How Do I Keep My 3 Year Old in Bed at Night?

Updated on April 08, 2009
K.M. asks from Jacksonville, FL
11 answers

I put my 3 year old son to bed at 8:30pm each night. I use to lay down with him in his bed until he fell asleep then I would get up. He slept all night, usually, if he didn't I would walk him back to his room and leave. Now for the past month or so he gets up about 5-7 times within 1 1/2 hours after putting him to bed. Sometimes it's 10:00pm before he actually goes to sleep. He comes out and says, "Mommy, I want you", or "Mommy, I found a book", or "Mommy, cover me up". Anything to stall. If I start counting to 3, sometimes he'll start running back to his room. Sometimes I carry him back. After he eventually falls asleep in his bed, he comes in my bed like clockwork around 3:30am and want to sleep with me. Sometimes I let him fall back asleep with me and then carry him back to his room. He snores so badly you can't sleep with him! This is very frustrating as my 11 month old has been sleeping all night since he was 3 months old. Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm exhausted.

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for your responses. I got some great tips. I will try to incorporate different ones to see what works. I may even try to shorten his 3 hour naps. I have tried the white noise (waterfall sounds) which he loves, baby gate at his door (which we took down months ago for various reasons), and he has his Ocean Wonders aquarium from his former crib days in his bed with him (he has to have his fish on). Both kids stay with my aunt during the day so she is trying different things too.

More Answers



answers from Tallahassee on

My 2 year old sleeps through the night every night. He has slept with my husband and I since the day he was born. My husband and I both work outside of the house and we value our sleep and we decided long ago that the best thing for our family was one big family-style bed. At 8pm every night my son climbs into bed, rests his head on his own pillow and listens to a lullaby CD until he falls asleep. There is no arguing, no bribing, and no crying. Either my husband or I will lay with him until he is comfortable in the dark and is still and then he’s on his own. Later in the night, when we go to bed he’s fast asleep and is not even bothered by us. We all sleep peacefully through the night and are rested every morning for work and school. We do not need to get up every hour to persuade him to go back to bed and we certainly don’t feel the need to make threats about taking away his favorite toy. I believe that as he gets older and wants his own space he will make that decision himself and it will be a natural progression into his room, which he has and is very aware that it’s his personal space. I am also 37 weeks pregnant and we are preparing for our daughter and my son is very excited about bringing home his sister. She will begin sleeping in a co-sleeper attached to the side of my bed, just as my son did and we will gradually introduce her to the family-bed. While I think my son will be interested in having his sister sleep with him at first I know as he gets older his personal space will become very important to him and he will make the switch on his own. I think it’s important for kids to grow at their own pace and not every kid (not any kid really) should be shoved into his bedroom, behind a closed door and told he has to go to bed or else his favorite toy will bite the dust. No child could sleep with all that pressure. I don’t know when putting our kids to bed became such a choir; bedtime should not be so frightening.

Why fight your son? Let him sleep with you and you will both have a peaceful night. It won’t last forever and he certainly won’t still be sleeping with you as a teenager. Kids are kids for such a short amount of time. Don’t fight him, enjoy him.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

have you tried putting a baby gate across the doorway so he can't get out of the room? That's what we did with our kids.



answers from Gainesville on

We had similar problems and here's what worked for us-first-make sure you have a good bedtime routine so he know what to expect and what is expected of him,. Second-try moving his bedtime earlier. Ours now goes to bed between 7-7:30 and he is more well rested the next day. Third-when he comes back out you don't say a word to him-no threats, no counting, nothing! Anytime you say something to him he's getting what he wants-attention from you. You simply pick him up or turn him around and take him back to his room without saying a word, put him in bed, cover him up and leave. Yes, you will have to repeat this in the beginning but he will get it that he's not going to get what he wants and it's no longer worth it to get up. As far as the middle of the night-could be alot of things-could wake up scared, could have allergies that make it difficult for him to breathe and it's waking him, maybe try a clean air machine or other white noise machine as they can be comforting. But same thing if he comes in in the middle of the night put him back to bed without saying a thing. Consistency is the big key to this one!



answers from Daytona Beach on

I had problems with mine sleep walking and later found out this was due to anxiety from my pregnancy with my second born. I'd check to see what is going on in his life, but this also could be the fun challenging of your 3 yr old as well. I would also look into his snoring. It could be related. But honestly, talk to your doc about it! Good luck! Jen



answers from Orlando on

my daughter has been doing the same thing for about a year now. she goes to sleep fine but starts waking up around 1am and comes into my room. i have never let her sleep with me and some nights i walk her back to her room 15 times. i am exhuasted and would like to know how other moms have handled this.



answers from Pensacola on

Baby gate. If he climbs over, then put another baby gate on the top half of the door so he's completely babygated in.



answers from Gainesville on

We have had difficulties on and off with our 3yo when it comes to sleep. What helped us was three things:

1. We switched his bed time from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. He just really was not tired at 8 p.m. (still takes a two hour nap at day care and sleeps until 7-8 a.m.) In doing that, we actually eliminated an entire hour of struggling to keep him in his room.

2. We set an alarm clock for 9 p.m., so he knows when it is time, and there is no arguing or compromising about that. When the alarm goes off, no more stories, no more drinks of water, etc. It's light out.

3. After I tuck him in, I tell him I will check on him, and I ask him how many minutes he wants. Usually he says five minutes, but if he is feeling a little clingy on a particular night, he might say one or two minutes, and sometimes he even says "I don't need a check tonight, mommy." I make sure I ALWAYS check him when I say I will, so he knows he can trust me to come when he needs me. Sometimes he will ask me to check him again, and I will, but two checks is the limit, and he knows that, and he is always asleep by the second check anyway.

As for the room visits in the middle of the night, we started out by setting limits on that. If he came to our room in the middle of the night, he could bring his blanket and pillow and make himself comfortable on the floor, but he was not allowed in our bed, and not allowed to wake us up. He caught on pretty quick that if he woke me up, he was going right back to his room (no matter how many times it took), and after a few weeks of not being allowed to wake me up or come in our bed, he realized he really was not getting much out of coming to our room, so he pretty much stopped that on his own. We made sure to explain it to him and let him know a few days ahead of time that he was no longer allowed in our bed.



answers from Melbourne on

My daughter just turned 4, and she's always been like that. Try to find something your child really values, and tell them you will take it away. Seriously, that's what ended up working for me. I've tried EVERYTHING to get my daughter to stay in bed at night. Threats, bribes, punishments, treats, books and toys in bed with her, nightlights....finally I told her she wasn't allowed to spend the night at her Nana's house anymore until she started staying in bed at night. That did it. She stays in bed 90% of the time now. If your child is like mine, she's just not a deep sleeper, wakes up a lot, and decides to seek out company. My daughter shares a room with her brother, so I know it's not just that she's scared to be in her room alone. I feel for you though. I've had endless nights of no sleep, being a zombie the next day, and having a very tired little girl because we would end up in a fighting match over her not staying in bed. Good luck, I hope you find something that works!


answers from Miami on

Dear K.,
I have used this method and suggested to several moms here on mamma source. Buy a "Special" stuffed animal that only He can take care of. One that needs him to sleep with it! Give him a special animal story explaining this toys needs; and also include it has Magical powers to ward of bad dreams ect, as you need it to be; and hopefully he will take to this new animal as my children did; which will help solve the problem and gives you a chance to share a special story with him, that you make up! It worked on my 3 children!!! Good luck and May God bless you all...
Kathy N.


answers from Jacksonville on

Okay. The lying down with him until he's asleep, you've completely cut that out now, right? That is a difficult habit to get out of, but much better for all of you once you do. What I always did with my 3 yr old, was lie down with him (lights already out) for about 2 minutes (count the seconds in your head). He could snuggle with me, and get used to being still and the darkness. Then, I would say "time for me to get up and ___" , gave him a kiss and out I went. I told him I would check on him in a few minutes. And I did. But I always had some boring chore that needed doing, and it was always something he could HEAR me do. That seemed to help comfort him... he could visualize me emptying the dishwasher, or clothes dryer, or washing some pans in the sink, or sweeping the floor... If he got out of bed (which he didn't really) then I would warn him that I would close his bedroom door. (He didn't like that at all). And usually it never came to that. On the rare occasion that it did, I would come back after about 5 minutes, and see if he could go to sleep like he was supposed to, and I'd give him one chance.
As far as his getting up during the night, I think that is just an age thing. They all seem to go through a stage where they wake and come stand beside the bed and whisper "mommy". I think they must start having much more vivid dreams or something. But, the worst thing you can do is let them into your bed. Walk them back to their room/bed as many times as it takes. I have carried mine b/c it is faster, but as they get a little bigger, making them walk helps reinforce it. It can take a dozen times in a single night. And it can go on for 3 or 4 nights... but they will stop soon. However, if you give in even once, you are back at square one. This problem will likely recur in a few months. Same thing. Walk them back each and every time, and it too will pass, and quickly.
Hang in there. Be firm. Your 11 monther will probably go through a phase like this when he is around 3 yrs. They all seem to. How you handle it will determine how LONG it lasts...



answers from Boca Raton on

I hate to tell you, but the 11 months old will do it when he turns 3 too. My son is doing it and every one of my friends with a 3 year old is going through the same thing. Its just a stage. For me only one thing works. I gave him his own private lantern and told him he could stay up all night if he wants, but he has to be on his bed, and playing quietly (reading, playing with cars, whatever). They are going to stay up anyway. Its about controlling their bodies (You cant force me to sleep!!)and you can't! So giving them the power to choose when to sleep makes them go to sleep sooner. The getting up thing, just bring him back and tell him that if he comes out of his room, he looses his light and the lights go out and he has to go to sleep. Believe me, he will choose to stay in his bed quietly. He'll go to sleep when he is ready. He'll be fine.

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