This is a highly debated topic: Should kids be allowed to sleep in the marital bed? In today’s episode, Dr. Leman provides a no-nonsense answer. Listen now to find out when a child should leave the bed or if they should even be there in the first place.
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Doug: Hey, Andrea, what are we talking about today?
Andrea: Well, this is what Dr. Leman said:
Dr. Leman: Do not start habits with your children that you do not want to continue throughout your child’s graduate school education.
Andrea: And the question that we’re dealing with today has to do with having your kids in your own bed, and husbands and wives disagreeing about that, and so this might sum it up, but let’s hear what Dr. Leman has to say about it.
Doug: I’m looking forward to this one.
Well, my name’s Doug [Turpening].
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: If this is your first time with us, we are so glad, absolutely wonderfully excited that you are with us today, and just want to let you know for our first time listeners, this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help.
So, Dr. Leman, I still get questions at email@example.com, and I know we’ve answered this one before, but I still get it a ton of times, so I thought we’d come back. This one was asked again. “My spouse wants our four year old to stay in our bed. When should I have a kid leave our bed and how do I get my spouse to agree to it?”
Dr. Leman: Oh, wow. Yeah, we have answered that in one form or another lots of times, I think. By the way, first of all, speaking at couples, I have to give a shout out, if I may. It’s fun to hear how people listen to our podcast, and I was with Adam and [Jenny Bowers] this weekend over in Manchester, Missouri, and we had a life-changing even there for a lot of people, and they were sharing that they were looking for a resource. They were young, they were starting a family, and they were just looking for some good stuff, and to use their words, they stumbled upon me and have been avid readers and doers of the word, so to speak, since. And they’re really cute, nice, young couple. They have a five year old, and a little two year old, and they told me that they do their yard work with … They have their little earbuds on. They do their yard work, and then when their yard work’s over, they come in and talk about the podcast, so they both are listening through their device. I just thought that was sort of cool.
So, anyway, back to our question of the day about kids in bed. Number one, little [Beuford] doesn’t belong in bed, should’ve never been there to begin with, and what I want you to memorize is do not start habits with your children that you do not want to continue throughout your child’s graduate school education, okay? So watch out for starting habits. Kids never forget. They’re like little elephants, and they’ll nail you as soon as you deviate from whatever practice you started, so be careful.
When you bring that child into your bedroom, number one, you’re violating your marriage for openers. Your kids don’t belong in the marital bed. The marital bed is reserved for you two. Plus, you’re weakening the child’s self esteem. Why would I say that? Because you’re saying “You’re so stupid, you don’t have the ability to sleep in your own bed.”
The question I want you to ask parents is this: What are the needs in your life that make you feel like your child ought to be in bed with you? Now, I mean there’s people with PhDs after their name who think it’s a great idea, the family bed. I think it’s a terrible idea. I think in all families you need some separation. You need division. We all have different chores we have to do. We act different roles. Mommy and Daddy need a sacred place where they can be alone. Having kids in the bedroom is not appropriate.
Question, Dr. Leman. Can a kid ever come in a bedroom? Well, a thunderstorm. Kids get scared. I’ve said many times you’re the psychological blankie to your child. Having a little kid curl up with you because they’re frightened by a thunderstorm is one thing, but frightened because there’s a tiger going to eat me? Now we’re talking about the purpose of nature of the behavior. The kid is just working you. He is using fear, she is using fear as a way of manipulating you to letting her snuggle into that warm bed with you, so you’ve got to be careful on that kind of stuff.
Again, for our kids who just get up and wander throughout the night, I’ve often suggested putting a sleeping blanket under your bed, so if a kid had a need to be close to you in the middle of the night, without waking you up, mind you, the kid pulls out the bedroll, crawls in it. Has a little pillow there, and night-night. You just got to be careful you don’t step on the sucker when you get up in the morning.
Andrea: Of course, for me with four kids, I’m thinking, I bring babies home. I’m exhausted, and we’re nursing, and during the night, I bring them to bed and nurse them. Are you saying I should be sitting up in a chair exhausted every time I have to nurse a baby?
Dr. Leman: No, you can bring a little infant into bed, but you do know that there are situations where kids have lost their lives laying next to their mommy.
Andrea: I had heard that, but you know … When you’re tired like that …
Dr. Leman: So it’s like telling the La Leche League that bottled milk is best for kids. There’s an instant fight there. That maternal, motherly, “I want to be close to my child,” … Listen, we had five kids. I’ve told the kids … I said, “You had the most patient mother in the world. You kids were sick, she would put you on her lap. She would rock you incessantly.” I understand a mother’s love and her closeness to her children, but take it at this point. Nursing should end. Now I’ll get in trouble with a whole bunch of people, but I’ve been in trouble all my life. Nursing should end around a child’s first birthday. You don’t go to college with them, okay?
Andrea: So you’re saying, okay, if you’re going to bring them into bed, make sure you stay awake, and don’t leave them there.
Dr. Leman: Right. And realize there’s an end to that. The problem is is gets back to whose needs are being met here, and lots of times it’s the mother’s needs that are being met through having that child so close. My question is what does that do for the child? When does a child develop independence? When a child is born, that little 19-and-a-half incher comes home from the hospital. For years, I’ve made the recommendation, in the first two weeks of that child’s life, leave that little sucker at home. Well, not by themselves obviously, but go out for dinner as a couple, and you set the paradigm for yourself as well as the child that Mommy and Daddy will not always be there, because the reality is that Mommy and Daddy will not always be there. And those of us who are adults will attest to the fact we live over half of our life without our parents if you’re somewhere in the norm.
So, again, our goal is to arrear an adult and not a child.
Doug: And now a special for all our podcast listeners. One of the most popular books that Dr. Leman has ever written, Parenting Your Powerful Child, for only $2.99 February 26th to March 4th. If you’re fighting getting your kid out of the bed or in other areas of your life, this is a fabulous book to realize you have a powerful child. So you can get this in ebook form at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or wherever you can get your eBooks from.
Now, straight talk advice from Dr. Kevin Leman.
Dr. Leman: It’s part of our fabric of our society today to try to make sure that these kids are happy at every turn, and does that mean giving them things? Do you think that giving kids things is helpful? I mean, there’s a difference between what kids need and what kids want. Kids want everything. You don’t think the Madison Avenue people of New York know how to market so that you’ll open up your pocketbook and buy little [Schnookie] something in the grocery line? You ever notice what they put on the edges of those checkout counters in grocery stores? It’s ankle-biter heaven. “Mommy, I want that. Can I have this? Can I have that?” And parents many times, just to try to keep the kid quiet, succumbs to that.
So what are we training? We’re training up a hedonistic little sucker who tells themselves that what I say goes. I’m an authority here, and the basic foundation of parenthood crumbles before your eyes, and you think you’re loving your kid. You’re literally destroying your kid, parents. Wake up.
Doug: So the cultural forces say, no, Dr. Leman, you should let that kid stay in the bed for quite awhile because that’s really how we show our love. And it does feel great to have that little guy with us, so how do you counteract that incredible story that says if you really want to bond with them, let them have that.
Dr. Leman: Well, I think today’s parents, when it comes to this kind of discussion, are nuts. Nuts. Kids do not belong in bedrooms with you.
Let’s ask you this question: How does that help your sex life?
Andrea: It doesn’t.
Dr. Leman: I just finished a book called the Intimate Connection, which people are going to love, and it talks about growing together as one, and having this intimate connection. That’s a very, very difficult assignment for people today because most married people live what I call the married singles lifestyle. They’re married but you’d never know it because they lead such independent lives. They connect for a few minutes. They connect at dinner. They connect at night-night time. It’s tough to be a couple. Well, it’s really tough if you’ve got kids in bedroom with you.
Doug: When you say that it weakens your kids’ … What’d he say?
Andrea: Self esteem.
Dr. Leman: Yeah, self esteem.
Doug: How does it weaken-
Dr. Leman: They’re needy. They can’t go to sleep by themselves, so when do kids start doing things by themselves? How about the kid you take to kindergarten, and he’s hugging Mom’s leg or hiding behind the skirt, and he has separation anxiety now. Could it be because Mom was too close to little Buford? Maybe she was one of those moms that brought the kid in bed all the time. It weakens children. Children need to learn to grow.
Doug: It’s interesting you say that. When we were first married, my job required us to travel a whole bunch, and we sometimes did it as a family, and our oldest, James, he ended up sleeping all sorts of crazy spots from just a couple of months old to his first year of life, and he can sleep anywhere now. He has zero issues. I’m just connecting the dots on the self esteem. It does help them be able to do stuff on their own. And like, if he goes to a friend’s house, he has forever been able to sleep wherever. Interesting.
Dr. Leman: How about the parents that just tippy-toe around the child from the time the child’s born? The house is super quiet. “Oh, we’ll wake the baby.” My advice has always been make as much noise in that family as you can.
Andrea: Run the vacuum cleaner during nap time?
Dr. Leman: Sure, why not? I mean, get kids used to noise. They’ll develop a capacity to live with noise. They’ll be good sleepers.
Andrea: So I just have to ask for those who are thinking, well, what about attachment? Is this child going to think … Are we going to be attached? Are we going to have that connection that mother and child are supposed to have?
Dr. Leman: Those parents have read too many Parent magazine articles.
Doug: So let me ask the question, Mrs. Turpening.
Doug: You are now a 28 year old mom, and all your friends have all their babies sleep in their beds with them, and you now have your baby, and they ask you, “Oh, do you let James still sleep in bed with you? Isn’t it nice just to cuddle with them in the mornings?” And all that. Could you do this?
Andrea: Well, it’s hard. I mean, it was nice. It was nice to have that baby there.
Dr. Leman: Let me help Andrea out here a little bit to those girlfriends. I love cuddling with James. I love cuddling with Anna, but I really believe the healthiest thing for my son or my daughter is to identify with her part of the family residence, which is her bedroom, his bedroom. That’s their little castle. That’s where they belong. I think it’s healthier for them, and it certainly is healthier for us.
Doug: Could you [crosstalk]-
Andrea: That’s great. I like that dialogue.
Doug: You could say that? That didn’t sound cold-hearted to your girlfriends?
Andrea: No, because what I want to add to that is … And in the morning, Doug has already gotten up and he’s getting ready to go to work, and the kids and I, we snuggle.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. And there’s nothing better.
Andrea: They come in the bed with me and we snuggle, and we read a book.
Dr. Leman: Nothing better than snuggle time.
Doug: But you’re just saying … So snuggling in bed in the morning, if they want to come in real quick, great. Have them come in after they’ve slept through the night.
Dr. Leman: Not a problem. They just don’t belong sleeping in your bedroom.
Andrea: All right. Thank you.
Doug: Well, and the other thing that you’ve convinced me of is that the best thing I can do for my parenting is to stay married and in love with my wife, so if this doesn’t help that, that’s going to hurt my marriage, right?
Dr. Leman: Yeah, it’s tough enough to get it on with your wife or your husband without having kids in the bedroom.
Doug: Very true.
Thanks, Dr. Leman. And I sure hope that helps all you parents out there that are struggling with when do I have my kid leave our bed.
Well, as a quick reminder, Parenting Your Powerful Child is available for only $2.99 February 26th through March 4th in ebook form. Highly recommend that you get it. And as always, we would love any ratings and reviews on iTunes as it helps others find it and be aware of it, and if you really know somebody who wants help, send it on Facebook on over to them, and Have a New Kid By Friday podcasts would help them out.
Well, we sure love being with you, and we love adding to your parenting tool box, that you love those kids more and more.
Andrea: Have a great day.