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

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!

Published on: June 17, 2015
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

Hi Dr. Greene,

My son had horrible breathing issues as a baby and toddler up until he had surgery at 2, but they were so severe he could not sleep laying down so I had to sleep upright in a recliner with him, or we would be in the bathroom all night together running the shower so the steam could help him breath, until (after many stays in the hospitals and countless doctors) I finally found a doctor that would take the time to really listen to me and find what was wrong and do surgery. But as you can imagine my son and I bonded to the extreme, also as you can imagine even after he recovered and was able to sleep in his own bed he was not able to sleep without the comfort of me with him…long story short, he will be 7 in October and still comes to my bed every night about 2-3 in the morning to cuddle up next to his momma. Do you believe he will grow out of it with age or should I be concerned and try to fix it now.

Thank You in advance

Hello, We just recently purchased our first home and every since we moved into the house our 2 year old daughter will not sleep in her room , I’v bought night lights , soothing music I even put a movie on for her . She has always slept on her own but now that we have moved she wants nothing to do with her room. Please could use some advice, Thanks

Hi Brit,

Thanks for writing in.

Have you tried sleeping in her room, preferably her bed? Not with her, but instead of her. Perhaps there’s something about the room that bothers her, like cold air blowing on her from a space in the window casing or lights from a nearby street light that glare in her eyes.

This is not medical advice, but I know in some rooms I have trouble sleeping and there’s a very simple, often easily fixable problem.

If you try that, please let me know.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I just made a new room for by both kids ( 5 years & 2 years ) their first night was wonderful but later ! The big boy wakeup cry to my room ! My husband put him back to his bed then later he come back so the easy way to bring them both to sleep in our room like I didn’t do anything 😩 i always stay in the room until they both sleep then i go out to my room!! now we complete 2 months with the same issue 😕 They sleep with us not in their bedroom
So any suggestions to make the big boy to accept the idea of sleeping alone with his younger sister

Dear Sir/Madam
Hi! I ‘m in great trable because I was attacked by diaria for the past 3 months. I don’t know what to do? I ‘m in great problem I need your support please.I already give for 3 clinics stool exam. They told me that I have bacteria and I took medicen for that but still I am on problem please show me the way what to do?

Dear Zerihun,

I am so sorry to hear of your situation.

This is such a serious problem that Dr. Greene has been advising a company that has created a product that is effective for some kinds of bacterial diarrhea. It’s called DiaResQ and you can buy it at Passport Health (in the United States) or on It doesn’t work with all bacterial diarrhea, but is natural, safe and effective against certain strains. In clinical trial there haven’t been any troubling side effects.

I hope that’s helpful.

Thanks for this idea! Before I try it, how do you expect it would work for a child who usually stays in her bed but cries or shouts for me to go to her in the middle of the night? Any heads up before I give it a go would be very much appreciated!

Hi. I have a 9 and 6 year old. They start in their beds and come in ours during the night. It is so uncomfortable I have been sleeping in another room. I want to send them back but I know they will cry and not have a good nigbts sleep. My plan June 2016 is so put them back in their beds over the summer and train them to stay in their beds. I like the “free pass” and will try that. What do you think?

Dear Maria,

I think this is a great plan. Setting a starting date, telling your kids in advance, and sticking to it will make the transition easier. Making this change over the summer will be great so they aren’t sleep deprived for school and by the time school rolls around next fall they will be set.

One thing we found helpful — when kids are sick, it’s really tough to make them stay in their rooms with you in another room. We had the guideline that if a child was sick, one of the parents either slept in their room or a parent and the sick child slept in the living room. It wasn’t comfortable, but it met their needs and kept us from falling back into a routine that we’d worked hard to break.

Good luck!

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??

You actually seem like the problem. The child is displaying a high level anxiety when being left alone which is not good. That stress is not good for brain development. He won’t be sleeping with his mother until he’s 30, he will naturally move out of the room once he feels safe but he isn’t ready. Guess your needs trump his, thank goodness his mother is nurturing. It is her prerogative. Mine moved out of the bed on my floor at 9. He got physically ill when trying to sleep in his own room. He wasn’t ready. He still gets good grades, has lots of friends, plays sports and my husband just have to get more creative. My suggestion, have the kid spend more time with his mom to free you up.

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.

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.

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

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.

Hi Michele,

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

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

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

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.