Lots of parents come to me with the phrase “Gemma, I have tried everything!”. Getting your child to fall asleep and stay asleep is tricky and sleep problems like getting out of bed are unfortunately common. In this post, we’ll take a look at helping your child understand bedtime boundaries with a bedtime pass. Helping them say in their own bed, and reducing time taken when falling asleep.
This is easy to do by yourself, or you can download my complete (all done for you) bedtime pass kit here!
Table of Contents
What is the bedtime pass or bedtime ticket?
The bedtime pass is a research backed technique for ages 3 years+ although I have used it effectively in my sleep consultancy from 2.5 years+. Essentially pre-school and above. The pass helps stop your little one getting out of bed multiple times at night asking for things like:
- one more hug
- one more drink
- one more kiss
- multiple trips to the potty or bathroom (with an empty bladder)
- or getting into your bed at night
It’s great to establish boundaries and maintain consistent expectations between parents and children at bedtime and during the night.
Why is the bedtime ticket needed?
Children don’t start to develop impulse control until around the age of 3 and it’s not fully developed until close to 7 years of age. Therefore getting out of bed – even if they tell you they should stay in bed(!) is actually more of a developmental issue than a behavioural one.
The pass or ticket, helps with the impulse control, they have to think carefully about whether to use their ticket or not! They’ve only got one, so they’ll need to think carefully.
Most children do respond quite well to rewards based approaches. I know some people aren’t a fan of behaviour modification and reward based intervention techniques, but lots of people are. If it works for your family!
So, when reading, if you feel this is a good fit for your little one then let’s get cracking and start resolving some of those bedtime struggles! The pediatricians rated this as ‘acceptable’ for families and having high levels of satisfaction.
Bedtime pass instructions!
- Download your bedtime pass kit
- Let your child know the plan for the night. A parent may need to explain this multiple times. If they’re young, then you may need to practice in the day. e.g. if they help you tidy up, they get a pass which they can exchange for a reward (see below).
- At bedtime remind your child of the rules. They can exchange the pass for a kiss or cuddle or to ask another question (note: keep these requests precise). However they only have 1 – so they’ll need to think carefully about when to use it!
- When they call you at night, from the door of their bedroom, ask if they’re using their ticket
- If they opt to use it then exchange it for what they want (e.g. a cuddle), then take the ticket away. Say night night, explain they have now used their ticket and repeat the last parts of your bedtime routine (e.g. say sweet dreams, kiss, leave)
- Any future wakes and requests should have a minimal response, even ignoring requests. Explain that they’ve used their ticket and perform a silent return to bed if necessary. Remind them they can have these things in the morning but nighttime is for sleeping (you may wish to use a toddler clock as a visual reference here).
- If your child doesn’t use their ticket then they get to exchange it for a reward (see below) in the morning. Wooo! Celebrate hard!
- If they did use their ticket that night then remind them they’ll have another tonight and they get to try again to keep it.
- My main suggestion to my clients is a treasure box. Think old shoe box wrapped in wrapping paper. Inside, place 10-14 small pound/dollar shop toys all wrapped up. Keeps them curious! Exchange one ticket for one gift from the treasure box!
- The pass could be exchanged for something from a prize ‘bag’.
- Or exchanged for some extra cartoons/screen time in the morning, an extra book at bedtime or a treat in the day.
- Of course (and my favourite) – the reward can OFTEN be something as simple as an extra bit of ‘you’ time. Using something like a picture of you baking cakes, or a pass for an extra story at nighttime. For those with siblings, having 1:1 time with a parent can be very precious.
Top tips for using a bedtime ticket
You need to be careful not to ‘undervalue’ the ticket by ‘giving in’ to other demands through the rest of the night once the ticket has already been used. Your response should be minimal (and not very desirable!)
If your child has been getting out of bed multiple times then you may want to have a few tickets for the first week rather than just one. It will help make it feel achievable for them.
Set up bedtime nicely by also combining the bedtime ticket with my bedtime flashcard kit.
Download your bedtime pass kit here!
Whilst you can totally make these by yourself, you can also purchase my bedtime pass kit.
You’re able to download some beautiful bedtime passes here. They are downloadable pdf’s so you will need access to a printer or print shop.
You’ll get the following awesome downloads as part of your kit!
All this for just £12 ($15)
Customise your own bedtime ticket!
Want to personalise the pass for your little one? Check out my customisable bedtime ticket template as part of my bedtime pass kit here.
The research behind bedtime pass
This one has been looked at quite a bit from initial studies and then followed up. Most studies and groups were small but outcomes good. Moore et al from the University of Nebraska and Girls and Boys town took a look at using the bedtime pass programme for bedtime resistance. Bedtime resistance was defined as crying, calling out or leaving the room at least 3 nights a week.
These pediatric clinics found that children who used the bedtime pass left their rooms significantly less, took less time to quiet and also parents rated the process as highly acceptable.
Importantly, they noted an ‘extinction burst’ did not occur (this is a return to the ‘undesired’ behaviour a few days after starting a new method). This occurs frequently with other approaches.
Need help at bedtime too? Check out my 2 hour Bedtime Battles Course.
You can also check out my Bedtime Battles Course! Priced at just £47, the 2 hour course guides you through everything needed to restore bedtimes.
Still need some help?
I’m here to help! I can tailor advice and plans to your family and situation.
I can help establish good sleep bedtime habits and provide tips on how to cope with inevitable nighttime disruptions. I offer tried-and-tested sleep training solutions that are well worth the investment for your whole family.