Sleep Rules and Keeping them in bed


I got a message from a friend of mine about the sleep routine and rules in my household. Thought I’d share the question and response here. Anyone else have tips to share?


Do your kids sleep in their own rooms? Own beds? Sleep with you? Each other?
And what’s your bed time routine? How do you get them to stay in bed without having you lay with them until they fall asleep? My daughter has been wanting that for the past few months and it’s soooo time consuming! Any tips!

My Response:

Yes. They both sleep in their own rooms – V started at age 2 (but only because I needed to kick her out for baby K on the way – transitioned two months before the due date so she wouldn’t make the connection) hahaha. K started at Age 3. Note though that they have ALWAYS been in their own crib/bed. NEVER slept with me. And I was pretty firm about it because I didn’t want to build those habits that I know are hard to break.

There was a time when V tried to get out of bed and climb into ours… claiming she’s scared or for whatever other reason. My rule to her was: no coming into my bed unless the sun is up. So anything while its still dark out… I would tend to whatever she said got her out of bed… and back to bed she goes. If the sun happened to be out already and she came in… I’d let it go… Figure it would only be an hour or two so not as big of a deal. That rule has always seemed to work. Even til this day.

But although that’s always been the rule and worked for the most part, there was THAT PHASE… I was pulling my hair out trying to get her to figure her own demons/nightmares out and stop waking me up in the middle of the night. This happened on and off for months when she was 4 and again right before she turned 5. It was odd because for 4 solid years, she was able to sleep in a dark room with the door closed. Then all of the sudden there was this start of nightmares, etc. In my readings, I found that it was common at that age as their imaginations were so much more vivid and it was translating into their dreams. There were negotiations at that time with her… about how much the door could be cracked open.  We tried different night lights. Got her the Cloud B light (which did work very well and she still uses to this day). We tried some self-talk – having her say “Shoo Scared!” (like “shoo fly!”). During that phase, we also resorted to a reward/bribe (mini popsicle) for her to stay in bed without bothering me. That actually worked really well for a very long time. In the end, we did make it out alive. I lost a lot of sleep during that time that I will never get back. But we did survive. Now that she’s approaching 6 (omg. did I just say SIX!?!) there are some nightmare nights, but they don’t happen regularly so they are much tolerable. And the rules are still the same: Work it out. Back to bed. Don’t bother me before sunrise.


Bed time routine – brush teeth/wash hands/face, floss…. Read one book.. and into bed. Once in bed, they want a little lullaby, hug, and kiss. I close the door. and I’m out! I was able to full on close the door for the first 4 years with V. Until she had that nightmare phase, so now its cracked open a bit and the hall light stays on outside the room. The little guy still sleeps in the dark with door closed. Either way, putting them down for bed is pretty routine and easy.

I NEVER have had to lie there with them. Never wanted to start that habit. So when I did the sleep training at 3-4 months old, its always been about training them to fall asleep on their own. No holding… no rocking… nada. I might have rubbed them on their backs or cheeks to soothe them.. but that’s it. Figure it out. HAHAHAHAH I know. Tough love. But in the end, its truly something they can do on their own and has made everyone’s lives easier. Makes it easier for me, makes it easier for anyone that babysits as well. Perhaps because I started this from infant time, then they never really fought it about staying in bed.

I’m not sure how to break such habit if its already been going on in your household for a while. But at 3 yrs old, reward system seems to “click” with them quite well.

Behavior Chart App: iRewardChart

After finding myself struggling more so with getting my soon-to-be 5-yr-old to get up in the morning and to bed in a timely manner… I started to search for a better reward system. I had purchased a behavior clip chart in the past (I just opted to buy a nice one on Etsy because I was short on time and lazy to make one myself), which had made some progress when we first started it – but it just wasn’t enough. See my thoughts on it here.

So I went back on the hunt for something better. I’ve seen all sorts of things floating around for a reward system, star chart, marble jar… all using the same concept of accumulating something in exchange for the behaviors that we want. I like that this is visually more clear to kids their progress and they see what they are working towards (vs. the clip chart that only shows progress).

I settled on iRewardChart Lite on Google Play for Android.

OMG… so far… One week in… this has been a parenting game changer for me. My daughter totally understands the concept – obviously because I know they have a marble jar in her preschool classroom. But I really like it because together, we decided on 4 simple things that I wanted her to accomplish weekly, and then we decided on the rewards that she would like to earn in exchange.

I LOVE that you can earn more than one star in a day and I LOVE that you can lose stars too (red stars). My daughter loves being able to click on the stars herself and track her progress. We talk about how many stars she has, and after a reward, how many she has left, and deciding how she wants to spend the stars that she has earned. Lots of learning opportunities here in my opinion.

I’m keeping it really simple to start with the following tasks: Sharing, Homework, Getting up on time in the AM, Getting ready on time in the PM. For her rewards, I just settled on a handful of things: A new $2 toy (right now she is trying to collect all the My Little Pony toys from McDonald’s), Extra 10 mins iPad time, A new book, A new iPad app, Movie Night, Ice cream. For the most part, each one is valued at 10 stars for now. As she gets more on point, I might up the value or add more enticing high value items. In fact, her birthday is coming up, and I told her that things she didn’t get off her wishlist, we can add to the reward chart.

My 2.5 year old is not quite needing this system yet. We are mostly just working on Sharing, No spitting, and Gentle Hands with him. But I ended up liking this app so much, that I paid for the full version ($3.99) and added him so that he didn’t feel left out with the “stars”.

Looking forward to seeing how this app works for us long-term.

Behavior Clip Chart

Halfway through the Feisty Fours, I was on a mission to curb some tantrums and all sorts of crazy behaviors that needed to be nipped in the bud! I combed Pinterest for ideas and saw a bunch of various Behavior Clip Charts that people made. I went on Google images and found lots of ideas both parents and classrooms used. There are lots of ways to create your own with just scrapbook paper and printing the wording on your own. Definitely an easy DIY!

However, I was strapped for time and a little lazy to be honest…. so I took it to Etsy and found this super cute Behavior Clip Chart with personalized clips for my two kiddos.

So we implemented this… and to be honest, it lasted well for a few weeks before it failed me. Mostly because we weren’t really diligent in enforcing it I think. But I don’t know…. I also think that it just wasn’t that serious in my daughter’s eyes. Perhaps moving up and down the chart didn’t yield enough reward nor consequence? It might work for some people… and I know they use similar in classrooms… but for us… it didn’t. It’s definitely still stuck on our fridge and perhaps I may find use for this method again at a different age.


Practice what you preach…

After that last crazy week of V having her 4-yr-old tantrums, we were working on practicing to take deep breaths when we sense ourselves getting angry. She’s definitely been practicing this and adding it to her bag of skills.

Fast forward to this week:

My husband and I got into a little “exchange” the other day. Unfortunately, it just so took place in front of the kids. We rarely get so heated that it is full on yelling or anything – but – the tone is definitely different. Let alone, my daughter is old enough (and has experienced that tone at her enough) to know when her daddy is angry. Before I even thought about how escalated it might have started to get as my husband and I were 3 feet apart from each other in this exchange – my daughter comes up to me, puts her face right in front of mine, hands on both sides of my arms and says “Ok, you need to take a deep breath.”

Whoa. I stopped dead in my tracks there. She caught me. And I had to set a good example of course! So I complied and did the deep breaths, then thanked her for reminding me. She then told me to say sorry to him… and again, I complied to show her that it was the right thing to do. At that point, my husband and I just looked at each other and that was the end of that exchange.


Ultimately, whatever we were getting worked up about, didn’t necessarily need to take place in front of the kids. Again, even though it wasn’t really high level yelling or anything close to that, my daughter caught on quick. I’m glad she knew what tools to pull from, and perhaps it was a good learning moment for all of us. She can see that her parents are human, we get angry about things too, and yes… we too, can take deep breaths to regroup ourselves.

Found a good article on Protecting Children from the Impact of Marital Strife that says:

Don’t All Couples Fight?

Yes, in fact if a child never sees any discord or disagreement, they are living in an unrealistic environment with no role models to regulate a broad range of emotions. The answer is regulation of anger that makes its’ expression compatible with a safe and loving environment.

•  It is not about whether you fight it is about how you fight and how often.

•  It is about making it safe to be angry and safe to make mistakes.

•  It is about regulating anger so that it does not destroy love.

•  It is about the capacity to agree to disagree.

•  It is about the courage to apologize, forgive and recover.

•  It is about knowing that anything you say or do to the parent of a child – good or bad – you do to that child.