How Do You Get Your Kids to Stay in Your Bed?

Do your children wake you up in the middle of the night? Do you want them to stop?

Last month one parenting magazine advised parents in training children to sleep. Apparently, when a child wakes you up in the middle of the night, you are supposed to calmly tell them, “Thank you for waking me up. Now, let’s get you back to bed.”

Another source says that the child should have options that he or she can decide between in the middle of the night.

Ahem. That's not exactly how it goes in our home
It’s a matter of principle and character. After all, saying I’m thankful that you are waking me up would be a lie. (Isn’t being kind and loving a character issue, too? Yeah, but let’s not go there.) And I don't know how many 4-year-olds can rationalize to make good choices at 3 AM.

Rude Awakenings

Our 5-year-old son Sender has been on a recent streak of waking us up. And by “us” I mostly mean Joanna, since she is closer to the door.

Wanting to protect my wife, Sender and I had this conversation one morning a few weeks ago:
Me:  “How about you stop waking Mommy up?”
Sender:  “Can I wake you up?”
Me:  “Well, on second thought, . . .”
Later, we continued our conversation:
Me:  “Why are  you waking Mommy up?”
Sender:  “I need to ask her a question.”
Me:  “What question could be so important?”
Sender:  “My nose is stuffy.”
Me:  “That’s not a question!”

Losing It

If you think I’m being insensitive to him, you should know I could be (and have been) much worse.
Elijah, Sender, and B (December 2006)

For the first 5 years or so of his life, he was very attached to a particular “blanket bear,” which we all called his “B.” He always had to sleep with it, and even wanted to carry it around during the day.

Of course, he’s lucky he was the third child. Being as Baby Wise as we were, we never let our oldest child develop a sleep crutch. But with Sender, all those rules went out the window. We just needed him to get to sleep.

But when he was about two-and-a half years old, he misplaced his “B” – we later discovered that he put it in a big toy chest, mixed up with lots of dress up clothes. At bedtime we assured him that he could sleep without his treasured “B,” and he did go to sleep in his crib without too much trouble. He did not cry.

At least, not until 1 AM.

I heard the banshee-like wails. As I stumbled down the hall to his room, I heard what the fuss was about.

“I want my ‘B’!!! I need ‘B.’ I . . . want . . . my . . . ‘B’!!”

I threw open his door, to see him standing up in his crib, holding on to the rails, as if that gave him the leverage he needed to scream his point across his room, down the hall, to my pillow, and through my eardrums.

What did I do? Well, of course, I thanked him for waking me up. I was gentle and considerate. I gave him some options.

Really? No way, Jose.

Actually I cut off his screams sternly, 
"Sender, YOU lost your ‘B.’ We told you he needs to stay in your crib, but you wouldn’t listen. It’s your fault he’s missing. Now, you CANNOT keep every awake because of your mistake. That is rude and selfish. So you need to lay down, be quiet, and go to sleep!”
I would have loved to know what he thought of me in that moment. Who is this monster? All I asked was for a little stuffed animal, and this crazy man walks in. Why didn’t Mommy come? She would at least have given me a hug.

He slunk to the back corner of his crib, getting as far from me as possible. Eying me with suspicion and fear, he slid down, back against the rails. Then, he curled up and lay down. He never made another sound all night.

Let’s not think of the deep psychological scars he has from that fateful night.

A Warning

Like Sender, Hannah also had a season in her preschool years where she insisted on getting up, both at nap time and in the middle of the night.

Sometimes she would come to the side of my bed and stand there. I had no idea how long she remained there, or if she tried to wake me up. All I know is that my eyes would open, and there she was, staring at me. I often wondered if we had one of the Children of the Corn.

Back then, before I was worn out from having three kids, I actually was a lot more sensitive. I would just carry her back to her bed, tuck her in, and give her a kiss.

Despite the numerous instructions, consequences, and pleadings, she continued to walk right out her door to come see us. Not knowing what else to do, I had an idea. I made a STOP sign out of construction paper and taped it next to her doorknob. I figured that as she reached for the door, she would see the sign, and remember to STOP and go back to bed.

And, surprisingly, it worked. Most of the time.


So, if your child is waking you up in the night, here are my suggestions:
  1. Finagle it so your spouse has to deal with it.
  2. Scream at your kids to instill fear in them.
  3. Make a simple art project.
Note:  Elijah was our good sleeper. You would tuck him in his bed, and he'd stay there. He would stay flat on his back, even if you checked on him hours later. We said it was like putting him in a coffin each night.

What about you? Do you have kids that like (or liked) to wake you up? What did you do?

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  1. That's really funny. I was horrible about getting my son to bed. I was so soft hearted. What finally helped was keeping a ritual each night. Dinner, bathtime, read the Bible, read stories and then to bed where I would rub his back and sing songs. He became so conditioned to this I doubt he could have stayed awake afterwards if he wanted to. (You don't want to know how old he was when I stopped doing this. He's seventeen now and he still likes me to rub his back.)

    1. Routines definitely help at bedtime!

      And as long as you don't follow him to college to rub his back, I think you're ok. :)

  2. Yeah, we've had our battles here. Eventually, we decided.. you have to start in your own bed, but if you wake up in the middle of the night, you can come sleep with us, or in the case of the almost 3 year old, on the nap mat on our floor. Seems to work out well. I think it's just a case by case basis. I'm learning that everyone is just trying to survive and do the best they can. Pray with your kids, pray for your kids, pray about your own attitude and then do the best you can!

    Lindsey @