Does your child refuse to go to bed or to stay in the bedroom at night? Does he prolong the bedtime interaction with never-ending questions, unreasonable requests, protests, or tantrums? If so, you are dealing with bedtime refusal, a common way for young children to postpone bedtime and stay up with you. To deal with this delaying tactic:
- First: Establish a rule that your child can't leave his bedroom at night. You decide the hours.
- Second: Ignore verbal requests. Don't engage in any conversation with your child at this time.
- Third: For screaming, try to ignore it. If it becomes disruptive, close the bedroom door. Tell him that you'll be happy to open the door as soon as he's quiet.
- Fourth: For coming out of the bedroom, return him immediately and remind him he cannot leave his bedroom at night. Close the door and tell him you can open it as soon as he's in bed. Every 10 minutes or so, ask your child if he's in bed now.
- Fifth: Give your child a reason for changing his bedtime behavior. If he stays in his bedroom without a fuss, put a sticker on his Good Sleeper chart and give him a special treat with breakfast. For example, a good sleeper gets a serving of ice cream and some video time during breakfast. A bad sleeper receives neither. The average child will change his behavior if you can come up with the right incentive.
- Finally: Some parents consider closing the bedroom door extreme, but this response is essential for teaching some children that parents mean what they say. You usually only have to close it 2 or 3 nights.
If you have other questions about sleep problems, consult your healthcare provider.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 11/1/2002
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.