Parents, Get Your Bed Back (cont.)

Shannon Choe of Berwyn, Pa., has an air mattress in her room in case her 2-, 4- or 7-year-old visits at night. "They get to be closer to us but not disrupt our sleep, and it's not so comfortable that they'll choose this option long-term," she says.

Be Consistent

It may be hard to walk your son back to his room at 3 a.m. when you have work in the morning, but be firm every night. "Think about the long term," Mindell says. "You'll have a few difficult nights, but soon, you'll all be sleeping all night."

Make it Worth Their While

Some parents offer sticker charts; others give rewards like extra playtime. Janine Bush of Boxboro, Mass., created a toy-ticket program to stop her 6-year-old son from sneaking into her bed at 2 a.m. When her son slept consecutive nights in his own bed, he won tickets to trade in for new toys.

Outsmart Quiet Footsteps

Hang a bell on your bedroom doorknob, and you'll notice when your child enters. "Say, 'When I hear that bell, it's a reminder that I get to put you back to bed," Mindell says.

Introduce a Clock

Place an inexpensive digital clock by your preschooler's bedside. "Put duct tape over the minutes and talk about the number she'll see in the dark," Obleman says. "Say, 'In our house, nobody gets up before 7. If it's not showing a 7, go back to sleep.'"

Create a Plan of Action

Instead of simply telling your child not to get out of bed, teach her how to fall back asleep. "I tell them to stay in bed, close their eyes, and think about something fun, like what they want to do on their birthdays," says Tracey Weil of Washington, D.C., whose 6-, 8-, and 9-year-olds sleep through the night. "Giving them something to think about is a great tool to help them fall back asleep."

Don't Cave in for Special Circumstances

When your daughter is sick or she can't fall asleep after watching a scary movie, you can still comfort her without inviting her into your bed. "A lot of parents forget that they can go to the kid," Mindell says. "You can sleep in her room [on an air mattress]."

SOURCES:

Jodi Mindell, PhD, child sleep expert, National Sleep Foundation spokeswoman; author, Sleeping Through the Night.

James McKenna, child sleep expert, anthropology professor, University of Notre Dame.

Dana Obleman, child sleep consultant; author, The Sleep Sense Program.

Karen Higdon, mother, Prairie Grove, Ark.

Janine Bush, mother, Boxboro, Mass.

Tracey Weil, mother, Washington, D.C.

National Sleep Foundation: "2004 Sleep in America Poll."

Reviewed on July 30, 2010

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Last Editorial Review: 7/30/2010 8:03:14 PM