My son is nearly 4 and refuses to stay in bed. The only way make him go to bed and fall asleep is to stay with him and keep him from climbing out. This can take multiple hours every night.

We get up around 7:30 in the morning, he usually has no nap during the day and we start putting him to bed around 20:00.
We have a regular routine, consisting of washing face, brushing and reading him two stories he can pick.

Whatever we tried, when he is left unguarded he will climb out of his bed and join us in the living room. I tried keep putting him to bed, but after 40 times putting him back to bed he got more and more naughty and started hitting me. At some point he didn't even wait for me to leave the room anymore and would immediately get up again to leave the bed, making it a sport to defy me.

Talking to him before, also had no impact. He agreed to stay in his bed, after reading him his stories and he keeps telling me so every time catch him and bring him back to bed, if I ask him.

We also tried changing his bed-time from much earlier to much later. But even with starting his bed routine as late as 23:00 and asking him to stay in bed at 23:30 he is not willing to stay in there.

Any suggestion on how to make him go to bed by himself, without needing one of his parents guard him for hours?

I tried to look for similar questions, the closest was this one: How to make toddler stay in his own bed at night However in our case, just repeatedly trying does not work.

Update: I decided to try Cecilia's approach and I am one week in now. The first day was brutal. I sat on the chair and my son, was fighting, yelling, pleading, kicking and throwing things. In the end he took all the covers and sheets from the bed and threw them as well. I patiently sat there and ignored most of it, only where he started hurting me or risked hurting himself when he decided to try throwing over a massive night stand. It took two hours until he finally climbed to bed and fell asleep whimpering. Day 2 wasn't much different, but it took only one hour and on night three it was down to four and now I am sitting on my chair for 10-20 minutes before he falls asleep and he is not trying to get out anymore and only asks if he has a genuine need (going to the toilet or drinking water).

What worked for me is to sit on a chair where I am partially visible to him from the bed, but have no eye contact. The second night I started to bring my phone, put my headphones on and watched a video. This not only helped me ignoring his rants and endure sitting there for an hour, but also made it clear to him that I cannot hear him.

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    Well done!! I am glad it's working! May 8, 2023 at 4:30

3 Answers 3


After 1 book with your child you have to limit all of your interactions with him, so no talking, no explaining, no comments at all, and no eye contact.

Bring in a chair and show your son that you're going to sit in his room where he can see you from his bed, and show that you'll sit by his door while he falls asleep, and explain that you will not talk to him or even look at him, but you'll be there until he's asleep.

Expect that he'll get out of bed, try to talk to you, maybe even come over to you, and you must ignore all of these behaviors. Any reaction will encourage his bad behavior, so you need to be like a statue.

Sit in his room by his door so that if he tries to break out of his room, you can stop him. With my daughter I would simply put my foot on the door frame so that my leg was blocking her escape. I didn't talk to her, or react, I just stopped her with my leg.

Eventually your son will decide that his comfy bed is a good place to be and he'll fall asleep. However, you might need to wait a bit to make sure that he's not faking being asleep. With my daughter she would fake being asleep and then fall asleep, and I could tell the difference by the rythem of her breathing.

You might be sitting in his room for a couple weeks before this becomes the new normal. After that you can move your chair to the hallway, where he can still see you, and you can still stop him from leaving his room, and do that for a couple weeks.

Then move your chair to a position that's just outside off his view from his bed, and sit there for a couple weeks.

After that, your son will likely be able to stay in his room when it's time for bed, and if not, sit just out of his sight for a bit longer.

Being in a room alone can be hard for some kids, it can be scary, it can feel lonely, so this program is one way to help your child feel comfortable in their room, by giving them some time to adjust.

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    This seems like a good approach, I will try this.
    – Helena
    Apr 28, 2023 at 15:46
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    Thank you so much., this worked. I updated my question with how it went.
    – Helena
    May 7, 2023 at 18:54
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    @Helena, Wonderful update, it's a great description of how to ignore and when to take action (for safety)! Glad it worked.
    – user42851
    May 7, 2023 at 20:49

Children love attention. The best attention is positive attention if they can't get it they will even love negative attention. Think about that each discussion about it is giving attention. The way I have dealt with a similar issue is by pretending he is not there, continue routine with him around, obviously games and books are away and are softly removed from the child. Once the child receives absolutely no attention good or bad he will no longer seek to come out of bed. It would seem from your question it is a fight about who is in control.

Another approach is a 3 day training where you discuss on day one how not to come out of bed and day 2 several times during the day you practice what it means stay in bed, even if no one is next to you. Repeat on day 3 then on day 4 implement it.

There are obvious sticker charts and one word reminders which can work. Most Parenting books will give some ideas, this is a usual normal and healthy behavior issue for a four year old.

Good luck!!

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    It is not very easy to give no attention to a kid that either is jumping around (inlcuding on his parents) or is so tired that he is at the edge of hurting himself.
    – Helena
    Apr 10, 2023 at 8:23
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    Good point. It is very difficult... It is a very hard age especially with regulation of moods Apr 10, 2023 at 20:13
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    It is very difficult, but many parents go through this Helena - you do need to stick with it though.
    – Rory Alsop
    Apr 11, 2023 at 15:23
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    @Helena also doing your best to give him attention earlier in the day, before betime. Playing with him and talking to him and giving him hugs. So his tank is full before bed. My 4yo daughter acts out on days where we have been very busy and haven't had time to relax and play together. She needs that time.
    – stan
    Apr 29, 2023 at 14:12

Whatever we tried, when he is left unguarded he will climb out of his bed and join us in the living room.

Okay, what if you were in your bedroom with the lights off? There's nothing to do in a dark house.

I'd have one spouse in the bedroom with the door closed, and the other sitting outside the kid's bedroom door. If kid comes out send them back in. It's not like there's anything to do in the rest of the house anyway, if all the house lights are off.

Do this for a week. Kid will get in the habit of staying in their room.

I'd honestly conder closing the bedroom door for the night He wants attention, if the door is closed, he can't get it. You can open it later when you go to bed.

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