My Toddler Will Only Sleep in My Bed

Question.

My four-year-old sleeps with us every night. He starts out in his bed but comes into our room in the middle of the night. This has been going on for several years. We have tried rewards if he sleeps in his bed all night, but that doesn't seem to work. We have tried putting him back in his bed but later in the night, he will return to our room. What do you suggest?

Answer.

It is difficult when our children do not sleep through the night in their own beds. When children learn sleep patterns, they learn not only how to go to bed (which your son seems to have no trouble doing) but also getting back to sleep when woken. It appears he does not have this ability. He has developed a pattern of only returning to sleep when he is in your bed. So, you need to retrain his brain.

Dr. Patrick Friman has written an excellent and somewhat funny book titled Good Night, Sweet Dreams, I Love You: Now Get into Bed and Go to Sleep! You can find it at boystownpress.org. The book talks about continuing to be consistent and calm and offers techniques that you can try to help your son learn to sleep through the night in his own room.

One method that may work for you is the robotic return. Hold his hand and calmly walk him back to his own bed without making any eye contact. Be like a robot, you are not upset or cuddly, just returning him to bed. However you decide to approach this issue, remember to stay calm and focus on praising his positive change.