How Do I Get My Child to Sleep?

Dreaming child - Photo by Raul A

Both days and nights become a nightmare if your children won’t sleep. You know it’s bad when you feel good about dropping them at school because you’re sure they’ll be far better off in their teacher’s care than your own. How can you possibly do everything you have to do and be anything like cheerful when you’ve hardly slept in the past however many nights? Although you may try your best to be the nice kind parent who can calmly soothe their child to sleep, it’s impossible when you’re so exhausted you aren’t to be trusted.

The answer is that the whole family needs to get some sleep. And the best way to go about it? Throw away every parenting book that says there’s one way to do it and do whatever works for you! I laughed out loud when one very funny father told me about the musical beds at his house. They’d tried putting their children back to bed countless times a night, but they both ended up absolutely shattered. He said now nights like this weren’t unusual:

  • Child can’t sleep so climbs into parents’ bed.
  • Child writhes around.
  • Dad can’t sleep so gets into child’s empty bed.
  • Other child can’t sleep so climbs into parents’ bed.
  • Mum can’t sleep so gets into other child’s empty bed.

By the end of the night the parents and children have all swapped round! But the good thing is that they all get some sleep. Once they allowed the big bedtime swap, they all felt much better.

As soon as you start thinking you’ll ruin your children if they sleep in your bed, or you in their bed with them, think again. Children have slept with their parents since time began. There is no evidence they’re the worse off for it – and everyone will be far better off if you all get some sleep.

Karen’s Simple Solutions – How to get your child to sleep:

Look After

Look After

Try giving them a head, foot or back massage. It’s so lovely and relaxing you’ll be surprised how often they fall right to sleep.

Lay down next to them in their bed until they fall asleep. Don’t worry you’ll spoil them; it won’t last forever and in the future you may even find you miss it.

Let them sleep with you. Countless parents do. Don’t worry – I haven’t heard of anyone who is still sleeping with their parents when they’re 17!

Try putting a futon next to your bed and letting them sleep next to you. With my children I called it their special bed and I slid it under my bed in the morning.



Try listening and being sympathetic. It’s instinctual for them to want to be near you; it’s where the feel safe so they can relax and sleep. If you’re understanding, they’ll feel less stressed and sleep better.


If you or your partner can’t sleep with your children in the room, explain it to your children in a loving way: “I so wish you could sleep in my room with me. But I can’t sleep with so many people and then I get tired and grumpy.”

*Young children should NOT sleep in bed with their parents if one of their parents has been drinking or taking drugs.

Photo © Raúl A.CC BY-ND 2.0

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