A common issue with young children is crawling into their parents’ bed, either at bedtime or during the night. Even kids as old as four may not want to sleep in their room.
Four-year-olds can be transitioned to sleep in their room by employing a consistent strategy involving:
- A calm and consistent bedtime
- An object of security
- A nightlight
- White noise
- Clear expectations
- Create a transition plan
- Positive reinforcement
- The hall pass method
Children have various reasons for preferring their parents’ room over their own. Some kids are scared, while others simply enjoy your company.
Consequently, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to getting a four-year-old to sleep in their room. Some kids can be transitioned to their bed quickly, while others will require a step-by-step strategy.
There is a multitude of parenting styles, and each child is unique. Even within families, parents discover that the “perfect” method for the first child will be ineffective with their second child. However, amongst the many strategies to get a four-year-old to sleep in his bed is one crucial ingredient: consistency.
Regardless if you are transitioning a child quickly or slowly, have elements that are consistent and have boundaries that won’t be crossed.
If you try something to help the situation, give it time before you decide it doesn’t work or add another element. Constant change is disruptive and will not further your goal of getting your child to sleep in their room.
1. Have A Calm And Consistent Bedtime Ritual With Your Child
The essential element to getting a four-year-old to sleep in his room is to have a consistent bedtime routine (source). The nighttime ritual should be:
- Occur at the same time each evening
- Enjoyable, such as a bedtime story
- Not involve electronic devices
- Not include roughhousing or loud games
The routine and calm conclusion to the day sends a message to the child’s mind that it is time to sleep. It also opens up an opportunity for communication where your child can express any fears and concerns.
This routine allows you a space to provide love and reassurance and to remind the child of the goal: to sleep in his bed.
2. Provide Your Child With An Object Of Security
Many children have a favorite object they carry around, especially when needing comfort, such as a blanket or a stuffed animal.
Consequently, along with the new routine, it might be time to go forth and acquire a new guardian of the night. Maybe it is a friendly plush dinosaur that will protect against monsters under the bed. Perhaps it is a fairy that loves company that has the power to zap ghosts.
Consider “discovering” the cape of courage that doubles as a blanket and awarding it to your four-year-old.
3. Put A Nightlight In The Child’s Bedroom
If kids like their room and feel comfortable, they are more inclined to sleep in it. So, give them a nightlight or a string of star-shaped LED lights (link to Amazon) that help them feel safe.
4. Use White Noise In The Child’s Bedroom
Adults and babies use white noise to help them sleep. It masks other noises and inconsistencies that filter into a room that can jar a child awake.
One common problem with keeping preschoolers in bed is that they are curious. They can hear their parents talking, watching TV, and moving about the house.
Other children find rustlings disturbing. For example, a neighbor’s dog barking at night might wake a kid. The white noise will help soothe these sounds away.
If you are looking for an excellent white noise machine and nightlight combo, check out Hatch (link to Amazon).
5. Give Your Child Clear Expectations And Goals
Parents need to make their expectations clear when it comes to bedtime. Talk to the child during the day about it and then reinforce the message during the bedtime routine.
Make the message clear and consistent. “Tonight, you are going to sleep in your bed.”
6. Demonstrate Empathy for Your Child’s Point Of View
Children need to know you hear their fears and concerns. You can listen and empathize without giving in to their desires.
“I know you are scared, but we will be home all night, and you have your cape of courage, nightlight, and Brave Fairy to keep you safe.”
7. Create A Plan For Child’s Transition To Their Own Room
Some children need steps rather than an all-at-once change.
Make a plan with goals in place. For example, for a child that is going to sneak into your room, start with a small goal. “If you come into mommy and daddy’s room, you will sleep on this mattress on the floor, not in our bed.”
Stay firm, and make each goal clear as you progress step-by-step.
8. Use Positive Reinforcement With Your Child
Make your child’s transition a positive one. Do not use fear or negative consequences to get them to stay in their room. Instead, keep your boundaries firm but reinforce them with praise and goals.
For example, some kids do well with a sticker or star chart displaying their progress. Others want to work towards something they desire, such as a special outing or a specific toy.
9. Try The Hall Pass Method For Your Child
Many clever and curious four-year-olds use excuses to keep popping out of bed. First, they need a drink of water. Next, they’ll want to use the toilet.
For many of these kids, the hall pass method can help. Each night they get a hall pass. This allows them one trip out of their room, to use the toilet, to give you an extra kiss, or even search for that non-existent cat.
Teaching children to sleep in their room is a process. By using creative strategies and being consistent, the child will learn to use their bed at night.
Again, be empathetic, but have clear and defined boundaries. Good luck with this stage, and remember, this too will pass.
Teresa is a Registered Nurse in the State of Texas and the mother of two. Opinions and insights on childcare are based on professional knowledge, academic research, and personal experience.
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