The “Free Pass”: Getting your child to sleep in their own room

Dr. Alan Greene discusses teaching your child to sleep alone

Dr. Alan Greene talks about getting your kids to sleep alone

At 3am a triangle of light slices the darkness in two, and a child’s tired, raspy voice whispers “Mom? Moooooom?” It’s now that you realize, this will not be the night of restful sleep you’ve been fantasizing about since your water broke.

Many parents find it tough to send their kids back to their own room when this happens. After all, your child is simply asking to be close to you. Tough to say no to that.

But the truth is, parents need space, privacy and alone time, and it’s important for your child to learn to comfortably sleep alone.

There’s a method I developed with my kids when they were youngsters that helped my wife and I to rediscover restful nights. I call it the “free pass.” In this week’s video, I teach you get your kids to chose to sleep alone, and feel safe and secure in that choice.

Sounds pretty crazy, right?

Well, watch the video below, and try the “free pass” with your kids for just a few days, and I’ll bet you’ll find your kids make the same choice.

If you do decide to give it a shot, leave us a comment below and let us know how the experience went for you. If you’ve tried it with your kids to no avail, let me know, and I’ll try and provide some additional tips!

Dr. Alan Greene

Article written by

Dr. Greene is the founder of (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.



  • Megan Lindstrom

    I have to say that with 2 sec left on the video my 2 year old walked in on my 30 min past bedtime :-) Any tips for explaining the free pass idea to younger ages?

    • Alan Greene

      Hi Megan. It’s tougher to explain to kids under 3, but I’ve seen it work by acting out the scenarios with dolls, action figures or stuffed animals, or by telling the story of how it works while drawing pictures. Think ‘telling a story’ more than ‘explaining’ at that age, and visual aids of some kind can help a lot. You may even be able to get your 2-year-old to act out the story.

  • Cheryl Greene

    It depends on the age of the child. How old are your kids?

  • Cheryl Greene

    Hi Michele,

    It depends on the age of the child. How old are your kids?

  • linxinxin


  • Heather Foster Marshall

    I like the sound of the free pass. I have a seven year old who slept great as a baby and a toddler. Now she will not sleep in her own room. If she does go to sleep in her room, she appears in my bed around 1 or 2 am.
    I think that when I walk her back to her room she will justfollow me back out. we have tried putting her back and she just comes back in. We are beyond frustrated at this point.

    • bkat

      This is my son, exactly. Same age, same easy sleep history, same current problem. Would love any advice, as the pediatrician’s recommendation was to just give it time and it should subside. We are all miserable and frustrated

    • Melissa Kahane

      I have a seven year old son too. He slept fine as a baby, but not as a toddler, he wanted me, the mother to stay in his big bed with him. And of course I did for twenty minutes until he fell asleep. Then I left his room. He did not wake up, unless he had a cold or needed water. Then he wanted to sleep in the parents bed. Now he is seven we just hold his hand and sit on the edge of his bed for about five or ten minutes and he goes to sleep. We have told him by age eight we will no longer sit on his bed, but will sit in a chair in the same room until he falls asleep. We will do this for a couple months, hopefully he will start sleeping on his own. I will also try the free pass idea.

  • Liz

    My husband and I have a complicated situation. When my stepson is with his mother she sleeps with him and always has. He will be 7 this October and for months we have tried everything to get him to sleep on his own. We haven’t had a single successful night! The minute my husband tries to return to bed, his son wakes and asks where he is and has a meltdown if he doesn’t stay. We are beyond frustrated as we have no control over his mother’s bad habit forming decisions. It feels hopeless and we feel like we have tried everything from ‘big boy’ encouragement, bribes, even buying a sound machine . Is there anything you could suggest??