Question: I have a 6 year old daughter who much prefers to sleep in our bed and if that isn't possible having someone sleep with her in her bed. We are trying to break her of this habit without much luck. So many nights she will wake up and come into our room and hop into bed or if my wife wakes up & they will go back to her bed.
We have let this go on for far too long and is becoming very annoying to me. I don't believe that it will have a positive effect on her later in life.
Do you have any suggestions on how we can convince her to spend her nights in her own bed alone?
From: Jerry, Boston
Here are the choices I see:
1. Make a pallet on the floor of your bedroom and tell your daughter she is welcome to sleep there, but not in your bed, and not to wake you when she does.
2. You and your wife agree on how to structure a process whereby she can comfortably fall back to sleep in her own bed. That means staying with her -- not sleeping with her -- in her bed, rubbing her back, while she gets back to sleep. After that works for a few nights, you sit next to her without rubbing her back. After that works for a few nights, you move your chair away from her bed and say some soothing words to her. After that works for a few nights, you move the chair to the bedroom door and continue to say soothing words (including, "I know you can go back to sleep by yourself."). After that works for a few nights, you are able to call to her from your bed, "You're OK honey, we're right here. You can go back to sleep all by yourself."
As you can see, this is a time-consuming process that takes lots of patience, which is why I said you and your wife need to commit to it. It also works best when the child wants to be able to sleep by herself, which may not be the case yet. This is very common behavior for children this age; it's often about some kind of fear (of the dark; of monsters; of who knows what...) that dissipates over time, for instance as she goes through the next developmental stage and sees this as "babyish" behavior that she to eliminate. But even then, she may need some support and help to make it happen.
One other thought: You say that it's annoying to you. What about to your wife? Does she not mind going back into your daughter's bed? If not, I'm not sure that this is worth the manipulation that I describe above.
Lastly, I"m not sure I agree that this will have a negative effect on her later in life. But if you are unhappy with having her in your bed and your marriage suffers as a result, that surely will have negative repercussions for her life and that alone is good enough reason to find a remedy.
Check out these previous questions on sleep, there might be some answers for you here.
I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with
some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.
The author is solely responsible for the content.