Why Kids Need to Sleep Solo

Description

Your kids need their own beds – and you and your spouse need yours. Greg Smalley explains why co-sleeping with your kids isn't good for them – or for your marriage.

Dear Greg,

My wife allows our 2-year-old son to sleep with us every night.  We’ve tried everything to keep him in his own bed with the exception of disciplining him.  I think we are at the point now of needing to add some discipline to the situation…but my wife won’t allow it.  And she also won’t let him just cry it out.  I’m getting really tired of this situation.  What can I do to convince my wife that this isn’t a good thing?

Answer:

Co-sleeping, or the “family bed,” is an issue that a lot of parents struggle with.  It’s easy to see why many moms and dads are open to the arrangement: you get to see your child at his or her most angelic (i.e., asleep), and the bonding a parent can feel by being close to a dozing little one who’s often bouncing off the walls can seem priceless.  So what’s wrong with your young son sleeping with you? In short, he needs to start sleeping solo and your marriage needs it.

Let’s face it—one of the goals of parenting is to raise children who are appropriately independent. From tying his shoes to feeding himself, he needs to learn how to do things by himself, and sleeping by himself is one of those necessary milestones.

But it’s not just your son who needs his own bed – you and your wife need yours, too.  Not only does adding another tossing-and-turning body to the bed make sleeping harder for the both of you, it seriously cuts into the potential for intimacy, and that’s a real danger to the health of a marriage.

The first thing I recommend you do is talk with your wife and work toward building unity around the idea of your son sleeping in his own bed.  Help her to understand the need from your perspective, as well as your son’s.  And don’t forget that what ultimately strengthens your marriage will also be good for your son.  It may not be an easy decision to make and there may be some emotion involved, so be patient with your wife while she is coming to see why this is important.

Once you are both on the same page, it’s time to implement a plan.  Start by letting your son know what’s going to happen and when.  Give him the confidence that comes from regular reminders that he’s becoming a big boy, and help him get used to the idea that being a big boy involves doing things on his own (like sleeping in his own bed).  Remind him throughout the day that he can start the night by sleeping in your bed, but that you’ll be moving him to his own bed.  Eventually he will be able to start the night and end it in his own bed. Above all, be consistent.

Sleeping alone can be a tough thing for him at first, so sweeten the deal with rewards.  You might make a special offer, like promising to take him to the park the next day if he spends the night in his own bed.  And don’t forget to celebrate the accomplishment when he spends the night in his own bed.

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