Most parents have been there. Tired from the day’s comings and goings, you look forward to getting your child to sleep. Bathed, pajamas on, teeth brushed, story time or special routine. Lights out! Ah-h-h-h.
Later you get into bed, hoping for a good night’s sleep. But sooner or later, you hear the pitter patter of little feet. Or, you feel a tug on your bed covers, or perhaps awaken, realizing you now have kiddie company under the sheets.
What should you do to put a stop to this? Specialists, as well as other moms and dads, offer lots of tips on how to get a child to sleep through the night in his or her own bed.
But first, let’s clarify something. Many parents are fine with co-sleeping with one or more kids. If this is your practice, whether it is a cultural preference, something you simply believe in, or it is due to a special situation that calls for it, this article is not meant for you. Nor is it a judgement on co-sleeping, which certainly can have its benefits.
Instead, this is written for those who want—or desperately need—to be able to sleep without little knees and elbows vying for space.
Typical suggestions include concepts such as having conversations throughout the day about expectations, developing a special bedtime routine, acknowledging any fears or anxieties, temporarily using a child gate, and returning the child to bed, over and over, among other ideas.
And then, often some simple advice pops up: Use a sticker or reward chart.
An incentive chart can help forge a new habit in a young child. It is not intended to be used long term, but you can keep it up for as long as you find it helpful.
The chart we developed for this purpose can be used in two ways. One, amid suitable praise, you let the child put a colorful sticker in a space each morning after a successful “in own bed” night. The second approach is that, in addition to the child showing off the earned stickers, you plan on a small reward after a certain number of stickers are on the chart. Explain the plan to your son or daughter so the agreement is clear, and pick rewards that will be motivating.
Of course, you still need to talk and clarify expectations, and many of the ideas shared online by parents can help. Circumstances and children’s needs vary so much that it may be a challenge to hit on the perfect solution. But a chart like this is a simple and sensible tact to try!