children your attention? "Quality not quantity"? Wow! That's really sad! How about quality AND quantity? Or otherwise, why bother to have children?

  4. Anonymous - I think you're reading between the lines here, or maybe seeing what you want to see. As I CLEARLY stated, I am not saying that anyone should kick their child out of their bed. I am an advocate of co-sleeping. That's not what this article is about. A parent asked me how to get her kids to stop sleeping in her bed because she wasn't getting any sleep. I'm not here to judge her, I'm here to help her solve her problem.

    As for the second issue, G-d forbid any parent spend 15 minutes with their child a day. I said that even make as little as an EXTRA 15 minutes a day to spend with your child will make them feel better.