The Bedtime Pass - Sleephaven Sleep Consultation: Helping Tired Families Sleep

When your child is old enough to be in his own bed (and, ideally, when he is at least 2.5 years old), you may run smack up against what I call the “Jack-in-the-Box” syndrome.  No matter what you do, your little one will NOT stay in bed.  He needs a drink.  He needs to use the potty.  The blankets aren’t right and you need to fix them.  All of a sudden he has an owie.  One more hug and a kiss.  You name it, and your child will think of it in order to come out for a visit or pull you back into his room.

I have a solution for you:  the Bedtime Pass.  The concept was originally designed as a strategy for parents by Dr. Patrick Friman when he worked at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  Since then, researchers have studied the merits of his program.  What they discovered was that children who had a Bedtime Pass remained in their rooms more at bedtime, called out less, went to sleep faster and were more successful in sleeping in their own beds until morning.

Here’s how it works.

  1. Make a bedtime pass, preferably with your child. Incorporate his special interests (i.e. trains, dinosaurs, cars) to make it individual and motivating.  Laminate it so that it will stand up to use.

  3. Teach him about his bedtime pass before bedtime. His Bedtime Pass will be good for one call-back or one trip out of his room – for a drink, to use the toilet, for another tuck-in.

  5. During his bedtime routine, make sure he has everything he needs to be comfy. When it’s time to say good-night, make sure he has his bedtime pass close at hand.  Remind him of the Bedtime Pass rules.

  7. When he uses his pass (and he will, because he will want to see if it really works), then he must give it to you for the rest of the night.

  9. If he leaves the room again, then take his hand and walk him back to bed – without talking. Stay consistent throughout the night.

  11. Talk about his progress in the morning in a calm and neutral tone. If he wasn’t successful, remind him of the Bedtime Pass rules and hold out that hope for him:  he is learning to go to sleep like a big boy.  If he was successful in staying in his bed after he used his Bedtime Pass, then let him know how excited you are with his progress!

I often use a Bedtime Pass along with a Sleep Story and a Sleep Manners Chart.  Here’s a variation on the Bedtime Pass that can work well, too.  Give your child two Bedtime Passes.  If he has at least one bedtime pass left by morning, he gets to add a sticker to his Sleep Manners chart.

A Bedtime Pass isn’t magic, but it IS an excellent tool for communicating bedtime expectations. And, if you need more help in facing your little one’s sleep challenges, give me a call!

Margot Byer
Sleephaven Sleep Consultation
Helping Tired Families Sleep
… in Edmonton, Alberta and Beyond