Locking a toddler’s bedroom is the first thing you may want to do when your child starts sleeping terribly at night. But is it safe, and are there gentler alternatives?
Let’s imagine that you live in a two-story home on a busy street. You have a two-year-old who has learned how to get out of her crib, leave the bedroom, and wander around the house.
She won’t stay in bed after multiple attempts, and you feel like sleep deprivation is starting to get the best of you.
Although she hasn’t done anything dangerous yet, you’re worried about her leaving the house or doing something risky in the kitchen.
Desperate, you decided to start locking your toddler’s bedroom every night before going to bed.
But now you’re left wondering: is an unsupervised toddler a much higher risk than a locked door?
One of the most challenging parts of parenthood is the lack of sleep
The most challenging part of parenthood is not the fluctuation of hormones or the endless number of responsibilities. It’s the lack of adequate sleep.
Sleep deprivation affects thousands of new mums every year. In fact, one survey from Owlet Baby Care found that roughly 43 % of all parents with children six months or younger get just one to three hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.
There’s evidence that suggests sleep deprivation can have a number of side effects, including depression, moodiness, irritability, forgetfulness, and lack of motivation.
Apart from diminished mental health, sleep deprivation can lead to marital problems.
When 43 couples took part in an Ohio State University study, it was discovered that although almost all couples fight, those couples that suffered from sleep deprivation handled their conflicts with anger and hostility.
In addition to parents who don’t get enough sleep, sleep deprivation can be detrimental for children as well. According to Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD, an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine, “sleep-deprived kids have more behavioral problems, more academic problems, more health problems, more risk-taking behaviors, and more anxiety and mood-related problems.”
Experts say: it’s not OK to lock kids in their rooms
To many parents, locking a toddler’s bedroom so that they can go to sleep and not wander around the house is the best solution. However, although you may succeed at getting your child to fall asleep, there’s a major concern of safety.
In case of a dangerous event in your home, like a fire, your child may not be able to get out of the room.
Locking a toddler’s bedroom is a violation of many fire codes. It’s also a red flag for child protective services.
Moreover, being locked and trapped in a room can be very disturbing for a young child. Closing their bedroom door and leaving them all alone can intensify those feelings. Screaming at a closed door can increase the stress hormones in children, and as a result, they may have difficulty functioning the next day.
Safer options to door locks
As locking your child in her room is risky and can have a mental effect on her health, you’ll be relieved to hear that there are better options than locking her in.
Many parents have opted for Dutch doors in replacement for locking a toddler’s bedroom. What’s great about Dutch doors is that they have a top that can open and close independently of the bottom part.
So, you can close the bottom part of the door and leave the top open so that your child doesn’t feel trapped and isolated.
As not many children like being closed in a room, this gives them more freedom, and at the same time, it gives parents more control. And parents can easily open the door after the child is asleep.
Child safety gates
If your kid moves around the house due to nightmares and sleepwalking, there are other options.
One such option are child safety gates. Children are highly curious beings, so you’ll often find them wandering around the house.
By installing gates in your home, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your child is safe in a secured area. There’s no need for constant supervision from your end, meaning you will be able to get the rest you so long needed.
Consider placing gates in areas that you think are unsafe, such as the kitchen or the stairway.
Safety locks that go on the inside
Instead of locking your kiddo’s door from the outside, I recommend getting safety locks that go on the inside of the toddler’s door.
That way, in case of an emergency, your child cannot leave the room, but you can run and get her out fast.
I also recommend getting video/audio cameras if you do decide to child-proof your child’s door from the inside. This is so that you can hear and see her and know she is safe. If she’s in pain or falls out of bed, you can run to her room and assist her right away.
Child safety door alarms
If you want to know when your toddler leaves the room at night, consider installing a child safety door alarm.
These alarms are easy to install, and more importantly, they will give you peace of mind, knowing where your child is at all times of the night.
When you install an alarm, it will send alerts to your phone and tablet when your child opens the doors or windows.
You will be able to monitor your home from anywhere and react quickly if your child is in an unsafe area of the home.
Child-proofing the home
Your baby’s little fingers will reach out to every cabinet, and their curiosity will lead them to explore every room of your home. They’ll peek into the toilet bowl, open the oven, and check out the power outlets to see what’s there.
To protect their little fingers, consider child-proofing your home.
Child-proofing the home involves:
- Securing loose bookshelves and dressers to the wall.
- Keeping windows locked and guarded.
- Securing electrical cords.
- Covering all electrical outlets.
- Placing corner covers or bumpers on the sharp edges of your furniture.
- Securing the front door.
- Locking the oven and child-proofing the stove.
- Installing a toilet lid lock.
- Keeping medications out of reach.
Apart from safety reasons, the other reason parents decide to lock their children in their room is that they refuse to go to bed.
Especially when a child enters toddlerhood, it’s during this time that toddler regression takes place. Toddler regression can happen due to a change in your toddler’s life, such as the arrival of a new sibling.
A toddler sleep regression can degrade your child’s sleep routine and leave you sleepless for weeks. You may find your toddler wandering around the house, refusing to go to sleep, and waking frequently.
Children who go through this require some additional sleep training. There are many sleep training methods for toddlers. The best method for your child will depend on your toddler’s sleeping history. If she was a great sleeper before the new baby’s arrival, you might try a quick technique like the Ferber method.
If your toddler was a bad sleeper before the baby arrived, then you may want to try a gentler sleep training technique, such as the Camping Method or the Fading Method.
To sum up
Even though you feel like being sleep-deprived for one more day is going to crush you physically and mentally, locking your child in the bedroom is not the smartest move.
Locking a toddler’s bedroom is a violation of many fire codes and may earn you a visit from child protective services. Not to mention that being locked and trapped in a room can be very disturbing for a young child.
There are other, gentler alternatives to locking your child in her bedroom. Gates, Dutch doors, child safety alarms, and sleep training are all safer options and less alienating for the toddler.
And once your child starts to get a good night’s sleep, you will, too.