“Mommy I’m scared. Can I sleep with you?” Nearly every parent has heard those words at some point or another and some parents hear them every night. Is allowing your children to sleep with you a good idea or a bad idea? At what age does it become inappropriate? What are the benefits and the drawbacks of allowing kids to sleep in the same bed with you? May the words herein help you to better clarify those answers for yourself.
For me, the answer about whether it’s a good idea to let kids sleep in our beds is best answered in a pet store. With rare exception, young animals sleep curled up in each other, and if there is an adult animal nearby, the young all sleep in the comfort of that adult’s presence. Despite our best efforts to try to distinguish ourselves from other animals, the fact is that our animal nature is hardwired into us. Part of that animal nature, for very young children is the urge to sleep near the ones who make them safe. While that is my most basic answer, there are, though a few other things to consider.
For example, if you are fortunate enough to have your spouse around while raising your young children, the fact is that your children need for you and your spouse to have time together where you can communicate physically. That too is a natural animal need and it must be considered. If your only time together is in bed, then it may be that it is better for your kids to be forced out of the bedroom a bit, with the understanding that unless you are a Hollywood actor playing a part or a compete liar, physical communication between spouses is not an all night affair.
Generally speaking, it is a good thing to allow kids to develop at their own natural pace. Some wean themselves much sooner than others, and there is value in allowing each child to be themselves. Society will spend many years telling them to be or not be certain ways. The place to learn that it’s okay to be themselves is at home. Part of helping them be themselves though is also a dedication to making sure they have their own space that they recognize as their own. When they want it, it should be there for them.
For children to choose their rooms willingly as the place they sleep requires a few things. Firstly, their room needs to be a place that they adore! Let the kids help to make their room look as they want it…even if it’s hideous! It is their space. Respect it. Join them in their excitement about how they choose to decorate their space. Pride of ownership goes a long way. Part of respecting it understands that a bedroom cannot be a place where punishment takes place…ever. If you need to put your kids in timeout, and you also don’t want them to sleep with you, then don’t equate their bedroom as a place of banishment. It’s the surest way to make them lonely at night without you. Furthermore, if you are smarter than the government and realize that God gave us extra padding on the posterior for a reason, then don’t punish that posterior in the child’s sanctuary. Let their room be a place that they go to hide from that which hurts or scares or confuses.
If you want to wean your kids from sleeping in your bed, start them off in their beds on nights when they are readily willing, and never make their room feel like a place of banishment or punishment. Accept the fact that it may take time before they regularly sleep through the whole night in their own place. It’s part of natural development.
When it comes to decisions about allowing your children to sleep in bed with you, remember, you made a choice to be their parent, not the parent of the kid that never gets on your nerves. Treat them as precious, and sacred. Respect them and their nature always. This is holistic parenting at its finest. Children do not understand cause and effect relationships, but every creature is born with an innate sense that they should not poop where they eat. If you want to influence behavior in your children, may your actions and choices be consistent with understanding all of the cause and effect relationships on their behalf. We can’t smack them for hitting their siblings and in the same breath say “We don’t hit!” Should you allow your kids to sleep in the bed with you? The question is simply too small. The real moral imperative is that we provide our children with a consistent world where they can develop into the people they were meant to become rather than the ones we have decided we want. May your children make wise choices as the result of having wise parents.
Craig is the founder of LifeGuider, he is dedicated to improving not only himself but also others in being more physically fit and mentally capable of handling life’s challenges. He is not your regular life coach, no fancy clothes or fast cars, just a regular “Ole Joe” who has experienced the ups and downs of life like everyone else.