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We have a 2 and a half year old who has started sleeping in a bed a few months ago instead of a cot. Over the past few weeks we're experiencing some issues and we're out of ideas.

The night always starts out like this: we put him to bed, then when we come to bed find he's already gone and moved himself to our bed. We move him back, then a few hours later the shennanigans begin:

He gets out of bed and carrying his pillow, a few choice toys, his comfort toy and dummy and coming to our room and just opening the door and standing there wanting to come and sleep in our bed.

When we take him back and explain he has to sleep in his bed he tries to make you stay with him as long as possible. I have tried asking what is wrong, he sometimes says things like there's a shark under his bed or whatever. We've illuminated his bedroom since he wants the light. But he still doesn't want to stay in his bed. He'll repeat this every night every 5 minutes or so until one of us firmly tells him he has to stay in bed. Then he'll stop coming to our room and just go downstairs and sleep on the couch. We've tried sweet talking him and patting his cheek to sleep, reading him stories, looking under his bed for sharks and cows finding none, turning some of his lights off, some sleep music.

Is this normal and what else can we try?

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Have you tried just repeatedly taking him back to his room each time, but not engaging with him in any way overnight? So pick him up and take him back to his bed, but don't talk or try to reason with him. It's sleep time and he needs to learn to understand that. This method reinforces the idea that there's no point in coming into your room, he will always get the same response which is a simple move back to his room. He gets no attention and none of your time. It quickly becomes pointless to him.

You can encourage him during the daytime with a sticker chart, so if he stays in his own bed he gets a sticker and after some stickers he gets a treat.

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    Wife started the reward system (one little paw patrol toy in a set of 7) last night and I suggested if he fails (ie does come in to our room) we do your suggested method - so a hybrid system so to speak. He did stay in his room and asked for his toy first thing in the morning. Little dude isn't stupid thats for sure. Thanks for the reply. – solarflare Mar 27 at 21:48
  • That's great! And when he doesn't get through the night just remember to take him back with no fuss and try again the next night. Glad it's worked out, keep going! – MikeH Mar 28 at 7:47
  • @solarflare i anticipate you will learn a hybrid will not work and in that case follow Mike's advice. It worked for me with every child, although one took longer to accept it. – Adam Heeg Mar 28 at 17:34
  • Didn't work last night so we tried what @MikeH suggested - after about 6 or 7 times he just gave up. Still asked for a toy in the morning "because he wants it". Didnt get it obv. – solarflare Mar 28 at 22:09
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In my experience bribing does wonders (you can have that if you promise to..., and if you break promise, we'll take it away). Also, 2.5 years is capable of understanding that he's a big boy and big boys sleep alone. Rewards system is also great. It definitely worked for our child and it took hold quickly.

Do not be afraid that somehow it will be a habit. It will take a loooong time until this will be a real problem for your child.

We're bribing our 4-year old shamelessly (admittedly, with small things like Kinder-surprise etc), and it is working. Good part is that you just really have to start and keep it up until it becomes habit (a month at most) and then it's just habit.

  • My concern with bribes is, as you said, what happens when we decide the bribes need to stop? – solarflare Mar 28 at 22:10
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    @solarflare - bribe is paid up front. Rewards are after. This implies one-off ;) But you have some point... However, not quite developed long-term memory helps, so from experience I'd say once it becomes habit (but praised), lots get somply forgotten – AcePL Mar 28 at 22:15
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You might think this is less than ideal, but I sleep in my nearly 3 year old's room, while my husband sleeps in the same room as the baby. Maybe after he realises you are staying he will stay in the bed until he sleeps. She did wake up screaming one night when I first did this — I think she didn't realise what was in her room and it scared her.

  • That sounds like postponing dealing with the current problem while creating new problems. Sorry, just thinking a few steps ahead :) – solarflare Mar 31 at 22:13

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