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Breaking a Bed Time Habit

Question

Hi, my 9yr son will not sleep alone. I let him sleep with us but now I don't know how to break the habit. During day he is very independent, strong willed kid but at night he cries and throws a fit of he wakes up and we have left the room. This is hurting my marriage also.

Answer

Thank you for allowing us to help you. A nine year habit will be more difficult to break that a one year habit. A child in the marital bed is certainly not a relationship builder. If your 9 year old is having temper tantrums, that is a sign that he continues to be rewarded for his obstinance. I suggest using the ticket system as outlined in "The Well Behaved Child." The target behavior could be “sleeping in your own bed” with the violation consequence clearly stated. Let your son know that you are not open to discuss where he sleeps from now on. If he is afraid of the dark, then install a night light. If necessary, when you go to bed, lock your bedroom door. Under no circumstances should your son, at his age, be interfering with his parents’ intimacy or chance to rest peacefully. Your challenge will be to not give into his dramatics and to contain your emotional reaction. This will take a great amount of patience and endurance to address but I guarantee you it will be resolved if you stay the course.

Gretchen Slover, Psy.D., LMFT
drgretchenslover.com

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