Dear Katherine: Did I Go Too Far Trying to Meet My Son’s Needs?
My 5-year-old LOVES sleeping with Mom and Dad at night. When we aren’t together, he says things like, “I’m so alone in this house,” which breaks my heart.
When he began coming into our room at night, we tried to send him back to bed. But eventually, I recognized that he has an unmet need for affection at nighttime, so I decided to go back to his room with him and sleep in his bed.
This decision has unleashed bedtime chaos. My son isn’t sleeping better, my husband and I are barely sleeping at all, and now our daughter feels left out and isn’t sleeping well either.
I wanted to meet his need, but did I go too far?
Hey there, Totally Exhausted,
I feel for you! Sleep deprivation is no joke, and running on empty can be detrimental to our mental and physical health.
I don’t think you took it too far trying to meet your son’s needs. You were trying to be an understanding parent. Still, it sounds like you both need to do some problem-solving here.
Conscious parenting gives us two paths to take in the face of conflict. The first is to show your child how a change in behavior or routine benefits them. The second is to show them how their behavior or routine keeps you from meeting your own needs.
I recommend approaching this scenario from both sides!
Your son is still young, but he’s capable of understanding your emotions.
Try saying something like. . .
“I really wanted to support you and help you sleep through the night, so I decided to sleep in your room with you. But now, I’m exhausted. And when I’m exhausted, I can’t be the best version of myself for you. So we need to figure out something else that works for both of us.”
If your son is anything like most kids, he hasn’t had many opportunities to solve a problem like this one. Even the most “well-behaved” children are used to adults telling them what to do, which isn’t conducive to raising independent kids.
Avoid that common parenting mistake by encouraging him to brainstorm a list of potential solutions with you. Let him know that any idea is acceptable, no matter how silly or improbable. The important thing is that he feels heard and empowered.
Once he has the freedom to brainstorm with you, the two of you can decide on the next course of action. You may need to try different solutions to see what works and what doesn’t — but you’ll figure it out. . . together.
Love and Blessings,
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