700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Establishing Bedtime Routine and Helping Your Child Fall Asleep

Mar 05, 2019
Bedtime Routines

Parents are expected to teach children a lot of things: how to ride a bike and tie their shoes, where to put their plate after dinner and how to count. But, we often forget that, for many children, staying in their own space alone until they fall asleep is a skill that needs to be taught. 

If you have a child who cries or calls out after they are put in bed, refuses to sleep in their own bed  or insists an adult stay with them, you can use the following tips to help your child learn to stay quietly in bed until they fall asleep. 

  1. First, make sure that your child has a regular bedtime and that you have explained what the rules are, such as going to bed when asked and stay quietly in bed. When bedtime comes, make sure all of your child’s needs have been met. Have they gotten a drink? Gone to the bathroom? Had all of their hugs, kisses and special bedtime tuck in routines? This helps prevent the need for them to come out (or you to go back in) after they have been tucked in.
  2. Tell your child what will happen if they stay quietly in bed. (“If you stay in bed and don’t yell or cry, I will be back to check in on you in two minutes.”) Make sure your child understands, say good night and leave the room.
  3. Wait two minutes. If they have been quiet and stayed in bed, go back into the room and praise them. Stay in the room no longer than 30 seconds. Tell your child that you will be back again in a few minutes if they stay quietly in bed.
  4. Repeat the process in five minutes. Continue with the pattern, staying away longer each time. You may have to do this several times before your child falls asleep. If you check in and your child is asleep, just leave quietly.
  5. Stick with this routine, making check-ins farther apart each night until your child is regularly falling asleep on their own. It may take a week or two for this to happen, so hang in there!

If your child has trouble learning to stay quietly in their own bed until they fall asleep or your family struggles with other issues at bedtime, Nationwide Children’s offers free Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) classes, including one on Developing Good Bedtime Routines, that have additional ideas to help your child (and you) get a full night of sleep. For more information, click here, email TripleP@NationwideChildrens.org or call (614) 355-8099.  

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.