3Year Old Not Wanting to Sleep Alone

Updated on November 25, 2008
T.B. asks from Willow Spring, NC
13 answers

Ive pretty much been alone with dad very little in the picture, however my soon to be 3 year old has always been clingy to me and still refuses to sleep in his own bed. I have just stopped all together on trying to make him sleep alone I either sleep with him or he sleeps with me. I know its so bad to keep allowing him to do this and Im being selfish for I have to admit I like the security myself. The problem I have ran into now is that he will not get in his bed with out me. He thinks were suppose to go together every night. I have things I need to do and cannot do them if I have to go to bed with him. I say I will lay with him to he goes to sleep but then I always fall asleep too.. He also has this thing where he has to have his feet under me or between my legs. Its like a comfort for him. Kinda strange I guess, but he has to be touching me to know Im there. Not to get into my relationship with his dad but he has seen things when his dad and I had faught, maybe things are stimulating from that which that has been earlier in the year nothing too recent. Im sure he hasnt forgotten but maybe he has .He hasnt seen his dad in a few months now and never ask for him. He knows who his daddy is but never ask about him or wonders where he is at.

I need help for when I start dating I would like for my son to be in bed at a certain time and be on a schedule . He thinks were suppose to go to bed at the same time.I had to once lock the door so he couldnt get out. I felt like a horrible mom ,when he doesnt understand what Im doing and hes screaming for me and crying ,he cries him self to sleep on the floor in front of the door. I dont want him to think Im being mean .I can only explain so much why Im doing what Im doing to him.

Im so aditment about him having blankets and stuffed animals as a security and having to have those things for I want him to be independant and not rely on those things just to go to sleep. However , I did try this new pillow like thing but it didnt work anyways. Please help !!! The chair beside his bed doesnt work. We do however have schedule at night dinner, bath and book reading to calm down but he knows when its bedtime and throws a fit that Im not going to get in the bed with him. How do I explain to him that he needs to go to bed??

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So What Happened?

Ok. Its not going so well.. He literally refuses to sleep without me. He will not stay in his bed he comes out of his room crying at the tops of his lungs.Im tired.. I have now decided to let him sleep with me, but before I started this back I tried putting on a movie for him and told him to lay in his bed and I would let him watch a movie if he laid there. He would agree. I was thinking he would fall asleep.NOPE ! He would watch it and then want to watch another one this went on til 11:00 at night til 12:00. I now have created a moster. He refuses now to even go to his bed unless I put a movie on. I want him to get adequate sleep for we have to wake up at 7:00am. I dont want him to have bags under his eyes. UURRGGGGG..Now what !!!I guess Im not going to fight it, but I cant get anything done during the evenings because he wants me to go to his bed with him. I want him to go to bed a certain time and mommy have my time. He doesnt have a bed time , he will stay up and fight it til I actually go to bed.

I want to thank everyone for the advice and opinions. They were great.Iam however understanding things and looking at things from a different perspective and learning my son, I feel all over again. I know they go through stages and hes not quite to the point where he can really explain how he is feeling I try to talk more about expressing his feelings . There's no doubt him and I are very close and both need each other. I definitely will not be dating any time soon until I feel him and I are comfortable with how things are going. I do not want to have any other worry or fear he may have of losing me or me getting hurt. Thats what drives me crazy not knowing what hes thinking or feeling about what he saw or maybe heard. He doesnt act out though or show aggression to get me to understand ,hes very loving and well mannered. I do try very hard to be patient with him but typically, he is 3 and never wants to be told the "no" word and boy when he hears that its on.... :) Thanks again for all the women who have shared their voice .Please continue to share for this will not overcome over night. I will still keep everyone posted on what has worked the best for us.I have learned alot about myself and realizing what I could change within me.
We love the Lord,please keep praying for us. Til then, God Bless.

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answers from Raleigh on

Try to read "the no cry sleep solution". I addresses this issue. I am still in the beginning of the book. My daughter will be 2 in January, and my husband has had enough of not being able to roll over. I am new to Wake County and would be up love to have play date if you are in the area.

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answers from Nashville on

Children all handle change differently. If his daddy is gone your little one may need reassurance for awhile that mommy is not going anywhere. Children at his age can't verbalize their needs. I would give him what he seems to need from you right now and not fight it. Relax. He will eventually want to sleep in bed without you. It's a developmental stage. Older children do not want to sleep with mommy. So eventually he will outgrow it.

As for dating. I would take it slow. If you have been in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship you may want to get a book called "Getting Free" by Ginny NiCarthy. It will really help you identify abusive personalities in men and help you not hook up with another abuser. Take dating slow. It sounds like your little one may not be ready to share mommy yet.

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answers from Charlotte on

Dear T.,

It's going to take more than you just wanting to change this. Asking for a referral from your doctor to get the help of a willing child psychologist now is the best thing you can do. It's going to take putting together a program, with your doctor's help, to get you and your son through this. I wouldn't do this without professional help of some kind. Your son has seen some difficult things when you and his father were fighting, and they are affecting him in the way he thinks about his place in the family. You don't have a father figure at home sleeping with you, so I believe from your description that he has put himself into the place of the father figure where bedtime is concerned. T., it's not going to be healthy for him as he grows older to do this to himself. He doesn't have the capacity yet to talk about his father, and as he grows up and his father continues to disappoint him, he may not learn to talk about it in a way that helps him get past the hurt. That's probably why he won't ask about his father. Depending on what he saw, he may think he has to protect you, thus sleep with you during the whole of bedtime, not letting you go elsewhere in the house while he's in bed, and making sure you both touch while you're in the bed. This is the only way he knows how to cope.

That doesn't mean that he should continue to sleep with you. You might feel guilty when he cries, but you'll feel even more guilty if he is such a mama's boy later on that you can't get him to separate from you in the normal way. It's important to do this at some point so that you can have a normal relationship with someone else that he will accept, and so that he'll have a healthy relationship with his wife later on.

I would not continue to be adamant with him about not sleeping with stuffed animals and blankets, if I am understanding what you said correctly. Kids with and without problems need "lovies" in their bed. Depriving him of that isn't going to make him independent. It's okay for them to use lovies to help them sleep. If I didn't understand the meaning of your sentence, just disregard.

T., lots of parents still sleep with their kids at this age, though that's something I didn't do with mine. However, I really and truly think that your circumstance is different than the "regular family bed". I wish you all the best in getting through this.


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answers from Raleigh on

First thing I will tell you is when my husband who is in the army has to leave, both my little ones are so stuck to me I cant even go to the bathroom by myself. They are a girl 5 and a boy just turned 4. We have been married for almost 7 yrs and it is the same every time. I think they are afraid that I am gonna leave them also. I tell them that daddy is at work and he is doing an important job. Work is a bad word at our house becasue it means you are gone for a long time. He has been gone for 16mths. Maybe your son is afraid you are leaving also like daddy. Kids are smart little things that know more than we think.

I was a single parent of a daughter for 8 yrs. For that 8 yrs we pretty much slept together most nights. She would sleep by herself for a period of time but then come to my bed. I didnt mind because my rule of thumb was my daughter would not see anyone sleeping in my bed that I was not gonna marry. She is 14 now. I married when she was 8. I made a deal with her even then that she had to sleep in her own bed but when my husband was gone she could sleep with me or I would sleep with her. I dont find cosleeping to be bad.

I really wouldnt lock him in his room because then he will not like his room. This may be why he is afraid to be in there. Being alone at the age of 3 is scarey. There are so many shadows and somehow they always seem to hear about the boogy man or monsters. I dont know how it comes about but it does.

Unless you are planning on bringing people home then I would not worry about it. If it absolutely bothers you that much then you should tolerate the crying for a few days and do what he nanny suggests. Put the child to bed and let them know that it is time for bed and he is sleeping in his bed by himself. If he gets up remind him that it is time for bed. After that each time he gets up just put him back in his bed not speaking to him. It may take a while but they will get the message that it is bedtime and they are sleeping in their bed.

Good Luck

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answers from Charlotte on

Hi T. -

I know you'll get lots of great advice about how to teach him to sleep independently, so I thought I'd offer some random other thoughts......

Just fyi, my son always had to have his feet on my bare stomach or his hands near the skin on my chest. He had only very mild sensory problems, so I think it was more just his personality. It's very common from what I understand. He's 10 now, and still loves to cuddle. imho, I don't think your son wanting to have his feet on you is "strange".

Your son's behavior of sleeping with you has been created over 3 years of time, so I wouldn't expect to change it over night. Would be nice if it worked that way, wouldn't it?!

I know it's said that "consistency is key", and I believe it. But I also know what it's like to be a stressed out, exhausted single mom who has great intentions, but can't always follow through. Don't beat up on yourself just because you give in once in awhile - we're all human. Just refine your goals (getting him to sleep by himself, getting him on a schedule), and begin again with renewed gusto.

Can you try to offer him simple, concrete choices? For examp: Do you want to listen to this cd or that one while you get ready for bed? This book or that one? These pj's or those? The idea being to offer him some sense of control over his life. He can't control whether or not his dad comes to see him, but he can control some things. For the big things (When and where he goes to bed, etc) he still needs to rely on the adults in his life, even if he insists he's in charge. (Amazing how strong-willed our little ones can be, isn't it?)

I didn't quite understand your thoughts about stuffed animals, and don't mean to contradict them. Personally, I think they're a good idea and would be less apt to create loss of independence than co-sleeping might. If you're worried, you might look at (if you haven't already) normal developmental milestones info such as: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx?p...

I think it's a great idea to get him used to going to bed by himself before you start dating.....any new adult in his life may feel threatening to his 3 yr old self and make it more difficult to encourage independence.

One other thought - does he have regular periods of one-on-one time with you during other times of the day? If going to bed is his only "sure" alone time with you, it might make it that much harder for him to give it up.

Best of luck to you.



answers from Louisville on

I had my 2 children sleeping with me every night for years. I was a single mom at that time, my son was 3 and I had a little girl too. When I remarried, they did not understand why I had to move them out of the bed and instead sleep with my husband. I take my son to bed, he could cry all night, for 3 months he would knock at our door. My heart feels like it was going to explode because I felt so bad for him crying for me. One morning, I woke up and found him sleeping outside our bedroom door in the hallway, but I just kept myself from taking him to our bed at night. I consulted a Counselling place and I was told to take him back to his bed and not to take him back to my bed. It was really so hard but after 3 months, he was fine. When it's time to go to bed, he just goes straight to his bed, I will kiss him and talk to him and tuck him in the blanket and hug him for a little while then he goes to bed. One day he asked me why he can't sleep with me anymore and I just told him that Mommy got married and I have to sleep with his new Daddy. You won't believe what he answered, he said, "Oh, I didn't know that! Why didn't you tell me that you got married, okay, I guess I can't sleep with you no more till I grow up."



answers from Memphis on

You are the link to your child's security in this world and with his future relationships through out his life. Keep that secure and close bond with him and when he is a pre-teen/teenager then he will be more likely to talk to you about life's issues.

You are the one that will mold him into "what it means to be a man" since the Father is not around. So, mold him into a sensitive yet strong individual who is kind, gentle, ethical and Godly. You (and you're future daughter in law/granchildren) will reap the rewards.

God made us to be dependent on one another to a large degree. Appropriate touch and closeness is vital!
You only have a few years on this Earth to really enjoy, mold and be close to your son so embrace this time and worry less about finding a man to date that will most likely make the security issues with your son more severe.

The more your son realizes that you are there for him and won't leave him then his tensions and clinginess will subside and you will begin to have more and more of a life without him attached to you. It's just going to take some time....
God Bless!



answers from Raleigh on

I have had many friends who used the supernanny method and it worked for all of them. It might take 2 hours the first time but if you stay consistent it will work.



answers from Jacksonville on

You know, when he is 18 he will eat with a spoon, wipe his own butt and sleep in some other girl's bed. Enjoy our little boy. My hubby is a Marine and last year when he was gone for 13 months my 6 now 7 year old slept with me every night. THis deployment he is staying in his own bed, for the most part.
Pretty soon that little boy is going to grow up and move away and forget to call mama. And if he is anything like my eldest he will be just fine.
All 4 of mine have had stuffies in their beds forever. My son has chats with his and my daughters arrange them just so.
I would set some rules about him going to bed without you. Maybe you sit in the room and read him a story, or get him a cd player and have music in the room. It'll work out.



answers from Asheville on

I wouldn't want to sleep alone if I were him either! ;-) If there's no Dad in the picture, I would just let him stay there for another year or two. Europeans do the family bed thing for years. I would like to know where he is and know that no one could snatch him out of his room without me knowing it. In this day and time, nothing is out of the question anymore. I hope you find something that works for you. Take care.



answers from Louisville on

First of all, I don't think it's strange that he would want to sleep with you, and it's OK for you to want to change the set-up. It's going to take time and there are loving ways to do it. I think you could get some good ideas from a book called "The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers" by Elizabeth Pantley. Good luck!



answers from Charlotte on

you know my son just turned 3 and is the same way but im not actually single mom i live with my kids dad not married but he works out of town alot and my sons the same way sometimes if hes really tired hell go to sleep without me but he ends up in my bed in the middle of the night and i also have a 9 month old son i live in shelby



answers from Charlotte on

I don't have any advice about the sleeping issue - I do feel for you about it, though - sounds very difficult. But I noticed in your "about me" section that you are looking for other single moms to build friendships with. If that's still the case, I would highly recommend Charlotte Mommies to you (if you live in Charlotte - if you live outside of Charlotte, there are mommies groups for those areas too - just go to www.themommiesnetwork.org to find the appropriate group). The address is just www.charlottemommies.org. Membership is free, you just have to sign up and wait usually about 48 hours for them to approve your application. There are literally thousands of moms on there, I'm sure you could find lots of single moms who'd be happy to befriend you. Hang in there! God bless.

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