Apparently I have generated a lot of interest in how we are tackling the new challenge of Chase staying in bed now that he can open his door, so I thought I'd give a quick update.
I am pleased (and relieved) to announce that it seems as if we have nipped this problem in the bud (*knock on wood*). We gave up on the "take him back to bed repeatedly" tactic after doing it for three hours one night, resulting in a complete meltdown for all of us. Chase was throwing hysterical tantrums, I was crying, Brian was frustrated. It was just not working for us. Every night Chase got less sleep, and the more sleep deprived he got the more impossible he became. And he started asking to sleep in timeout (!) so we had to throw that out as well.
I was really fighting the idea of locking him in his room. The ideas were thrown out there to put up a baby gate, install a lock on his door, put childproof doorknob contraptions on, etc. But for some reason I just felt like we would be trapping him in there. I thought, "What if there was a fire in his room and he was trapped and couldn't get out?" Brian pointed out that he has slept in that room with the door closed, unable to open a door at all, for over two years of his life... but it still freaked me out. Maybe because I know he would be in there knowing HOW to escape, but unable to. I don't know. Anyway, my wonderful husband came to the rescue with a brilliant idea.
We bought a child-proof doorknob contraption. When we got it home we sat down with Chase to show him how it worked, and let him try it out. He learned quickly that when it was on the doorknob he couldn't open the door (and he didn't like that). We told him he would be given three chances when we put him to bed... that if he came out of his room three times we would put the lock on his door.
The first couple nights he used up all three chances. After the third time he came out we put the lock on the door. He screamed for five minutes and went to sleep. We thought, "at least he is finally sleeping!" The third night he came out twice. I said to him, "OK, Chase. This is your last chance. If you come out one more time I'm putting the lock on." I shut the door and stood at my usual spot, waiting for him to come out before I walked all the way downstairs... and he never did.
Next night: he didn't come out once. Night after that: he came out one time.
Every night when we put him to bed he says, "Stay in bed, Chase! Don't put the lock on!" We all win. He has learned the consequence for leaving his room (which he hates, because then he can't come out when he wakes up in the morning), and I can sleep knowing that he isn't trapped in his room.
For those of you who have not gone through this yet, I hope this idea helps you! One thing I have grown to appreciate in my measly 2 1/2 years of parenthood is that every child is different, and what works well for one kid may not work at all for another. You just have to figure out what works for them. Chase is relentless. He has a strong will and he just does not give up. This way we don't have to fight him.
(And that feels gooooooood....)