From the Archives: Bedtime Routines for Dictators.

Last spring, we were seriously struggling to get #3 to sleep, in his own bed, all night long, without bemoaning his life station, requiring 15 hugs or 6 cups of water or me to lay on his floor, while holding his hand, for at least 40 minutes before he drifted off enough for me to sneak, crawl, and roll out.

A run-on sentence can’t even do justice to the torment.

Some nights we couldn’t even convince him to start the night in his bed; he always seemed have a long list of reasons why he needed to sleep with me: he’s not tired, his tummy hurts, his brother has smelly farts, he loves me and I’m beautiful.

That last one? Totally worth it.

Even on the nights when he happily snuggled into his own bed, he often wound up in ours before sunrise.  I’d awake to him tapping on my forehead as he asked what I’m doing (fool, I’m sleeping!), and then he’d climb in for the rest of the night.

I’m happy to report that this time was short lived as I’m now mom to three Dudes who sleep soundly in their own beds with nothing more than a kiss bump and a fist bump from me.

Here are some tips to help you clear your bed of the unwanted.

get child sleep in own bed

Bedtime Routines for Dictators

1. Get them in the mood. Yep, you’ve heard this one a hundred times before and that’s because it works. Doing something relaxing always gets me in the mood to sleep and I notice that it works for the little people too. A nice relaxing bath, a back massage, a story, some Luther, and some warm milk helps kill the crazy and cue the relaxation. Side note: you don’t need to lace your milk with Benadryl and it’s cool if your switch Luther out for the Wiggles, although a little culture never hurt anybody.

2. Tire them out.  But not TOO tired.  Make sure they get a good amount of exercise and engaging daytime activities.  Then give them plenty of mom/dad attention before bed.  Sometimes their nighttime antics are just because they really do need a good, strong cuddle.   The Dudes accuse me of kissing too much.  Come bed time, they are SO over me.

3. A good sleep space. One of #3′s main sleep time obstacles is #2. Real talk. The two of them share a room and #2 likes to talk himself to sleep. So annoying, right?! We’ve instituted a staggered bedtime system so that #2 gets to put himself to sleep by counting sheep or singing Party Rock or whatever, while #3 gets to have some Mommy time on the couch before going to bed in silence. It’s a win-win.

4.  Kill zombies.  We went through a monster-under-my-bed phase with #3, only it was a way more disturbing serial-killer-outside-my-window phase (they watched America’s Most Wanted at Mimi’s house).  Freaky business.  You may be pretty certain that a serial killer or a zombie or a monster or a whatever isn’t likely to crawl up the trellis into your kid’s room.  But, they don’t necessarily know that.  So, put on your wolf mask, get their plastic sword, and slay yourself some zombies.  At least that’s what I like to do.

5.  Don’t punk out. The one thing that’s for sure is that your kid is not gonna be down with this whole process. Because it’s a big change. And everyone knows that change sucks. So, whenever you’re certain that your sanity really can’t take another night spent with your buttocks clenching the side of your bed for dear life while the mini dictator sleeps spread eagle between you and your husband, commit to it all the way. Don’t let him sneak in for a bit, or when you’re tired, or on the weekends.  Make him mind you.  Or else you will lose this battle and your little Napoleon Dynamite will be sleeping with you until he finally figures out that chicks don’t dig dudes who sleep with their mommies.


  1. says

    My son adored my bed and would sneak in all the time. ANd even though it was just me in there, I would still end up clutching the edge of the bed, not to mention the cats were very put out because he stole their spots too. So we made the deal that he could only sleep with me if he didn’t wake me up (’cause seriously, how was I going to enforce it if I didn’t know??) And as he got slightly bigger and slightly clumsier, he got sent back to his room more often.
    Then he got a bunk bed and “screw mom’s room”, I was in peace.

  2. Margaret says

    Wow, this is exactly the encouragement I need with my dear daughter. She is just about 1 yr younger than #3 so I love reading about what she may do next. Or, in this case, advice on how to tackle the very thing I’ve been pondering this week. She loves being in my bed, and often I like it, but as she gets bigger I need my bed back! Not to mention I want my room back. I will take your sage advice and dive in this weekend! Thanks!