How to Get Your Child to Stay in Bed

stay in bed

As adults, we can struggle ourselves with laying down and going to sleep. Our minds and bodies can often disagree with our desire for a good night’s sleep. Kids are no different. After a full day they, too, struggle to get their minds and bodies to settle down and go to sleep. It’s also a time of separation from others. Immature minds and emotions need guidance to settle into rest.

Here are some practical tips to help your child stay in bed.

Ask yourself: Why are they getting out of bed in the first place? What is it communicating?

My body won’t stop moving.

A couple of reasons for the wiggles might be: 1) They have been too sedentary all day and now their bodies aren’t tired. Make sure they’ve had time doing physical activity like jumping on a trampoline, karate class, or chasing the dog around the yard. Tired bodies want to sleep. 2) They’ve been too physically active right before bed. It takes kids awhile to settle down after physical activity. Time the above actions before dinner to give them time to settle back down.

My mind won’t be quiet.

We all know that one. You finally get your head on the pillow but your mind has decided it’s the perfect time to balance your budget. Kid’s minds do the same thing. Help your child quiet their mind two ways: 1) Give your kids fifteen minutes of your undivided attention early in the evening to tell you all about their day {Tweet This} and what they’re thinking about. Help them solve any problems they need help with. 2) Practice soothing bedtime rituals beginning an hour before time for sleep. A bath, story, soothing music instead of TV, no video games, no screen time, rocking in a chair together, and/or singing lullabies together make for a peaceful sleep.

The atmosphere in my house is chaotic.

Reserve conflict for earlier in the day if possible. Take older children to another part of the house to resolve conflict with them so the younger ones don’t feel agitated. Pick a better time for conflict with your spouse or take it somewhere your little ones won’t hear. Children have a difficult time processing conflict. They tense up and feel it as if it is theirs. Keep your own stress in check at bedtime and reserve your own processing of it for when they’re settled in for bed and you’re out of sight.

I don’t like being told what to do.

Nobody likes being told what to do and forced into things they don’t want to do. Kids will try everything they can to push back. Help them feel like they have some choices around bedtime so they will cooperate more with the non-negotiables. Give them little choices like what toys to have in the tub, which story to read, or which pajamas to wear. And to keep them from the repeated getting up to request something give them three things of their choice they can take to bed. Some ideas might be a non-spill cup of water, favorite toy, or picture of mommy for when they miss you while you’re in the other room. Tell them that once they’re in bed they can’t get out of it so choose your objects wisely.

What are some other soothing bedtime rituals you can implement with your kids?


  • Katy Matthews

    My 8yo daughter doesn’t want to miss out on whatever is going on after she goes to bed. I think she imagines we’re having a party without her! And sometimes we will watch TV or a movie, but usually we are wrapping up and decompressing after our own day. Yet she will get up 3-4 times after we put her to bed. I am WIIIIIIIDE OPEN to suggestions!!!

    • Linda Alkire

      Dear Katy Mathews, I can relate as a mother of 4 great kids bed time rituals at our house were take a toll on us. bath them, get jammies on, tuck them in, read or do question and answer game “The what if game”. Many rounds of “I love you” and “I love you too” finally the end of the night would come when hubby and I thought we could go unwind/relax, BUT! Then they would start all over again with Mommy Daddy “I love you” So sweet right? and how can you ignore that and not go back up? We would go back upstairs and to it all again. Until one evening something came over me..I was so exhausted and I realised I had created “The bed time that never ends” and it was likely to follow me for years unless I changed it. It only took one night to change their after bed time behavior. We went back upstairs again. this time after another round of I love you’s We said the caling us back upstairs has to stop. So here are the new rules “Look at my eyes” (This was their cue to actually pay close attention.) From now on after we say good night and leave your room this is how it will be, every time we hear you making any noise we will make your bedtime tomorrow night 20 minutes earlier, we will not be coming back up here. And remember a promise is a promise and if you choose to act up will will add an additional 20 minutes this means if you have 3 offenses you will go to bed an hour earlier tomorrow, So choose wisely. They tested this 6 times that night. Not once did we return to their bed rooms. We did not call out with any further warning. They went to bed 2 full hours earlier then their usual bed times the next night. No one was mad no one cried because guess what? They knew a promise was a promise and they did not want to go to bed early the next night. They choose to change their behavior. We had 2 extra hours we had not had in months and a much needed rest too. 🙂 That was the last time our children played us at bedtime. The only thing we ever asked ourselves was “why did it take us so long to figure this out” Good night Mommy and Daddy love you, We can’t wait to see you in the Morning.

  • Nicki Thomas

    Hey! I’ve just come across this website and think it might just save my life. I’m at the end of my tether with potty training, discipline and bedtime.
    Any advice for bedtime for a 4 yo who struggles with us leaving the room? We sit there until he’s asleep, then he wakes about 11pm and just comes in our bed. We’ve let it happen but need ideas to break the habits.
    It’s been worse since my father passed away – actually my whole parenting ethos went out the door when my father passed because my little boy took it hard so I’ve been very (over) cautious about causing emotional upset; ie him feeling alone at night.