If you’re reading this, chances are – you have a young child waking multiple times a night, stalling before bed, waking up too early or any other number of bedtime problems! Our Ready for Bed Kit contains a magnetic reward chart and a bedtime pass, two tools that use the power of positive parenting to achieve a desired outcome. Read on for how to effectively use these tools to curb your child’s pesky sleeping habits!
You might be worried that a reward chart will be too difficult for your child to understand, or just won’t work for your child, or that once the reward goes away, the desired behavior will go away too. The LittleHippo Reward Chart’s thoughtful and customizable design addresses these points and increases your chances of success!
For children who may need an extra incentive or if you’re looking to provide additional motivation along the way to the final reward, we recommend using the optional REWARD magnet. The REWARD magnet is a “milestone” magnet, providing a smaller reward on the way to the ultimate "Finish" reward.
For example, if you put the FINISH magnet on the 7th circle, then you may choose to put the REWARD magnet on the 4th circle (halfway). If the final reward is an Ice Cream Sundae night, you may choose to make the smaller reward a cookie that they enjoy. Feel free to experiment with different rewards to find the combination that works best for your child.
Start Small: Start small, especially for younger children. We want to encourage success, celebrate the small wins, and then ask for more. If you start with something seemingly unachievable, the entire reward chart becomes meaningless. Depending on your child’s age and temperament, we suggest a finish line at 2-5 stars when starting out.
Let Them Choose: Engage your child in the process of choosing the reward. To help guide them, we recommend giving them two or three options and letting them choose the final reward. Here are some Reward ideas:
Set Clear Rules and Keep it Simple: Explain to your child that for every night they successfully engage in the desired behavior, they get one star on the circle. When they get to the Finish magnet, they get the Reward. Use positive, encouraging language (avoiding words like “don’t” and “no”) and simple rules to describe the desired behavior and the task: “Stay in bed all night and you get a star! When you get 4 stars, we will celebrate with a trip to the zoo!”
Celebrate, not Reward: One criticism of reward charts is that they promote extrinsic rewards rather than foster intrinsic motivation. One way to promote intrinsic motivation is to emphasize celebrating success rather than rewarding success. Let them take the lead on recording their progress. For example, have your child take out the star magnets and put them on the chart (don’t do it for them). You can encourage from the sidelines by making comments like, “Wow! You are doing great. You must be so proud of your progress. How many more stars do you need?”
Connect the Stars to the Behavior: We suggest celebrating your child’s success as soon as they wake up (which is also why we recommend putting the reward chart where they sleep). Make a big deal out of it! For example, you can say “You got a star today because you stayed in bed all night! Great job! You’re on your way to Movie Night!” while giving hugs and high fives.
One Step at a Time: You might be tempted to fix multiple problems that your child is having, but we recommend working on only one problem at a time. This will be less confusing and will increase the odds of success.
Phase Out the Reward Chart: When you are successful, you may be tempted to cut the reward chart out cold turkey for fear of having your child rely on extrinsic rewards. However, this may cause your child to go back to his/her old behavior! Instead, gradually phase the reward chart out by increasing the length of time needed to achieve the reward.
If you are struggling with bedtime resistance (particularly with stalling and coming out of the room multiple times for various reasons), we strongly recommend implementing the Bedtime Pass together with the reward chart. Studies have confirmed the effectiveness of the Bedtime Pass, especially for children 3 and up.
The Bedtime Pass is a placard that can be used once a night in exchange for a special request, glass of water, extra hug, etc. If your child calls out for you or leaves his/her room with a request, you should respond, return him/her to bed and then take the Bedtime Pass away for the night. The visit should be short (only a few minutes) and have a specific purpose (and not to play). After the Bedtime Pass has been used, all other requests should be ignored.
The Bedtime Pass is an effective strategy because it gives children an element of control that they often crave. Children know they are allowed to leave just once and they can choose whether to use it at all, and what to use it for. Often, children will end up not using it at all simply because they think it is more worthwhile to save it for something else that may come up later, but then fall asleep before getting the chance to! It also gives parents a straightforward plan of action to follow without resorting to reactivity every night.
If you are using the Bedtime Pass together with the Reward Chart, you can also try a modified version of the Bedtime Pass that ties the pass directly to the Reward Chart. In this modified version, explain to your child that if they keep the Bedtime Pass all night (meaning, they do not use it for anything), then they get a star on the Reward Chart that will count towards the reward. In this version, keeping the bedtime pass unused is the behavior you are encouraging.
Have a Consistent Routine and Bedtime: Before implementing the Bedtime Pass, have a consistent time in bed and bedtime routine in place. Remind your child about the Bedtime Pass and its rules at the end of the bedtime routine.
Keep it Minimal: If your child keeps coming out of the room even after the Bedtime Pass has been used, return him/her to bed with minimal interaction and ignore other requests. The key is to make it boring and simple so your child does not continue to get the attention he/she is looking for!
Reduce the Need to Use the Bedtime Pass: It is always a good idea to set your child up for success by taking care of needs or wants upfront. For example, it is a good idea to take your child to the bathroom before bed. You may also want to give him/her a sip of water (or keep a small bottle by the bedside).
Emergency Exceptions: When your child starts to get the hang of staying in bed, it is always a good idea to teach him/her about emergency exceptions, such as for fires and medical emergencies.
To make the changes really stick, we highly recommend using the Ready for Bed Kit together with our MELLA sleep training clock. MELLA uses facial expressions and colors to teach your child when it’s time to sleep and when it’s okay to get out of bed. MELLA is an effective tool because it is an easy visual for children to understand and also removes the burden of rule setting from the parent (MELLA is effectively the one saying it’s time for bed, not Mom/Dad).
If you use MELLA with the Reward Chart, when your child stays in bed until MELLA turns green, then he/she gets a star for the day. We recommend introducing MELLA either prior to implementing the reward chart, or concurrently.
All LittleHippo products come with a satisfaction guarantee and limited 1 year warranty. Please reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or issues.