The Bedtime Pass combines two of my favorite things- behavioral science and sleep! (If you’re into the science part like I am- check out the research of Dr. Pat Friman cited below!)
The bedtime pass allows an older child a sense of control over bedtime, while limiting the frequency of leaving the room.
Let’s talk “Who-What- Why-How” of the bedtime pass…
Who: Preschool aged children or older who frequently leave their room after bedtime, or who have lots of “excuses” for why they are out of bed. It could also be used with children who frequently call out for their parent at bedtime.
What: A bedtime pass is given to the child that allows him/her to leave the bedroom once (or more if you start with multiple passes) to get a drink, have a hug, say goodnight one more time, etc. Once the pass has been used, the expectation is that the child will not leave the bedroom again.
Why: The pass allows the child some control at bedtime- she/he decides when or why the pass is used.
- Create one or more passes for your child (if your child leaves their room a lot at bedtime, it may be good to start with two or three passes, and reduce the number each week until down to one).
- When your child comes out of his room, he is allowed one quick request (sip of water, hug, kiss, etc…) and then back to bed. The parent takes the pass.
- Once out of passes, the expectation is for the child to stay in bed. If he does not, the parent will neutrally (meaning no conversation, hugs, debate) return him to his room and leave. The goal here is that the child gets the good attention he is seeking when using the pass, but no attention if leaving the room when passes are gone.
- Prior to implementing the bedtime pass, have a meeting with your child to discuss the expectations, show him the pass, and explain what will happen at bedtime (this meeting should be held during the day sometime, not at bedtime).
- To promote success, you may offer an incentive to your child for not using his pass (or all of his passes). The child could trade-in any unused passes in the morning for something special. Rewards could be tangible like toys or stickers, food such as choosing a special breakfast (maybe you buy that off-limits sugary cereal for the times when passes aren’t used), special activities (go for a walk, an early morning game of hide and seek, watch a show on the iPad), or anything else that motivates your child.
- The bedtime pass pairs great with use of an OK to Wake Clock! (see earlier blog on this topic here.)
Friman PC, Hoff KE, Schnoes C, Freeman KA, Woods DW, Blum N. The bedtime pass: an approach to bedtime crying and leaving the room. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1999 Oct;153(10):1027-9. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.153.10.1027. PMID: 10520609.