Maybe we are the only family who is failing with keeping their five-year-old son in bed; however, I am hoping you have had some experience that might help me and ultimately the rest of the GCD community out.

Problem: My five-year-old boy consistently gets out of bed. We have tried:

  • reading at night (we still do this) before bedtime
  • baths before bedtime
  • shutting the door and not talking to him when he comes out of the room
  • sitting outside the door
  • begging
  • pleading
  • reason
  • praying
  • heavy blankets (for comfort)
  • did I mention praying?

Can you take 1 minutes and provide some insights into what works(ed) with your kids?


This article originally appears in Facebook.  Here is a link to the original article

Please note, some of the names of the responding parents below are ‘hotlinks’ to their facebook profile.  I have found a great article with reviews of mattresses for kids as well.  There are dozens of options out there for us. 

Robert Zeitlin

My professional opinion is simple and exhausting: with as little emotion as you can muster and without engaging with him any more than totally necessary, take your son back to his bed, say “good night,” and leave. Each time he gets out of bed, repeat. Respond to the behavior, with consistency, but don’t try to solve the problem.

Gretchen Vaughan Moran

My best advice, and what has worked for me was much the same, but with great patience, love and consistency. Absolute consistency. I never had issue with my 2nd or 3rd child. I think enjoyed going to bed at night. My 1st daughter, was a doozy!

Having a bedtime routine is key. Same time. Same steps. So they know what to expect each night that it’s “time for bed” and not play time. If you give in and let them stay up once too late, they’ll remember! So having routine is crucial. If they get out of bed or come out of their room, talking quietly and calmly (as humanly possible), walk them back to their bed. Put them in bed. And walk way. No water. No food. No more stories. In bed and leave. Rinse and repeat as many times as needed until they finally get the message.

For many kids, they have a difficult time self-soothing, which allows them to fall asleep on their own. You can try diffusing some lavendar essential oils in their room or rubbing on the bottoms of their feet. It helps relax them. This is something they have to learn how to do. And for some strong-willed children, (which sounds like yours is) it takes dedication and consistency.

Eventually, they will get the picture that they won’t get anything out of you by constantly getting out of bed. Eventually, they will learn to self-sooth. Maybe a light fan noise to drowned out noises would help. It has for all my kids. Hope this helps.

Vince Williams

This is a tough one. My son is 12 and I didn’t experience this issue, myself. Maybe it’s because I’m a stickler for boundaries and I set and stood by them before he could talk/walk. Maybe, you could be a little more firm (not mean or cold). This may let him know that this isn’t negotiable.

Katie Holt

I have had to deal with a similar situation with my daughter. She wouldn’t stay in bed however because she was scared and kept coming out and sleeping on the couch. My suggestion to your familyis to be consistent with how you act on the situation. If it’s sitting by the door and not talking, then do it every time he comes out. Make sure you put him back in his bed and walk away. Don’t say anything to him just walk away. After a week maybe two he will start to learn that he needs to stay in bed eventually it will become easier.

Liann Weir

We had the same issue with our daughter so one of us just stayed with her until she fell asleep. She just needed to know we were there and stay connected to us. She’s now 7 and currently lying in her bed reading peacefully. We need to look at why they’re doing it – they’re not trying to be awkward, they’re anxious and looking for connection. Children aren’t really built to be alone and staying with them until they fall asleep can help them feel secure. It’s also something I felt strongly about when working in residential care with children.

Luwana Mayberry-Faulkenburg

Hello Must Have Sleep, I agree on a lot of what everyone is saying. First and foremost you must be consistant and you cannot I repeat not give in. If you give in they know you will give in all the time. Oh yes doing what I am about to tell you is going to hurt you more that it will hurt them. When he gets up at night, first get him a drink and talk to him ask him why he is up. Listen to him patiently. After he is done speaking, you then have to tell him that you are sorry but he has to sleep in his own bed. That everyone in the house has their own bed, and he has to sleep in is. Got to his room and tuck him in. This is going to go on for awhile, maybe 4 or 5 weeks, but when he finally realizes that he isn’t going to your bed, he will finally stay in his own bed. You will have the same talk with him every night and no matter the excuse he gives you, you still tell him he has his own bed. He is going to cry, stomp his feet and do everything possible to make you feel bad. DO NOT GIVE IN! As Vince said let him know that it is not negotiable. One more thing, when he is crying let him cry for about 10 minutes then open the door and ask him if he is done crying, if he says no then tell him, well when you are done crying,If he says yes he is done, then tell him that it is time to go to sleep. this will also go one for awhile, until he realizes that even though he is crying he cant come to your bed, that he has to sleep in his own bed. Also that no matter what the answer is he has to sleep in his own bed. then it is time to go to sleep. I also do this when they are throwing a tantrum, and crying, I ask them if they are done, and if they say no, then I tell them to let me know when they are done. I hope this is helpful. Remember every child wants and needs to be heard. Let him speak about what the problem is, and correct him

Ed Palmisano

You have prompted me to think I could put this into a new blog post. Might even make “advice” a sort of regular thing. Years as a school psych better pay off somewhere if not financially.

Jamie Vineski

This worked great for us: Awesome Article

Anthony Termine

Have you tried wine? Haha

Stephen Mack

This is very timely as we are going through some stages, too. We have an equal number of friends that adhere to a very strict routine, and those who do not. We find ourselves in the middle. Our oldest daughter has been a sleeping champ her whole life – never any challenges, just a rock solid sleeper. Our youngest daughter is a very deep sleeper, it just takes her a few moments of knowing someone is near to fall asleep (she’s 4, so she’s at that age where she is nervous about the dark, noises, etc.). Our son is more complex. Once he is asleep, it’s fine for the whole night and he usually is able to fall asleep with no problem. Occasionally though we find him coming downstairs to sit with us, or have one last conversation with us before sleep takes over. Rather than walking him back to his room, we have chosen to listen to him, to talk with him, to really *hear* him. Then, once he has expressed what he needs to express, he often simply returns to his room himself. We find that this reinforces his trust in us, his independence to come to us when he needs, and his independence to return to his bed of his own volition (he is 7). We resort to guiding him back to sleep if it becomes clear that he is not self-regulating.

What a great conversation! Enjoying reading the different approaches!

Debbie Hightower

If he is scared, I have heard of getting a dream catcher and putting it in the window of their room and telling them it will catch all the bad things that is scaring them and keep them outside. Otherwise the only thing I can say is keep putting him back in bed and be firm about it. Don’t let him get the best of you and you give in. If you do you are dead in the water. LOL

JoAnn Schauf

With my four we would talk about the steps of the night. After prompting and practicing my son would say “I’m going to take a bath, get one story, get in bed and stay in bed. Even if I want to get out of bed, I will stay in bed.” Voicing it makes it real for them. Then I would say ‘Deal?” And he would say, “Deal!” Create other opportunities outside of bedtime to make deals and appreciate him keeping them. If he should get get up, respond, “We have a deal. You keep your deals.” I hope this works as well for you! Let me know.

Shannon Easterling

I keep my son on a good schedule. The whole day we are pretty active and busy doing things. I do my best to keep the day time naps very short and keep my son occupied all day like parks, playing outside, sport activities thru out the day. Let’s say by 7pm my son energy is winding down. So then it’s a nice warm bath and time for dinner. Definitely use the baby oil and some powder after a bath trust me that works! Keeps my son feeling very comfortable and relaxed right before bedtime. So around 8-9pm I’ll read him a book and then I’ll let him watch a night movie with the lights off and 9/10 my son is passed out with in 30 mins. The goal is just scheduling your day out. Keep your child busy thru the day. And be the end of the day my son won’t admit it but he’s tired and exhausted and by 9 he’s in bed slowing dozing off. Oh don’t forget a late snack like milk or cookies. Works for me

Steve Sewell

It seems like it is being said here- but I will reply anyway. Our children need constant reminders and because they do not learn as quick as we would like- be persistent. It’s nerve wracking at times. You will have to laugh a lot with your spouse too. It will eventually sink in that just because your baby or child cries or tries to get his/her own way- doesn’t mean it will work. Keep calm and parent on! 🙂 .

Mat Boyer

Hey Julian its Mat (@mindsetofgreatdad) a few things come to mind and that is that with everything you hear here, you know your child best. One of the things I’ve found success with is to explore to find out the why- is it anxiety ?

Mat Boyer

Is it loneliness? If that is the case (which I’ve recently just had come up for my 8.5 yr old) then they will be looking for connection. I have also used an app on the ipad called RemSKeepMusic. We pick which one she wants to hear and then falls asleep to it. Hope these help. Be patient, everyone is learning

Sarah Hannan

My daughter is 3.5 and I’m thinking I’ll have to keep her in a crib at least until kindergarten because of this. Maybe falling asleep with him and then sneaking out of the room would work.

Michael B Smith

I suggest telling them your by the door and actually be there at first, slowly, night by night, moving further away until the problem is over. But don’t lie next to

Kelsey Buchanan Ramirez

We have had the same routine, and it helps. I agree with many of the experts, though. After you complete your routine – read, pray, or whatever you chose to do together, if your child gets out of bed, keep putting the child back into bed without discussion. Discussing it over and over prolongs the situation. Above all, be consistent!

Andy Shaw

Andy Shaw We have had success with small incentives

Carolyn Bond

Julian and Laurie, your son is getting a LOT of attention from his bedtime capers. My suggestion that has worked for hundreds of parents: Put him to bed after his story and tooth brushing routine. Tell him you’ll see him in the morning. When he comes out, totally ignore him. He is getting so much undue attention for misbehaving. Ignore the misbehavior, but give a ton of attention to any good behavior, especially during the day and through the evening before bed. When he gets out of bed, pretend he isn’t there, keep talking together, reading or watching TV. Totally ignore him, even though he’ll be bugging you to notice him, and he’ll get tired and eventually go back to bed. NEVER GIVE IN! He’ll realize that when you say you’ll see him in the morning that you mean what you say.

Ekdali Admin

Hi, we have had some experience with our 3 year old staying out of bed when either she is going to fall sick or she has been having a tough day with her playmates . Sometimes, it helps to spend more time with them during the day ( if you can afford that) and We also sometimes tend to cuddle with her till she falls asleep :).

Maria Luisa Fernandez-Salcines

I am a mother of 3 adult children. Our sons were 15 and 13 years older than our daughter. When our younger son left for college, our daughter was 5 and had just started kindergarten. She also began getting up at night and insisted on sleeping with us. For 2 months I walked her back to her room and tried all of the things experts suggested. Our daughter would cry and say she missed her brothers, and felt scared sleeping on the other side of the house by herself. Then I made a decision that goes against what experts, and what I had told parents in my coaching sessions to do. I bought a twin size sofa bed chair, and placed it in our room on my side of the bed. I sat our daughter down and made a pact with her. If she promised to go to sleep in her room every night (no exceptions), if she woke up in the middle of the night she could sleep in our room, but not in our bed. Then I took her to our room and showed her the sofa bed. For the first few months she came to our room every night, and even though it was a hassle I would get up and set up the sofa bed. I never left it set up, because I wanted to remind her this was not where she was suppose to sleep. This went on for a year and then one night she slept in her room all night long. Eventually she stopped getting up at night. My daughter was scared to be alone on the other side of the house. Her fear was real to her and something she needed time to work out. There were many changes for her that year. She missed her brothers, and it was her first year all day at school. Every child is different, and some children need more emotional support than others. My advice is do what is best for you and your child, and don´t worry about what other people do. Our daughter is 22 and in college with no evidence of any trauma, because she slept in our room. Good luck with your little guy, and enjoy this time with him, because before you know it he will be a teenager, and you´ll miss these years!

Bob Malloy

Whatever you do be consistent at it.

Steve Pearson

I agree with the advice in the previous posts and have only one other thing for your consideration. Our son went through a very similar phase years ago and we tried everything we could think of to get help him. Part of the solution seemed to come from simply growing past that phase. Plus, we finally stopped all Mountain Dew and other caffienated drinks. Just a thought.

Betty Boiron

We ended up using a sticker chart after everything else failed and apparently…. stickers are gold to toddlers!

Emma Lawson

Persistence worked for us in each of their “troubled” behaviour. And a lots of talking, explaining,… Just put him back to bed, saying it’s too early, mummy and daddy need to rest to be able to play tomorrow. You too need to sleep so that you can grow. This explanation should be as short as possible, put him back to bed and leave. And repeat 🙂

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