Ask Grandma Maggie

Parenting & Childcare Advice
Peggy Moss (1933-2014), also known as Grandma Maggie, penned a parenting column on this site for many years. Back by popular demand, we are republishing the column, sharing with you the best of Grandma Maggie’s parenting and childcare advice.
Unfortunately Grandma Maggie is no longer able to take questions.

Please help: she won’t sleep in her own room.

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Hi Grandma,

I have a 2 year old daughter and was just wondering if you could help me out with a little problem. We live in a two bedroom apartment and my daughter has her own room, but she won’t sleep in it. I have tried lying with her until she falls asleep and then she wakes up screaming and clings on to my neck — this has gone on for hours. Then we decided to put her bed in our room and that seemed to work ok until recently when she decided that she didn’t want to sleep in her bed but in ours. Again it was the fit throwing and screaming until I thought I would scream.

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So my question to you is how did you do it with four girls and how do I do it with mine? I know her sleeping in my room isn’t healthy; it especially hurts my relationship with my boyfriend (her dad) because I can’t be intimate with her in there even if she is sleeping. Any advice?

Thanks,
Stephanie

Dear Stephanie,

The only way a child learns to sleep in her own bed is if the parents are not conflicted about it. A parent who wants to sleep alone with their mate must consistently return a child to their bed each time they awaken. Better not to over explain. The first time you say, “We all sleep in our own beds.” The next time you say “Your bed.” The third time and thereafter you just return the child to bed, no matter how many times it takes. Once they know that you mean business they will sleep in their own bed. The vocal part of this must be gentle and not angry, mainly because the gentleness means you are not conflicted and you know what you are doing.

You may also start out by sitting next to her bed the first night until the baby falls asleep. The second night move half way to the door and the third night start at the bedroom door. After that, leave the room entirely when you put the baby to bed.

I do also think you explain this to your daughter ahead of time. Don’t dwell on it. Just say, “We are all going to sleep in our own beds tonight.” Then remind her at bedtime with the same words. That’s it. No magic, just consistency.

Good luck.
Grandma Maggie