By Sarah Hamaker
Q: My husband and I want some alone time in the evenings, but our preschooler keeps coming out of his room after being tucked in for the night. How can we get him to stay in his room after lights out?
A: We had this problem when our youngest, who shared a room with his older brother, transitioned to a toddler bed from his crib. We reserved the lock on the door (unlocking it before we went to bed), and that worked. But here’s a gentler solution to your dilemma.
After putting your child in bed, hang a plastic play necklace on the inside doorknob of his room. Then tell him that the necklace means he can get out of his bed and room. But, if he does, he must bring you the necklace and then he can ask a question, share some news, get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, etc.
Then back in bed he goes but this time, do not rehang the necklace. Now, if he gets up, he can’t give you the necklace and therefore, he incurs a two-fold penalty. First, he doesn’t get to play with his favorite toy the next day. Second, tomorrow’s bedtime is moved up to directly after supper. The following night, when you put him to bed—no matter what time—put the necklace on the doorknob and follow the same instructions.
A couple of things might happen. Your son might have no interest whatsoever in the necklace and get out of bed a bunch of times the first few nights. However, a few days of not playing with his favorite toy and several nights with an early bedtime should cure him of getting out of bed more than once. And I think that you could probably live with one time out of bed.