The Bedtime Pass
Recently, my daughter has begun doing that quintessential thing at bedtime where she needs one more…. you name it! One more kiss! Where is my favorite lovey? I need my water bottle!
And luckily, she is not a "get out of bed and come out of the room" type of kid – yet (Read: Put Your Kid Back in Bed). She just calls out from her bed and waits for us to come in to take care of one more thing for her.
The third night in a row where she did this, my husband and I started talking about how we wanted to address it so that it did not become the norm (or even get worse). I was reminded of this really cool research that I'd read about in graduate school about a strategy called the "Bedtime Pass." This is ideal for kids that get out of their bed or leave their room at nighttime.
Essentially what happens is that the child is given a "Pass" and was told that they can use the pass one time per night to come out of the room and get whatever they needed to get.
However, once the pass was used, the child could not come out of their room again for the night and would get the pass back the following night to use.
This research has been replicated numerous times and is actually talked a lot about in circles outside of behavior analysis (even though the research was initially conducted by a behavior analyst).
With my daughter only being 2, we decided that she wasn't quite old enough for the bedtime pass. Although the original research used a participant that was 3, so that's not to say that she wouldn't get it, we just didn't feel like it was right for her yet.
We ended up doing something similar, but instead of using a physical pass, we verbally described what was going to happen. When she first started whining, we immediately went in (always better to reinforce a shorter duration/lower intensity whine rather than letting it go for a long time and then finally going in).
We addressed the immediate concern (e.g., "Where's Gary?" - finding Gary and tucking her back in), and then telling her, "Mommy and Daddy won't be coming back in again, this is the last time, so we love you and goodnight."
It only took one more little round of whining (which we ignored), and then it stopped happening all together.
If you've used the bedtime pass to help with getting out of bed issues, let us know how it worked for you! If it didn't work, and you could use some help troubleshooting, submit your question to the Ask the Experts forum!
Our Parent Like a Professional Sleep Module tells you all you need to know to use the Bedtime Pass and other research backed strategies to get your children to fall asleep in their own bed, stay in their bed all night, and get out of bed at a reasonable time in the morning.