Bedtime Woes

We are having a really,really,really hard time getting Johnny to go to bed at night! He is also waking in the middle of the night and not wanting to go to bed! He makes endless requests, e.g. rub my back, give me a drink of water, etc.

You must be exhausted. I know this is a very difficult behavior. You don’t want to deny your child; you don’t want to let him cry; and you do want to get back to your own bed as soon as possible. What is a weary Mom and/or Dad to do???

Let’s address the first issue – getting to bed. I suggest you and Johnny make a chart of the bedtime routine. This can be as simple or detailed as you like. Some parents use a laminated piece of paper; some create a small booklet. Enlist Johnny’s help; ask him to tell you about the bedtime routine; allow him to decorate the chart, etc. Johnny is much more likely to follow the plan that he has created. You can draw simple pictures; you (or he) can cut out pictures from magazines, etc. A routine could be: warm milk, bath, brush teeth, read books – and then most importantly, a picture of a clock with the desired bedtime (you can use a timer to denote the time). When your child deviates from the plan, you can refer to the chart for guidance. Allow a comfortable amount of time for completion (30 – 45 minutes?). If non-cooperation causes you to miss your desired bedtime, then you probably won’t have time to read books. Assuming books is a pleasant experience for Johnny, then that could be your motivation. “When we get everything done promptly, then we will have time to read books tonight.” If that doesn’t happen, simply state: “Tomorrow we will move a little faster, and then we will have time to read books.”

Something along that same line can be used for your next issue of staying in bed. “When you stay in bed and get enough sleep tonight, then we will be able to go to the park (or whatever) tomorrow. Sleep is very important for your body.” Let’s assume that your child agrees with that logic, but later on he decides to get out of bed anyway. Pick up Johnny, and in your kind but firm voice say ”It is time for bed.” Deposit him in his bed with a brief kiss, and exit promptly. Do not engage in any conversation. This takes practice and nerves of steel. The good news is that you will probably have many opportunities to practice. That is also the bad news.

I would resist the temptation to lock the bedroom door. However, you may find it more convenient to just camp out in the hallway – believing in your heart of hearts that this will be a temporary experience. Success will not come overnight (so to speak); but if you are consistent, dedicated, and have the support of a partner/a god, etc., this will work!

Good night, and sleep tight,

If you have questions or comments about this issue – or any others, please email me at

If you are interested in learning more about Positive Parenting (and topics such as the above), please contact me for info on my next workshop. My phone number is 769-7921 and email address is You are most welcome to send questions and comments also

Carolynn DiGiuseppis a certified Montessori teacher with a Site Supervisor Permit and a Master Teacher’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. With over 30 years of experience caring for children, she is the Director of Carolynn’s Montessori for Toddlers in Petaluma.