Ask a parent when a child should no longer sleep in the parent’s bed and the opinions will vary. Below are situations from three different parents, representing their beliefs and how they handle the question: how old is too old?
Parent # 1
Student, age 28, engaged, father of two children age four and two
Parent # 1’s daughter is in the terrible twos and has recently refused to sleep in her own bedroom. As a solution to silence the constant crying, Parent # 1 committed mistake number one: He let his daughter climb into bed with her.
As parents, we think this is a one-time solution. Tomorrow night everything will go back to normal and your screaming child will magically return to her bed as if this mini-meltdown never happened. However, in your child’s mind this is a victory in the war of control, and once a point is scored your child will never retreat over already won ground.
The best way to keep a child out of your bed is to never let her spend the night there in the first place.
Parent # 1 is learning this lesson the hard way. He sleeps on his couch so his fiancé and their toddler have more room in the queen size bed. While Parent # 1 is concerned about the lasting implications of letting his daughter sleep with them, his fiancé isn’t too worried about it. She slept in her parent’s bed until she was thirteen.
Parent # 2
Office Manager, age 32, single, mother of a 12-year-old son
Parent # 2 is a strong believer in firm parenting. Her house has a lot of rules and discipline is a key factor in the smoothness of her household. However, her son has not always been such an angel of a child. He learned good behavior from discipline and because his parent’s stuck to their guns.
Once Parent # 2’s son upgraded to a toddler bed, he was no longer allowed to sleep in Parent # 2’s bed. He could lay in bed and cuddle, but if his eyes starting drooping, it was off to his own bed, pronto. He’d fight Parent # 2 on it, of course, crying so hard he would make himself throw up. Parent # 2 would shut the door on his cries and in the morning, she would find him lying right behind the door all cuddled up in his blanket on the floor. It took him a few smacks in the head before he finally learned to stay in his bed.
Now 12, Parent # 2’s son went on a school sponsored trip overseas to Australia for two weeks. Parent # 2 believes her strict adherence to rules helped guide her son to become the disciplined and respectful son he is today.
Parent # 3
Stay-at-home Mom of blended family, married, age 44, mother five children and one grandchild ranging from 19 years old to 1-year-old.
Parent # 3 gives in to the demands of her children, finding it hard to say no to the precious faces of her beautiful children. Her children have always slept in her bed and she hasn’t had a good night sleep since before her children were born. If not sleeping with their mother, her children sleep with each other. Recently the middle daughter decided she was old enough to sleep by herself and moved back into her own bed. This left the youngest son without a bed mate, so Parent # 3 crawls into her son’s twin bed to share it with him for one night. Six months later she is still stuck in her son’s bed. Even when she is sick and her son doesn’t want her in his bed spreading sickly germs, she stays in his room, sleeping on his floor so she can be close to him all night long.
There is no right or wrong answer to when your child should stop sleeping in your bed, if they ever start. That is a personal choice each parent must make. Making it before the bedtime routine is broken by screaming, kicking and crying is the best option. One thing is certain, no matter what your personal preferences on allowing your children to sleep in your bed, like most skirmishes in parenting, once they start it is very difficult to make them stop.