The tap on your shoulder usually comes just as you've drifted off: Your child wants to get into your bed. Desperate for some shut-eye, you scoot over and let him in -- for the last time, you swear. But now that he's getting older, and bigger, you really can decide it's time to take back the night. Try these tips to get your preschooler to stay put:
Give him a heads-up. Your child is old enough to understand why the middle-of-the-night routine needs to change. Explain that Mommy and Daddy need their bed to themselves and that he's old enough to sleep in his big-kid bed all night.
Make him feel safe. Once the lights go out, dark shadows can make your child's stuffed animals seem to come to (scary) life. Stash the big ones -- or any that are most likely to morph into monsters -- out of sight. You might also plug in a nightlight.
Reward success. Put a star on a chart for every night your child stays in bed. When he gets, say, five stars, give him a treat, like an extra bedtime story. Encourage him by saying things like "That was terrific how you went right back to bed last night. I'm proud of you!"
Steer clear of drama. Try not to get worked up if he makes a fuss about returning to his bed. Instead, calmly walk him back to his room, kiss him good night, and leave. If he's not pushing your buttons, he'll probably be less likely to come to your bed again.
Stick with it. A few nights of consistency may be all it takes to get a kid to stay in his own bed. Even when it seems easier to move over than to get up, resist the urge. That way, you'll all finally get the rest (and privacy!) you deserve.