Helping My Daughter Sleep in Her Own Bed

(C) 2007 Carla Peroni
(C) 2007 Carla Peroni

When my daughter was around two, I was ready for her to move to her own bed. I knew helping children sleep in their own beds could be challenging, and I wanted the transition to be as easy as possible for her, so I thought naptime, instead of bedtime, would be the best way to slowly introduce this idea.

However, when I told her she would be napping in her bed, instead of in mommy and daddy's bed, she began crying, yelling and fighting the idea. Not what I was expecting! I gently told her that I would stay and nap with her. This didn't ease her fears and her crying intensified.

I was still pretty new to Staylistening at this time and began to have doubts about transitioning her to her own bed because her reaction was so intense. I had to remind myself it was a safe situation, we were only napping in a different bed.

I also reminded myself that she never had a problem sleeping in other beds, like at a relative’s house or in a hotel while traveling. So, whatever her feeling was, it wasn't about the current situation. It seemed the feeling was some deeper fear that needed to come out before she would feel okay in her own bed whether it was day or night.

I listened as she cried and fought saying she could not, and would not, sleep in her own bed. I offered gentle reassurance that I really thought it was okay to nap in her bed and reminded her that I would stay with her. We stayed on the bed together while she showed me how hard it was to even think about this change. Then, when she tired of crying she fell asleep in her bed.

This repeated the next two days. I’d tell her we were going to nap in her bed and then she'd scream and cry that she couldn’t do it. I kept holding out the idea that it was a good place to sleep. On the fourth day, success, she easily napped in her own bed like it had never been a problem.

After working so hard on both our parts, her showing me how hard it was to make the change and me listening and creating a safe space for her to be able to release her fears, I decided to hold off on the nighttime transition for awhile.

But my daughter had other plans, exactly a week later, at bedtime, she said she wanted to start sleeping in her own bed at night too. And she did! It was tough listening those three days, but so worth it for both of us. And I'm so glad she was able to initiate the nighttime transition when she was ready.

~ Michelle Pate, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor and Consultant. Join her in her next Building Emotional Understanding class where you will learn the listening skills, and get the support you need, to help your family through any transition. You can also connect with Michelle on Facebook.

3 thoughts on “Helping My Daughter Sleep in Her Own Bed”

  1. Hi there. I’m new to your blog and am enjoying everything I read so far. We share some of the same parenting values. I have a two year old who I sleep with (in her double bed, in her room) every night. It is a choice my husband and I both made because we both feel that solo sleeping is a very anglo-European practice and not one shared by the rest of the world. Co-sleeping is the norm, and yet it is shunned by my own society and I am constantly having to defend the practice. I commend you for listening to your daughter and allowing her to make her own choice about solo sleeping. I believe it makes a much easier transition for everyone. I have yet to reach that stage but I am not anxious about it and am certain my daughter will find her way there on her own, when she is ready. I will be proud but always ready with open arms when she needs me.

  2. Hi Michelle, I am suffering the same thing with my son. I put him in his bed, read stories to him , sing lullabies and when he falls asleep i leave. But then he wakes up in the middle of the night and sneaks next to us. It is becoming hard to explain to him at 3am that he needs to sleep in his bed, he just doesn’t want to return to his bed and he cries and we end up waking up late for his school.
    Any tips would be appreciated.

  3. Hi Sara, The middle of the night waking is so tricky when we’re tired and have places to be the next morning!

    The most important things I can think of now are: Remember that logic doesn’t work with an upset child (or adult for that matter!) When fear takes over, and a child doesn’t want to go back to their bed, no amount of good reasoning will work. It will only make us more exhausted and irritated because we are trying to be logical with someone who isn’t thinking clearly in that moment.

    If our child feels safe with us, they will begin to show the feelings that are causing them to not want to be in their bed. They need us to stay close and listen fully to their upset. We can offer reassurance like, “It’s safe to be in your bed.” or “I’m in the next room, it’s safe to go to sleep in your bed now.” etc. We don’t want to say too much here, we mostly want to listen. Not an easy task at 3 am! But very worthwhile when we can manage it.

    When I have worked on nighttime issues I keep it to the weekends. I would listen on Friday and/or Saturday night when I knew we could sleep in the next morning. During the week, I did what I thought was best to keep things peaceful and connected in the night so I could sleep. My daughter was able to flow with this as I would explain to her, “I want a full night’s sleep during the week. We will work on you staying in your bed on the weekend.”

    It’s important to find what works for you and your family. Here’s an example of how a fellow instructor helped her son stay in his bed: She gives a lot of detail on what worked for her.

    You can also join us over at the Hand in Hand Discussion board on Yahoo. Lots of “sleep talk” happening there now. Plus you can search the archives for lots of helpful info. Here’s the link:

    Wishing you lots of good sleep!

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