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Eight-Year-Old Won't Sleep by Himself

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I have an 8-year-old child who prefers to sleep in my bed with me .I cannot get him to sleep in his own room. I have tried everything. I have even taking away television privileges but nothing and works. Please help.

A: I don't know anything at all about why your eight-year-old would demand to sleep in your bed with you. You give no background about how this came to pass. Often after a traumatic event, a bad series of nightmares, some underlying or clearly stated childhood fears overwhelming a child, a kid will want the comfort and safety of his parent's bed. Unfortunately this can turn into a comfortable pattern for the child and he can then use it to manipulate the parent into letting it continue. Punishing him for refusing to sleep in his own bedroom has had no positive result because TV privileges have nothing to do with where he needs to sleep and why.

You are being controlled by your son. He has way too much power here. I'm sure he would never have any friend sleep over his house because he would be humiliated for the friend to know that he slept with his mom. At his age, unless the two of you have had a co-sleeping arrangement all along, he should not be sleeping with you for a variety of reasons.

You need to have a few calm conversations with him about how and why this is going to stop-and then make it stop. If this means your having to sleep beside him in his room, on a mattress on the floor until he falls asleep, so be it. Make the commitment to spend less and less time in his room as this routine progresses. It's certainly easier for you to first get him in his room and then deal with your leaving it than to keep kicking him out of your room when he keeps coming in after you've put him to sleep (awake ) in his room.

Clearly this situation is about things other than his sleeping preference. You have to take a stand here because he can't/won't- you're the parent. If your actions cause considerable, daily emotional problems on his part, and the situation is the same or worse after two weeks, you need to seek professional psychological help to sort this out. Please take action as this situation is masking other more serious issues.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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