kid in parent's bed
Photo by Flickr Lindsay Széchényi

By Sylvia Cochran – 

If you can set your post-midnight clock by the pitter-patter of little feet making a beeline for your bedroom, you are not alone. There are plenty of kids who have a difficult time falling asleep or staying asleep in their own beds. Is it wrong to let the youngster sleep in your bed? Should you strong-arm her back into her own bed? Should you give consequences? What is the parent to do?

Beware the Absolutist Approach!

In this scenario, there is no room for negotiation or adaptation. The child is muscled back to his room and consequences are frequently piled on. Parents may even go so far as to lock their door and refuse to respond to the child’s knocks or cries. While this may work in the short term, it does little to work with the child’s mindset. Instead, a youngster may stay in her room out of fear of consequences and not because she has managed the art of self-soothing and reached the understanding that there is nothing to worry about in the dark.

Understand the Mindset

Sleeping alone is a type of independence that must be learned. Maturity plays a huge role in the learning process. Just because the mom down the block you know, the one whose kid would read War and Peace in kindergarten brags that her kid would sleep alone at the tender age of two, it does not mean that your kid is wired in the same way.

Independence must be fostered throughout daily activities. If you want your six-year-old child to feel independent and safe to separate from you at night, you cannot treat him like a baby throughout the day. Give him opportunities to practice independence during the day, which then naturally will lead to sleeping in his own bed at night eventually.

Incentivize the Activity

Work through the reasons why the child is not staying in bed. Nip fears in the bud by giving her a flashlight that she can use. Plug in a nightlight and consent to leaving on a hallway light. Moreover, offer the child a quarter or other incentive to stay in bed until a mutually agreed upon hour. For example, during the workweek it might be 6 a.m.

Get Help

Talk to fellow parents who may have had similar problems. Since you do not want to cut off your child’s access to you cold turkey, compromise on setting up a sleeping bag and pillow at the foot of your bed. If all else fails, consult with a child psychologist or family counselor who specializes in behavioral issues involving sleep, self soothing and independence building.

Sylvia Cochran

Sylvia is a seasoned freelance writer, born and raised in Germany. Having been exposed to a variety of religions and traditions due to travel and study, Sylvia has been a student of the Bible for more than ten years, and has for the last four years taught in small groups about Biblical principles, practical Christianity, Christian parenting, as well as the spiritual use of money. Sylvia also provides Free Online Christian Parenting Courses at Suite 101
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