Help Your Child Follow Sleep Training Clock

3 years+

Jun 4, 2024

There are four steps to help your child follow their sleep training clock. Today, we’re problem solving a common sleep struggle faced by many parents: how to get your child to follow their sleep training clock by staying in their bed until it’s okay to get up!

If you’re finding it hard to keep your child following your family’s sleep rules, especially when it comes to early morning wake-ups, this is for you.

This topic is inspired by a question from Alyssa in Oslo, Norway, about her four-year-old who wakes up too early, before the “green light” on their clock. Let’s explore some practical solutions to help your little one (and you) get better sleep.

Before we get too deep, these strategies are meant for children ages 3 years and up who have an open bed and are getting out of their rooms before it’s officially morning time. 

If you have a child under 3 years of age who is in an open bed, they simply don’t understand rules and invisible boundaries for an open bed. I share more about how to solve crib climbing and how to keep a child in a crib in another blog and video should you need that! 


Understanding Your Child’s Sleep Needs

The first step is to evaluate your child’s sleep schedule. Not sure if you’re on the right schedule? Use my free Schedule Generator at any time to get a schedule for your child!

Children aged three years and older typically need 11 to 12 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. If your child is napping during the day, you need to deduct that nap time from their total sleep needs. 

For instance, if your child naps for two hours during the day, they might only need about 10 hours of sleep at night. This could explain why they’re waking up earlier than you’d like! 

When you understand how much sleep your child needs and if they are napping or not, you can pinpoint why they might be waking early!


How to teach your child to follow sleep training clock

Adjusting Nap Time

If your child is waking up too early and still napping during the day, consider reducing or eliminating the nap. 

Shifting their schedule so that more sleep moves to nighttime can help extend their morning wake-up time!

It’s really a math equation! More sleep during the day = less sleep at night.

Thinking it’s time to drop your child’s nap altogether? Here is the exact guidance you’ll need to remove the daytime nap for your child. 


Implementing Rewards and Consequences

If you want your child to learn to follow their sleep training clock and stay in their room until it’s okay-to-wake you’ll want to use a reward! Children are often motivated by rewards and consequences. We are going to use this to entice your child to stay in their room until the clock says it’s morning!

Here are some tips for using these strategies effectively:

  1. Find the Right Reward: Identify something tangible that your child loves. This could be stickers, small toys, or even special activities like a picnic breakfast or a morning dance party. Avoid using food or special one-on-one time as a reward.

  2. Adjust Gradually: If your child is waking up significantly earlier than desired, you can’t expect them to immediately stay in bed until the target time. Gradually adjust the wake-up time by setting the clock slightly earlier each day until you reach the desired time. For example, if they wake up at 5:30 AM, set the clock to turn green at 5:45 AM for a couple of days, then 6:00 AM, and so on!

    steps to teach your child to stay in their bed

  3. Consistency is Key: I know it sounds easy, but if your child doesn’t follow the sleep rules, they don’t get the reward! Be consistent with this approach to reinforce the expectation. Even if they are upset about not getting the reward, remind them that they have another opportunity tonight to try again!
  4. Fade out the Rewards: Over time, reduce the frequency of the rewards as the new habit becomes established. Eventually, your child will adhere to the sleep rules without needing regular rewards!


Communicate and Reinforce

When you’re helping your child learn to follow their sleep training clock they will need to be reminded often of what is expected of them! Discuss the new sleep rules and reward system with your child during the day, not just at bedtime. Repetition is crucial! 

Keep reminding them about the expectations and the rewards for following them until it becomes second nature.

Make this a part of your meal times where you remind them of the process, ask them to tell a sibling or call a family member to explain. Whatever we can do to remind them of what’s expected!


Additional Resources

For more comprehensive strategies, including tips on timing, darkness, and managing early morning expectations, check out our Early Morning Waking Guide! 

This guide provides seven detailed checks to help you address early waking issues!

If you’ve also been wondering what all this talk about a clock turning colors is about, get my FREE Toddler Clock Tutorial where I share how to use my four-step color system to teach your child about bedtime and wake time. 



You can help your child follow their sleep training clock with simple steps! First, make sure your child’s sleep schedule is correct. Then start implementing a consistent rewards and consequences system, and help them gain confidence by adjusting the okay-to-wake time! You can help your child stick to sleep rules and improve their (and your) overall sleep!! 

All of this plus reminding them constantly about your expectations for sleep will help to get your child on the right track!

Check out the Little Z’s Sleep Podcast every Tuesday and Thursday as we answer your questions!


*Links to resources are Amazon Affiliate 

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