Put Your Kid Back in Bed | Sleep Training
Parents often consult with us on getting their children to go to bed – and stay in bed! – until a reasonable time in the morning.
Every parent has inevitably lived through the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation. (Hello, remember the newborn stage???) So, we all understand that good sleep is essential to us being our best selves, but it's also essential to our children being their best selves, too!
If your child gets out of bed multiple times throughout the night or wakes up at 4:00 in the morning and struggles to get back to sleep, then your child is definitely not getting the good, quality sleep that he or she needs.
Even the best sleepers in the world can occasionally experience some sleep regression, so it’s good to be prepared on how to handle it if and when it rears its ugly head. We recently experienced this firsthand when our child, who is normally a great sleeper and goes to bed with no issues at all, started coming out of her room crying.
After the nighttime routine, and after reading her one story before bed, our daughter tends to read to herself (well, since she can’t read yet, she looks at pictures), talks to her stuffed animals, and generally “winds down” before falling asleep. One evening, my husband and I were finally enjoying some quiet kid-free time and we heard an ear-piercing scream, and then our daughter bolted out of her room crying, obviously frightened.
We picked her up and gave her some love, asked her what was wrong, and eventually she was able to say that she heard a scary noise in her room. We took a tour of the room with her, listened for any noises (other than her very loud white noise machine), and ultimately could not find anything (or hear anything) out of place. She eventually got tucked back in bed and went back to sleep with no issues.
Now, I’m not trying to say that she was lying; I am sure that she heard something that spooked her. But this story perfectly illustrates the power of reinforcement or the process of strengthening behavior (Read: What Is a Reinforcer?).
When, the next evening, our child immediately started crying and talking about scary sounds, I realized that the night before had been such powerful reinforcement, that we were seeing the strengthening of the behavior before our very eyes.
Again, we went into the room, listened for anything scary, and again heard nothing. At this point, we realized that we had a behavioral pattern on our hands and needed to nip it in the bud quickly before it got much worse. Thus, we strategized a plan of how to keep our child in bed!
The strategy we used is the tried and true "Put Your Kid Back in Bed" strategy (henceforth to be known as PYKBIB). As simple as that sounds, there are many caveats to employing this strategy effectively and efficiently (who wants to sleep train for 6 months?), so read on to find out how to do it!
This PYKBIB method is best for young children who don't yet have solid grasps on rules or more complex language skills. If you have an older child who is struggling with staying in bed, you may want to read about the Bed Time Pass, although the PYKBIB method does work for older kids, too.
3 Steps to Getting Your Kids to Go to Bed and Stay in Bed
- Talk to your child about the new rule before beginning the new routine.
- Satisfy all possible needs before leaving your child's room (glass of water, potty trip, etc).
- Follow through. Every time that your child gets out of bed and comes out of his or her room, you guide your child back to bed, providing as little attention as possible.
Though those three steps may seem pretty easy, there is a LOT that goes into addressing sleep issues with our kids. We've created a full tutorial detailing all of the necessary preparation, a variety of sleep training techniques, tips for success and much more!