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The secret to getting your kids to go to bed

Get Your Kids to Bed

Do you want to know the secret to getting your kids to go to bed at night?

Stop telling them to go to bed!

That’s right, stop telling your kids to bed and they will go to bed at a reasonable hour – on their own.

I have been doing this with our 3 1/2 year old for the last 6 months and I really wish that I had started doing it earlier because it really does work.

Get Your Kids to Sleep

Let me explain…

Before trying this method of getting our toddler into bed at a decent time, we used to have a bedtime set for him – 8 o’clock. No later. When 7:45 came around, he would get into his pajamas, brush his teeth and I would read him a bedtime story. Right around 8pm, he’d be fast asleep. This worked from age 1 until about age 2 1/2. After that, Elliott simply refused to go to bed when we asked him to.

As soon as he learned the word “no”, that was his response to everything we asked him. Bedtime became a huge struggle for my husband and I, because when Elliott went to bed, that was our alone time. Now our alone time was eliminated because our 2 year old wanted to stay up and watch cartoons or read books or play with toys or scream about something that he was unhappy about.

It felt like torture. We just wanted to spend some time together, without a loud child in the background, but it seemed impossible. “He’ll get over it eventually”, we said.

Unfortunately, he didn’t get over it. He got worse. He would stay up as late as we did, and when we told him we were going to bed, he would throw a fit. He would scream and cry for hours. It wasn’t unusual for him, and us, to go to bed as late as 2 o’clock in the morning.

It was awful.

Then, one day I was talking to a friend about our problem and she suggested letting Elliott decide when it was time for him to go to bed.

“Are you crazy?”, I asked. “He’ll be up all night if we let him to decide when he wants to sleep!”

She told me that ever since her kids were 2 years old, they picked their own bedtime. At 8pm, she would tell them that mommy and daddy needed their quiet time and that the kids had to go into their bedrooms. They didn’t have to go to bed, but they had to be in their rooms and they had to be quiet.

Asleep on the Floor

There was only one rule – if they came out of their bedroom, that meant that they were ready for bed, and my friend would turn their bedroom lights off.

Most of the time, her kids would play quietly, and then call her or her husband up to tuck them in, because they were ready for bed. Can you believe that? They actually asked to go to bed!

I figured this plan was worth a shot, but to be honest, I didn’t think it would work at all.

The first few nights when we put Elliott in his room at 8pm, he would come out about 10 minutes later and ask for a drink, a book, a hug, a song… whatever he could think of at the time. Those nights were rough because there was a lot of screaming and whining from him when we would turn his light off after he came out of his room.

But then, things got better. After about a week of letting Elliott decide when he wanted to go to sleep, he was actually doing it on his own! He would sometimes come out of his room and say he was ready for bed, but most of the time, he’d fall asleep in his room – all on his own.

This is how it has been for the last 6 months now. He knows that when 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s time to go in his room. He reads a story or plays with toys, and usually falls asleep on his own in under 30 minutes.

Playing with Blocks

Sure, there are days that he doesn’t want to go in his room. There are days where he puts up a fight and argues about everything, but for the most part, this system works amazingly well for us. I’m so glad we gave it a shot!

Do you have any secrets for getting your kids to bed?


  1. Save Big, Live Better!

    Thanks so much for sharing! That would honestly have been the LAST thing we’d think of trying!
    We’ll have to give it a shot tonight;)

  2. Heather R

    We have it pretty easy. It use to be that my husband and I would take turns putting our daughter to bed, going through a routine. After my second was born, for the first while I would put our baby to bed while my husband tended to our daughter. She’s always just wanted our attention so while I nurse the baby to sleep (a bad habit I know) my husband reads her stories and once our baby is in her crib, I lay down with my daugher and snuggle and chat with her and talk about the day. I’m a stay at home but it was the alone time with me she missed. Some nights require more snuggles and I admit sometimes I would stay with her until she fell asleep where as the nights she was most difficult to put to bed were the nights she was overtired by missing her naps or “relaxation time” as we call it.

  3. lilian gramajo

    I like the idea, thanks for share it and for sure I will try it with my two?years?old.

  4. lori

    Great idea for a peaceful bedtime! We have three kids fewer than two years apart. We always had reading a story as part of bedtime routine… Always! So when our eldest started to read on his own, we would tell him the same thing as you–as long as he was reading in bed he didn’t need to turn off his light until he was ready. It was a great habit and it encouraged my subsequent kids to “learn” to read very early… after I had read the group of them the bedtime story or stories, they had control over their lights out, and they would often read for 10 minutes on their own (even before they could read) because they’d be looking at a book. We turned it into a privilege. I believe reading is the most important thing to do with kids, it prepares them for school and life! Now all 3 of my kids are super high achievers & scholarship winners and also provincial athletes–so i know it works. I recommend reading to all young families, to set your kids up to succeed in school. It’s the most important thing you can do to prepare them.

  5. Holly

    This is a great method. Especially as your toddler gets older. Our son is 3 and he doesn’t nap any more. If he does fall asleep in the car, or in the stroller he is up till 9pm or later. This method is great because he plays in his room, and then goes to bed on his own.

  6. Olivia

    Too late for me (adult children), but I will pass on the great suggestion.
    Just wanted to let you know how adorable your little angel boy looks in these photos, Cassie. I miss those times, at times. Enjoy them.

    • Cassie Howard

      Thank you for that sweet comment. 🙂

  7. Laura

    Thanks for the tips. Does Elliot still nap. My little guy is around the same age as Elliot & will be 4 yrs old in May. He walks about 4 blks to preschool in the morning & home as well – no exceptions & even in the rain as this is his guaranteed exercise for the day. He started refusing to take naps in November & it ended up being a power struggle & lots of crying (mommy in secret as well, as I needed my me time & getting household things done when he was sleeping), so the compromise ended up being a quiet time of books, usually in his room for about 20 min. Now, he’ll only nap if we’re taking an afternoon drive, but I won’t let him sleep for more than 45 min. The hardest part is keeping him awake in the late afternoon or around dinner time. My solution to this is to let him watch Knowledge network while I prepare dinner or get a few chores done. I find that the TV really does help keep him awake. I’ll have to give it a try after spring break or Easter weekend when we’ll be home more & his routine won’t be interrupted. His current routine is after dinner he can play a bit & then get ready for bed, read for about 15 min, sing goodnight song & then lights out between 8:30 & 9, but there are days when he’s like Elliot & it’s, delay, delay, delay, just one more thing. However, when DH, gets him ready for bed, he rarely puts up a fuss with him. He still needs to get his 10 hrs of sleep & hopefully with better weather, he can be playing outside more & tire himself out.
    On a side note, I thought it was just my guy that was so fussy & arguing with his mom, but the way you describe Elliot, my son is exactly the same, I guess most of them are like that at that age. But, I’m very lucky that he is a very concerned & compassionate little guy for his age when it came to his parents & grandparents health.

    • Cassie Howard

      Thanks for sharing your story, Laura. Elliott very rarely naps and if he does, it’s only at daycare (3 days per week), and only for about an hour.

  8. Marissa

    I just wanted to say that I tried this tonight but I did all their usual bedtime routine and then let my oldest read in bed. When I went in to check on her and tuck her in she already turned her light off put her books away and tucked herself in. this is the first night that I haven’t had to fight with her in months to go to sleep. Thank you much for this tip!!

    • Cassie Howard

      That makes me so happy to hear. I’m glad that it worked for you! 🙂

  9. Rosie

    We tried this tonight with our 3 1/2 year old daughter. She normally goes to bed pretty good but we get frustrated tucking her in a million times since she wants to play in her room before she goes to sleep. This worked AWESOME!!! We basically did everything we normally do(bedtime stories, prayer, etc) except tonight we told her she could play quietly and to come get us when she was ready to tuck in. She came out about a half hour later asking to get tucked in and went down without a peep. It was the most relaxing and peaceful bedtime we’ve had in a long time! Let’s hope it keeps working! Thanks for the post!

  10. Jessica

    I’m going to try this this weekend. My 2 1/2 year old hates bed time and ether me or my husband end up laying with her from 9 until she falls asleep somewhere between 10 and midnight. It’s exhausting trying to keep her in her bed. We also have a 1 1/2 year old who still doesn’t sleep through the night so after finally getting my oldest to bed my youngest usually wakes up I’m getting about 3 hours off sleep a night and I’m desperate for sleep as well as a little alone time with my husband. Do you think this would work with children that share a room?? Once our youngest turns two we were planning on putting her in her sisters room and out of ours but in the last three months have been reconsidering it with our oldest refusing to go to sleep.

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