Skip to content

How to parent smarter not harder.

View all articles

Thinking Parenting Blog

How can I help my child sleep through the night?

Your question

My four-year-old son wakes up at night and comes into our room. I’ve tried taking him back to his own bed but he just comes back again. If I let him sleep in our bed he wriggles and keeps me awake. My work is suffering, I’m utterly exhausted and desperate for him to sleep through the night! What can I do?

Jedi Mum: sleep through the night!My answer

It’s hard to focus at work and enjoy life’s challenges when bedtime battles leave you drained. Lack of sleep can make children tearful, relationships tetchy and spreadsheets incomprehensible. The good news is – if you want to – this is a battle you can win.

All children have periods of restlessness at night. The goal is for your child to roll over and put himself back to sleep without seeking your help. So make sure you incentivise this behaviour.

Try to identify times when your son already puts himself to sleep so you can praise and reward him. Perhaps he goes to sleep by himself at bedtime? Or does he sleep through the night occasionally? Or even half a night? If so, make a huge fuss about how well he has done. Take him out for his favourite treat, phone grandma to tell her all about it (in his hearing of course!). Use a reward chart to encourage him to do it more often. Start with big rewards for just half a night and gradually move the rewards further away to encourage him to sleep through several nights in a row.

At the same time, you’ll need to remove any incentives for the behaviour you want to stop. Being cuddled to sleep by a nice warm Mummy is a pretty big reward for getting out of bed – it’s going to have to stop. If your son does get out of bed, immediately take him back again: ignore all complaints and give him as little attention as possible. If he comes out again, take him back again. You may have to do this many times but you absolutely must return him to his bed every single time he gets out of it.

The first few nights could be hellish so pick your moment carefully. Choose a time when you haven’t got major deadlines or early morning meetings. Perhaps start on a Friday when you have a work-free weekend ahead, or consider taking a couple of days off if you can.

Talk to your partner (if you have one) to agree the timing – you both need to be signed up to the same plan. And whatever you do, don’t start until you have steeled yourself to see it through. If you give up halfway your son will learn he just has to be persistent and you will cave in. And that will make it harder to break his night-time habit in the future.

The upside? If you get the incentives right and stick to your guns he should sleep through the night and you should be getting a full night’s sleep in the very near future.

This post originally appeared on www.talentedladiesclub.com

Enjoyed this post? Subscribe to our newsletters for more.

Share this article:

The Work/Parent Switch.

By Anita Cleare

Not sure where to start?

Practical tips on how to be the parent your child needs and create happy family dynamics (but still do your job!)

Comments are closed.

Related Articles

Photo of baby to illustrate podcast on introducing a new baby to your family by parenting expert Anita Cleare

Introducing a new baby to your family

I am frequently asked for advice on the best tactics for introducing a new baby. Many parents worry about how they will cope with the added demands of a new baby and how a sibling’s arrival...

photo of children playing to illustrate article on supporting your child's development by parenting expert Anita Cleare

101 ideas for supporting your child’s development

We all want our children to do well – at school and in life – and to reach their full potential. But battling over homework and bribing them to complete extra maths booklets isn’t...

Best books to teach children social skills: phot of 'I'll Wait, Mr Panda book cover

Best books to teach children social skills (2-7yrs)

The absolute best way for children to learn social skills is through practice. Young children needs lots of opportunities to play with other kids – older, younger and the same age. There will...

Books for talking to children about emotions: picture of 'The Way I Feel' front cover

8 Books for talking to children about emotions

It takes time for children to learn to recognise and manage their feelings. Talking to children about emotions can help this process. Talking is usually best done when everyone is calm and no-one...