What’s a bedtime pass and can I use it with my toddler?
The bedtime pass (BP) is a great option for older toddlers and children who are disruptive after lights out, and sometimes do things like calling out, making multiple requests, or coming out of the bedroom after bedtime (or during awakenings at night). These behaviors interfere with sleep, sometimes causing children to fall asleep late and get less sleep overall. The BP is most appropriate for children who no longer need parental assistance or presence to fall asleep. In other words, it’s best for children who already know how to fall asleep on their own (without needing an adult in the room), and are simply trying to put off falling asleep as long as possible.
How do I do it?
Help your child select or create an object that will serve as the pass. Any safe object may be used, such as a postcard or small stuffed animal. Place it within his or her reach, such as on the nightstand or under the pillow. Explain to your child that the pass can be used to “pay” for one free chance to leave the bedroom or call a parent into his or her bedroom. Upon exchange, remind your child that that the pass has now been used, so s/he cannot come out of the bedroom or call out from the bedroom again that night. If your child continues to call out, you should ignore, ignore, ignore (while making sure your child is safe). If your child leaves the bedroom, calmly, quietly, and gently guide him or her back to the room using just one hand. Use your other hand to cover your own mouth to help resist the temptation to remind, reprimand, scold, or lecture. Repeat as necessary.
You might also consider adding an incentive (for example, a special toy, coin, sticker, or special activity) for not using the pass and remaining quietly in bed. The incentive can be provided as soon as your child wakes the next morning.