My 2-year-old son won't fall asleep without having someone in his room with him. He doesn't want to be touched or held. He just wants you to sit in the chair. And after he does go to sleep he wakes up about 4 to 5 hours later, crying and screaming and is out of his bed and by the door. I go to him and give him a hug and put him right back in his bed. If I walk out he screams and won't go back to sleep for the rest of the night. If I stay he goes right back to sleep. But he wakes right back up when I walk out of his room.

I'm at a loss as to what to do. I've tried lots of stuff and nothing seems to work. It's almost as if he is having separation anxiety. I dont know what to do. Please help.

  • 2
    I am sorry that I do not have an answer for you, but I am very curious about your question as some friends have had similar experiences. Did you previously co-sleep with your child? Did he previously sleep in a room with someone else? Have you recently moved him to a "grown-up bed" from a crib? Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 18:19
  • possible duplicate of How to handle a toddler does not want to fall asleep?
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 18:18
  • I do not have an answer. As my son is almost 3. I have to lay in his twin size bed every noght to get him to sleep. If i am very tired sometimes i dont make it out of there all night long. It is confusing for him and wants me in his bed always. I try not to fall asleep. But it seems i most often do.
    – user4213
    Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 14:18
  • I have been going through this for over a year and a half with my 3 year old. It seemed like when he realized I was pregnant with our 2nd he refused to sleep alone. At first he would climb into our bed in the middle of the night, but now I have to lay with him in his bed until he falls asleep. He wakes up every night and screams when he's alone so we let him sleep with us. By the time my husband gets home from work, it's my son's bedtime. It never fails--one of us always falls asleep with him. All of your posts have great advice that I can't wait to try. Thanks so much!
    – user21166
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 7:09

3 Answers 3


We had a similar situation at that age, so I believe it's nothing unusual, even though seeing your child in fear can be quite upsetting.

The only solution we found is to give in for a few weeks, until the anxiety settles down: Sit with him until he sleeps, and if he wakes up in the night you need to do the same. It is important to address this issue: talk to him about it, and explain that there is no reason to be afraid, and that you will always be there for him.

After a week or two, he will know that you are always there, and feel reassured. At that point you can start the next phase: Slowly easing out of staying with him. Here you will need to experiment, to see what is acceptable to him, and what isn't, for example:

  • Stay a limited amount of time, say 5 minutes. Tell him beforehand that you will stay with him for five minutes, and announce when the time is up

  • Leave the door open. This was the key point or us: When we offered to leave the door to our daughter's room open, she accepted that we left the room before she was asleep

One final tip: Beware of creaking floor boards - I had to learn where not to step, in order to avoid making noise that would have her standing in her bed screaming within a 10th of a second...

One item I forgot:

  • Leaving the light on when we put her to bed. The main light in her room has a dimmer. We turn it to the lowest setting, which leaves a very faint glow. She is 3 1/2 now, and still insists on this.
  • 2
    Good advice to give in for a short time. We had the same problems, and the solution of explaining in advance, and then leaving the room again and again, with longer durations, solved it. But it took many weeks and a lot of patience! It helps to be able to say "your turn" to your spouse at some point. Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 14:39
  • For a method that allows you (maybe) to work your way out of the room, look into the Sleep Lady Shuffle. You can find it by googling or in the book "Good Night, Sleep Tight"
    – justkt
    Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 17:05

I am going through a similar situation with my 21 month old son except he wants me in the bed, usually with his head on my arm. We transitioned from mom to putting him to bed in the "family bed" to me putting him to bed. It was a struggle for the first couple weeks, but staying consistent did the trick. After the first two or so weeks he was coming to me when it was time for bed. After about 6 weeks we moved him to his room. I am still putting him to bed most nights but occasionally mom will now. He wakes up about 4-5 hours in and is crying and banging at his door. I get up and talk to him and tell him I understand how he feels and describe emotions he might be feeling, then lay him down in his bed. As long as I don't fall asleep with him I get up and go back to bed with the wife. There have been a few nights where he actually slept through the night. :D

Every child is different. The most universal advice I've heard from other parents is consistency and routine. What works for one child may not work for another, but for my child consistency and routine are the two things that have continued to work for us.

The earlier you start with this, the easier it usually is. Starting to teach a 2-year old to get into sleep alone is far more difficult then to do this for a 3 or 6 month old.


I have 2 kids, one is 6 the other is 3. Both have tried to do what you are describing at various stages.

  1. Setup a night routine. Bath/Book/Songs... whatever you want, just be consistent.
  2. If you want to stay with him for 2-5 minutes as a part of the routine, that's ok.
  3. When the time is up, leave. Yes he will cry, if he's still crying after 10 minutes, go in, kiss him, reassure him and then leave again (do not spend more then 1-2 minutes in his room). If he cry's for another 20 minutes, go in again. Then wait 30 minutes before rinsing and repeating.

He needs to understand that when your not in his room, you're still around and will be there for him if he needs it. This technique will be hard for the first week or so. It was with my kids, but it will get you out of the room faster and teach your kids to go to bed.

The night routine is key. Children of that age are really good at knowing what's next when there's a pattern to follow. If they are getting the same activities in the same order every night, you're preparing them to go to sleep. They know it's coming next, and they will accept it.

I hope this info helps.

  • What your son learns this way is: However he feels, when it's your time, he's on his own. I wouldn't do that. -1
    – sbi
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 11:09

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