Bedtime Trouble? Your Child Might be a Night Owl

Here are a few tips on how to find out if your child is a night owl.

There are many parents that have problems getting their children to go to sleep at night. Some kids fight sleep, some make excuses, stall and actually throw a tantrum and cry about bedtime. Every parent knows that bedtime can be a nightmare at times and the most common age for this problem is between three and six years old.

What do you do to get your child to sleep?

You have to understand that you can’t make your child go to sleep but you can help them learn better bedtime behavior to help them get to sleep easier. This might take some time but it is worth it. Remember you might be the one who over babied your child and now you are having a problem.

Set a bedtime and stick to it

You have to realize that your child has to change that late night bedtime behavior. You also have to set a bedtime and be firm about this. Setting boundaries is important to both parents and children because your child does not have enough self-control yet. This way you can help them learn from these limits and learn some self-control at bedtime. You also will find that setting boundaries will reduce anxiety in children. Any changes are going to be hard on everyone so be prepared to be consistent with your new rules.

Explain the rules

Talk to your child before you spring the new rules for bedtime on your child. Don’t make a huge speech about the changes and talk to them during the daylight hours. Don’t fall for any negativity and don’t argue with your child.

Set a bedtime

Once you and your spouse have decided on a regular bedtime, be consistent and help your child adjust to this new time so their internal clock will know when to go to sleep. Make sure your child is tired and ready to go to sleep before putting them to bed. You can’t set a bedtime for your own downtime, although it might sound great, some kids are night owls and might need a later bedtime.

Bedtime anxiety

Don’t put your child to bed before they are tired because you are going to have some resistance. Try making the bedtime at a time they normally go to sleep and little by little, gradually make the bedtime earlier. The first item to watch for is to see if your child is starting to fall asleep on their own and if they are making this a temporary bedtime. If you really want your child to fall asleep by nine pm, but the child won’t fall asleep until 11 pm, pick 11 pm as their temporary bedtime. This will make it much easier to help your child fall asleep at the temporary bedtime and move it back 15 minutes every few days. Don’t make the mistake of pushing too quickly because you might have struggles with your child falling asleep again.


Always make sure you create a consistent bedtime routine. The routine should be calm like a bath, reading a book, brushing teeth and other light activities. Don’t rile up your child before bedtime and start doing Zumba because this won’t work and your child will be over stimulated.  Avoid television or videos and you can also make a chart for their bedtime routine to keep everyone on track. Don’t talk on your phone either before your child’s bedtime because they are going to keep trying to get your attention and end up being wound up. Use a favorite routine at bedtime like a story to wind up the routine and make it a fun activity.

Tune out negativity from your child

Don’t let them complain about bedtime, or whine and say they are not tired. Arguing at bedtime will most likely cause problems getting the child to sleep. Be firm and tell your child it’s time for bed.

Putting your kids to bed

After you are finished with the bedtime routine, have your child lay down and leave the room. The main reason parents should leave the room is because your child will learn to fall asleep on their own.

When your child cries

If your child is crying and calling for you but still in their bed, keep reminding your child it’s bedtime. If this behavior continues to be a problem, check on your child from time to time as long as they are upset. Don’t stay long and don’t comfort your child or get into a conversation. Just tell your child it’s time to go to sleep. The reason you go back into his room is to reassure your child you are still there and tell your child everything will be fine.

When your child continues to keep getting out of bed

When your child keeps getting up and coming out of his room, take the child back to bed. Some children may get up many times and taking them right back to bed seems to work for the child in getting him or her to go to sleep. You can also threaten to close their bedroom door if they get up one more time and this seems pretty effective as well. If your child still doesn’t listen, put them back to bed, close the door briefly and then open the door. If your child is in bed, give him a hug and leave the door open. If your child is out of bed, put the child back to bed and close the door again and leave it closed for a longer period of time. Every time he or she is out of bed, keep the door closed longer.

Never lock your child in their room

Don’t lock your child in their room because they may become scared. You want to teach your child to stay in bed, not scare or make a punishment out of bedtime.

Give a reward when your child deserves it

If your child was good all night, give the child a reward in the morning. Don’t dwell on any of the negativity but if the negative turned into a positive, it doesn’t hurt to give them a small reward. Stickers are a good idea, compliments and praise go along way for tiny steps in the right direction.

Never give up

You are going to be very frustrated for the first few nights and maybe even a few weeks. Just remember there is always light at the end of the tunnel and eventually, your child will grow and improve his or her night owl behavior.