My 7 1/2-year-old daughter insists on sleeping with so many stuffed animals that she is nearly crowded out of the bed. There is one "lovey" that has been special to her for many years, but in the last couple of years, the number of others has steadily increased. I don't think she sleeps well because she gives so much room to the stuffed animals, and she has to take a lot of time every night arranging them just so. We have tried limiting them (but they seem to creep back in slowly), give them boundaries (they can only have 1/2 of the bed), etc., but the problem persists. I detest the cluttered appearance of her room because of it. Any suggestions?
From: Keri, Niles [MI? CA? OH? Il? You don't say....]
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say, what's the big deal? I'm not being dismissive, just trying to put this in perspective. In fact, I think you've handled this perfectly, putting limits on how many, putting boundaries around their "area." (Have you painted the boundary in permanent marker, so the boundary doesn't stretch?) Other strategies might be to set a timer for how much time she spends getting them ready each night (agree on how much time together); taking turns with which animals get the bed which night (she might even enjoy setting up a schedule for who sleeps where when) ; hanging a hammock over the bed where some animals can sleep (there actually are string hammocks just for this purpose); or finding some other creative solution -- baskets, drawers, dog beds -- which can give a neater appearance.
I'm trying to make several points here. First, this is a stage and it will pass, but second, as long as she's in the stage, these stuffed animals really can be important to some kids, so don't make the mistake of minimizing or dismissing them. My son is out of college, and I recently wanted to throw away stuffed animals that had accumulated over the years; animals, I should add, that he hasn't even looked at in, oh, 15 or more years. Even now, he was very clear that there are some that cannot be tossed. Third, this messy room is only going to get messier as the years go on, so a word (or two) about that.
Most of us, as adults, see our home as a reflection of ourselves; when it's not to our standards of neatness, we feel inadequate. OK, that's fair. Now think of your child. What space does she have in which to reflect herself? One room, right? I bet this is an issue in almost every family where there's a teenager, but I think what most of us who aren't there yet don't realize is this begins to happen way before the teen years. You may be there pretty soon, because the sooner and harder you try to control her room, the more she may push back. My suggestion is to try to be collaborative about this as much as possible, including lowering your standards. Detest is a strong word, and if that's really how you feel, I suggest getting a handle on this sooner than later, or you will be really miserable.
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