Should I lock the door to keep my 3-year-old in bed at bedtime?
It's not only cruel but dangerous, too. Never lock a child into a room. However, parents do need to have some time to themselves when the children go to bed. The trick is to find ways to encourage him to stay in his bed.
First, make sure that your bedtime routine is soothing and relaxing. No horseplay or television. Reading a familiar book is good. Next, try one of these gradual techniques:
- Reward him for staying in bed for longer and longer times with the so-called "odd jobs" approach. Tell him you must wash the dishes but you will be back in five minutes to check on him. You might even set a clock. Then go in and praise him for staying in bed. Gradually increase the time needed for your tasks. Do this every night until he is able to stay in bed by himself.
- Tell him that as long as he stays in bed you will keep the door open, but if he comes out the door will be closed (but not locked). Stay near the door and as soon as he gets out of bed close the door. As soon as he returns to his bed, open it again.
For more solutions, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics Guide to Your Child's Sleep
(Villard, 1999). None of these procedures will work unless all the adults in the house are united about what to do.