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Am I being a bad parent... by letting my five-year-old sleep in our bed?

This week, one reader doesn’t know how to respond to his son sleeping’s habits.

Image: Shutterstock/Irina Ippolitova

EACH WEEK IN our series, Am I Being A Bad Parent?, we hear from a reader who can’t figure out what to do about a tricky parenting situation.

To get a balanced view, we put the dilemma to a group of Irish parents, keeping things anonymous to encourage honest answers.

Before becoming a parent, sleep may have been something that you took for granted. Sleeping past 6am, not being disturbed throughout the night – and not being joined by a tiny toddler in the early hours – might even now be considered as luxuries. 

This week, one reader is wondering how to handle his five-year-old’s son inability to sleep throughout the night in his own bed. 

Have a parenting question you’d like some other mums and dads to weigh in on? Let us know anonymously here!

This week’s dilemma

My five-year-old son sleeps in our bed nearly every night. We always tuck him into his ‘big boy bed’ and he sleeps there for a few hours, but he almost always ends up climbing into our bed in the middle of the night and falls asleep straight away. At first, we used to try to put him back into his bed but he’d just keep coming in throughout the night – leaving all of us exhausted.

We’re well aware that he should be spending the night in his own bedroom, but it’s exhausting for us all trying to get him back in there. Am I being unreasonable by letting my son sleep in our bed?

Our anonymous readers’ responses

You’re not being unreasonable. Our nearly four-year-old son goes through phases of this behaviour and it’s not unreasonable to allow him to come in so you can all get some sleep. However, it is worth thinking about when you might be able to set aside some upcoming time when there is less on – for example, a long weekend – to have a go at breaking the cycle.

What works for us is to make a plan with our son to do something fun the following day and make it part of the plan that all the family must get a very good night’s sleep so that we can have a great time the following day, explaining that staying in his bed is part of that, and reminding him of it just as we put him to sleep.

We find it works for us because rather than a negative consequence to him running around in the night, he has a positive motivation to play his part.

No, you’re not being unreasonable. Our kids all slept in the bed with us at various stages once they were old enough to climb out of their own bed.  You might worry that they’ll never learn to sleep by themselves but suddenly they grow out of it. In my experience that was about age five or six.

You should praise them when they do stay in their bed through the night; make sure you comment on it and encourage that behaviour.  My advice would be not to worry too much as long as you can tolerate it yourselves and are getting a decent night’s sleep with kids in the bed.

You’re not being unreasonable at all. You have to do whatever it takes to get through the day, and the next day, and the one after that. And that means choosing your battles.

I wonder though if it would be worth exploring a way to incentivise him staying in his bed. What about a system where he gets a gold star for every night in his bed, and then for every 10 gold stars he gets a small toy or a new book?

So what’s the final tally? Is this reader being unreasonable?

Yes – 0

No – 3

Tell us your thoughts in the comments! Have a parenting question you want answered? Let us know anonymously in our survey here and we’ll put it to the real-life experts: your fellow mums and dads.

And want to win Powerscourt Hotel’s afternoon tea for two (plus a Carter Beauty gift to take home)? Enter here - and don’t forget to subscribe to our Family Newsletter below.

More: Am I being a bad parent… by telling our four-year-old she’s not allowed to eat meat?>

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