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Expert Q&A:
How can we get our 2-year-old son to stay in his bed or in his room to sleep?

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I have a 2-year-old son who refuses to stay in his bed or in his room at nap/bedtime. He will not sleep more than four to five hours at night, and maybe an hour or so during the day (if I'm lucky). I am concerned that he is not resting enough and this could affect his health. Our GP suggested and prescribed an antihistamine. It didn't help much. He also said maybe we should lock his door from the outside to keep him in his room, since he wanders through the house when he gets up at night. I think that is a bit drastic, but tonight we are trying it. HELP!


It does sound as if you have played into a sleep problem over the last two years. Learning to sleep and learning where to sleep are autonomy issues for the child. They are separation issues for the parent. You had better work on your side of the decision. Do you really mean for him to become independent at night? If so, his bed needn't be the goal, his room and a mattress could be, but the safety of his room needs to be. Hence, a gate or a chain on his door may settle the issue of wanting to come out. He can then look out but not come out. Go to him often to comfort him about the separation and to let him know that you are not ambivalent. Leaving him to cry it out won't help, but your being available and firm will. You can be there but separated. I wouldn't worry about how much he sleeps, but how much he's using sleep as a way of clinging to and teasing you. Don't let him have a nap after 3 p.m. if you want him to go to his room by 9 or 10 p.m. It will be a long-term job of separating and teaching him he can be separate and independent. Does he have a comforter to substitute for you? Introduce one!

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