How I Got My Child to Stay in Her Own Bed

How I got my child to stay in her own bed

This last week, desperate for a little more sleep, I decided to do something about the fact that my five-year-old doesn’t stay in her own bed and wakes me up every single night at least three times. I believe in incentives, because they’ve worked with this child who has separation anxiety. I had to go to preschool with her for six weeks, and I attended kindergarten for about ten days and periodically need to return after every extended holiday.

Keep in mind that this child is not one who reacts well to ultimatums or any kind of force. Changes must ultimately be her decision, so she needs to be guided lovingly and with ample conversation. If she feels rejected or pushed, her anxiety ratchets up and then all kinds of problems ensue.

Incentive Chart

I decided to create an incentive chart and break tasks down to small bits so she could feel accomplishment early on. Baby steps. I came up with five simple tasks, and every day she can earn a star for each task. When she gets 50 stars, I’ll take her somewhere or buy her a toy. The first time she wants to go to Pizza Pie Café. Her teacher gave her a free coupon, but neither my husband nor I care for the place, so we haven’t gone yet. Since Lisbon’s cousin often eats there and talks about it, she really wants to go.

The chart reads:

Original task chart

Will she stay in her own bed?

The first day of the chart, she wakes up and hovers by my bed, then I hear her going into my bathroom. She still crawled in bed with me, but it was a step. Yay! This is progress.

The next night she crawls into bed with me and says, “Mom, Mom, Mom! Do I have to go to the bathroom?”

Ah, sneaky kid. She didn’t exactly ask me for permission, did she? But in the morning, when she went to put on her star I said, “So when you ask me to go to the bathroom, do you wake me up?”


“When you ask me if I think you have to go to the bathroom, do you wake me up?”


“So isn’t it the same thing?”

She agreed and sadly didn’t give herself a star.

She decides to stay in her own bed but . . .

Fast forward a few days, and she was staying in her own bed. What a miracle! She gleefully counts all her stars every day. Her room is clean and her dishes are in the dishwasher or sink. Side note: once she masters one of these tasks, the next one I’m going to put on will be “Flush the toilet.” Out of seven kids, she’s the only one who’s afraid of being sucked in. (Update: we did a separate incentive for flushing that you can see here.)

Creatively getting around the chart

All was going well, but apparently my daughter is as creative as I am. On Monday she somehow woke early with my husband’s alarm and came to stand by my bed. Now with teens in the house (meaning late nights) and afternoon kindergarten, my daughter usually sleeps until eleven, so this was unusual.

“Mom, Mom, Mom! It’s morning,” she says. “It’s time to get up!”

It was SO not time to get up. In fact, it was so far from time to get up that I could barely crack open an eye. So I didn’t. “No, I’m still tired. I need to sleep for another hour.”

She pushes at me. “It’s light. Get up.”

But I’d only slept a few hours and was recuperating from a sinus infection. “Lisbon, you’re waking me up!”

She starts to cry.

I hold out a hand, still closing my eyes. “Come on. Get in bed with me.” Anything to get her to be quiet.

“Will I get my star?”

“No. But you’ve already woken me up. Come on, stop crying.”

“No, I won’t get my star!” She lies down on the floor and continues crying. After ten minutes, I get up, all possibility of sleep gone.

Point to her.

“I didn’t ask you about the bathroom,” she says later when it’s time for stars. Miss Smarty Pants.

I can also be sneaky with a new chart

We had a discussion that day about all the things not to wake me up for and why it’s important for her to stay in her own bed. I also decided a revision of task two on her chart was necessary. Now the chart reads:

Revised task chart

In case you’re on mobile and can’t see the image well, or if you want to use the the words for your own chart, here’s the text: Don’t wake Mom even if it’s light to ask about the bathroom or for any other reason unless the house is burning, someone’s bleeding, water is flooding, someone is dying/choking/stuck under something, or there’s another emergency that can’t wait.

Her response?

“Well, Mom, I won’t have to wake you up for a fire because the fire alarm will go off. That’s pretty lucky, right?” As if waking me is a huge inconvenience for her.

Ironically, as I write this, it’s past 11:30 AM and she’s still sleeping. At least she’s in her own bed. I snapped the above picture of her just for proof. Then I woke her up. So there.

Lisbon waking up

Love to hear your comments below. Enjoy your day!

Teyla Rachel Branton

19 Responses to “How I Got My Child to Stay in Her Own Bed”

  1. Paul Landry

    This is one little girl who will always try to be one up on you. She may have anxiety issues but that little brain does not stop. As she grows up it will get more difficult to stay one step ahead of her. I like your solution but can only laugh at the way your daughter came up with reasons to partially invalidate your points. She must be a joy to have around. Simple revenge is sweet sometimes.

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      Yes, I thought it was so funny how she tried to invalidate my points. She is a joy, and she always keeps us on her toes. After six other children, I thought I’d seen it all, but apparently not. She’s also very loving. Every single day, she’ll come up and say, “Mom, I just love you so much. More than never ending. Just so, so much. I’m always going to be right here because I love you.” It’s hard to every be upset with her. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Joyce

    I do enjoy your newsletters, especially when you write about your children! Lisbon sounds like a child who keeps you on your toes; I think we are more lenient with our kids down the line. When my fifth(and last) was two and a half, we finally were going to be able to give him his own room; he was already in a youth bed, but we had to finish the basement, so the two older boys could move down there. Well, the big day finally came! We had moved his bed and toys,clothes, etc. He loved having his own space! That night, when it was time to go to bed, he seemed happy and willing, but after we were already in bed,reveling in our new privacy, we hear a tiny little voice by our bed: “Don’t you love me anymore?” Well, his bed was moved back in our bedroom, where he stayed for another two months before he was ready to sleep in his own room. Long time ago! Joyce

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      Oh, Joyce, this is precious. What a sweet boy. Thank you for sharing. And I’ll confess that my baby used to sleep in her own bed (mostly) when she was in with her sister, but after her sister moved downstairs, she’s too afraid alone. She has a nice beautiful bed in her room, but the toddler bed she sleeps in currently is in my bedroom. But she is in a different bed (from me) and staying there, so that’s good because she’s too big to fit comfortably in our bed with us, so that means I don’t sleep at all when she comes in. Moving to the bedroom will be down the road, I hope! I think we’re on a roll! Thanks again for the comment.

      • Joyce

        Thank you, Teyla! I enjoy your comments. My granddaughter slept with her mother until she was eight or nine. her( then ) husband slept on a recliner in the living room; claimed his back hurt in bed. Hallie had a beautiful bed with a slide, but she couldn’t sleep in it. She has since been diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome; I wonder if she may have had early symptoms when she was young. Anxiety, obsession with things being just so— . She is now 15 and has to be homeschooled; she can’t stand being in a crowded room. She went through the eighth grade in public school, and seemed to do fine. She got good grades and had many friends. But in ninth grade, she really went downhill; many times she could not ride the bus for crying that she couldn’t go to school. Our school is small–less than 400 students in 12 grades, and she knew the kids well, but was so afraid of failure she could not go. Please don’t think I am implying that there is something amiss with Lisbon! I am just saying ,I think society shoves kids away from their shelter(mothers and fathers) way too soon. I think you are right on with keeping her close, and I applaud what you are doing. They are grown far too soon, and we have empty arms far too long. Unti we get our Grandbabies!!!!!! Joyce

        • Teyla Rachel Branton

          Thanks Joyce. I agree that people are too concerned with getting kids out to their own rooms. We’re really laid back about it. I can’t wait for August and my first grandbaby! I hope things go well with your granddaughter!

          • Joyce

            Thank you, Teyla. I appreciate your kind thoughts. Congratulations on you coming grandbaby! I hope you are rushing like mad to get all done , so you can spend your hours holding her/him!!!!! Joyce

  3. Sue Kirby

    Very creative. She sounds like my oldest daughter. She is a Scrorpio & very intelligent. She discovered you can put marshmallows in you mouth & then smear them on the blue bed that she was tired of & wanted to paint. She then explained why it was my fault. She was 4 at the time. Sounds like your daughter is very intelligent also.

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      Haha, that’s funny! You have a very creative daughter. On a similar note, one of my four-year-olds thought it might be fun to smear petroleum jelly all over her hair and the bed frame and the blanket. I had to wash her hair three or four times before it started to look almost normal. Oh, kids, they’re so fun! Thanks for your comment!

      • Sue Kirby

        Next time use lots of baking soda. My youngest got in the Crisco at 5 months had to crawl to get her. Made a paste of baking soda for her hair & poured it in washer for her clothes. It is amazing what they think of doing. The oldest was the one who Vaselined the crib, bed & bed spread. Used baking soda on them.

        • Teyla Rachel Branton

          Oh, I’ll remember that! I am sure I’ll face it again soon, lol! Crisco has to be every bit as bad. Thanks!

  4. Elaine Hall

    You are a most creative mother. I wish I had been that good with my two. God knew what he was doing when he only gave me two. I would never have had your patience.

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      It’s funny you say that Elaine. I used to feel I had unlimited patience with my older children. My husband would always shake his head and say that he didn’t understand how I could not get upset at something they did. But I feel as I got older, I became less patient. However, I guess I learned a thing or two from the others, so that’s probably where the creativity comes in, lol. Sometimes the best I can do is just hold on and hope tomorrow is better! Thanks for your comment!

  5. Wendy Wright

    Hi Teyla, Laughed out loud reading this blog about your daughter. Just had a thought about the monster sucking machine (toilet), had you thought of using a child lock on the loo to make her feel safer?
    If she uses the lock herself it might help? As she is old enough to understand “Baby locks” she might want to be a “big girl” and show that she doesn’t need it.
    I found this on;
    it might do the job…what do you think? Keep up the good work. I’ve preordered Sketches and can’t wait! Best wishes Wendy Wright.

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      I never knew they had those, lol. Fortunately, she only gets scared when it’s actually flushing, and she uses the bathroom just fine herself. It’s just a surprise when we go in and find it not flushed (ugh!). But today, I just printed up a clip art toilet and told her she could put a star on the toilet every time she flushed it herself. She already has 12 stars! (She’s loving it!) Who knew it was that simple? Thank you for your comment! I’ll show this lock to my daughter who is expecting soon.

  6. Matt Wheeler

    This was definitely an entertaining read!
    It’s funny actually, because my girlfriend and I were literally just talking about this exact same thing and how we’d handle it in the future if our (future) kid was to do this to us. I think I might forward her the email with this story…

    I do very much like your chart idea and I might implement something like this later in life…

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      Glad you liked it Matt. I seriously haven’t been too concerned, but now that she’s almost finished with kindergarten, something had to be done. She loves the stars so much. Thank for your comment!

  7. Linda Pearson Thomas

    I was one of those girls. Scared of the dark. Scared of mice , snakes, creaks, bugs. And boogeyman, dogs I didn’t know. Trees at night. You can see if Momma didn’t leave me a night lite on I would wake the house hold screaming bloody murder and have to get my panties changed. It took me a year before I could sleep in a room by myself. I was great at finding reason I didn’t need to go to bed. Thank god my Mom was ae inventive as you and a lot more patient than I was with my boys. But then I new all the excuses.

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      You must be creative, Linda! I admit that I’m way more laid back about it with Lisbon because she’s the seventh, lol. Thank you for sharing your story!


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