Help! I Want My 6 Yr. Old Out of My Room!

Updated on December 17, 2007
A.Z. asks from Aurora, IL
9 answers

I have a 6 yr. old boy with ADHD and ODD. I can't get him to quit sleeping in our room and stay in his. For many years he had to share a room, but for over a year now at his primary address (my home) he has had his own bedroom. I don't mind an occasional thing when he is really sick, or has a bad dream. He keeps claiming he has "bad dreams" every night for the past several months! At first we thought it was sincere, but we realize with the frequency and lack of other behaviors when he has a bad dream that he is plotting to go in our bedroom for the beginning of trying to get him to bed.

If he can't get his way he wants to sleep in the living room, which is too difficult on my husband since he has a very early morning routine. We are stepping over him when we get up, or being suddenly flopped upon. We make efforts to cuddle him and give extra attention during the day to try to encourage him to stay in his own bed. We would also like to have some thing of a sex life which is impossible when a six year old is constantly going into your bedroom.

We can't lock him out of the bedroom because of our cats otherwise we would. Any ideas to encourage him to stay in his own bed when rewards and bribes aren't working. I know that at his father's he often shares a bed with his grandparents an aunt or his dad, which is a contributing factor. One that they don't see any problem and refuse to stop.

I'm hoping that the finally getting medicated along with the regular therapy will help at home, but I'm starting to go nuts. Santa not coming isn't even a deterrent.

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answers from Fort Wayne on

My five yr old did that before and I put a baby gate that didn't unlock easily or fall really easily in his bedroom door way...He hated it but now he sleeps in his own room without a problume...You tell him go to bed he goes into his room and lays down......

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answers from Indianapolis on

My LC is having the same trouble with her daughter. She's been bribing her with things - a week in her own bed means a trip to Chuckie Cheese, etc...
You could try something you know he values like that. First one week, then 10 days, then 2 weeks, etc...see if it works.
Good Luck!



answers from Chicago on

HI A.,

Your problem, while having elements of text book simplicity, is probably something you are going to need to work with a professional with.

Setting behavioral limits, in theory is easy, in practice, it can be a pain in the butt, because you have to be very consistent and stick to a workable plan. Workable plan is the key word here, because the text book plan won't work.

you have to devise a plan that you stick to. you have to very carefully think about all the things that will get in the way of carrying out the plan and then plan a way to handle those interferences.

Cats, closed doors, living room access, hyperactivity, medication times, consistent cooperation of other adults, all have to be accounted for.

I am a psychologist with an Office in Skokie IL. I think however, that consulting someone who specifically deals with these kinds of issues regularly would be more efficient than seeing me.

I know of one psychologist in North Brook, Victoria Lavigne, PhD who is very very good in my opinion. If you are in Chicago, I would suggest looking into seeing a psychologist at Children's Memorial hospital.

What you're looking for is someone who is going to let you devise a behavioral plan that you can carry out successfully. Not someone who is going to tell you what to do, but someone who will work with you so that both of you can figure out what works best for you.

If you can't find anyone you like, you can always call me,



answers from Chicago on

A., I know exactly how you feel I'm currently going through this exact thing with my soon to be 6 yr old daughter! We are slowly having success. First of all she NEVER had a bedtime until she started school at first it was 9 - 9:30 then it became 8:30 and now she's in bed at 8 on school nights. Believe it or not the earlier bedtime has helped her stay asleep (I was skeptical of this until I tried it!) We read a story at bedtime while she's lying in her bed. And if she stays in her bed asleep all night with no getting up and coming to mommy's bed then she finds a small prize under her pillow the next morning from the "sleep fairy", she loves this! If she get's up and wakes me up or gets into bed with me then no sleep fairy. And it's been about a month now and she's sleeping so much better in her own bed and the sleep fairy isn't coming everynight anymore I told her that the sleep fairy has noticed what a big girl she's being and won't be coming as often she was ok with this. And for prizes I just went to the dollar section at Target and got some small things there nothing fancy. When my daughter stays at her dads she sleeps with either her auntie or her daddy so there's no help coming from there. I wish you the best of luck I know how frustrating it can be, if you have any questions or need to talk feel free to contact me!



answers from Chicago on

The only thing I can think of is to give him a sleeping bag or some kind of "bed" on the floor of your room that he can use rather than the bed. That will help you and hubby get sleep, but not really help with getting time alone to expand your family. He could still come in your room and sleep in his sleeping bag, but not in the bed. Maybe after a while he won't be as interested in going in there since his bed is probably a lot more comfortable. Or you could start moving the sleeping farther and farther, but a 6 year old probably won't fall for that one.



answers from Chicago on

I've read some of the responses... the child room gate is an interesting approach. It can't hurt to try. Professional help seems okay, but do you have the time and can you afford it?

It can be tough to make changes and demands on a child, especially when they are used to getting their own way. But just because something happens at Dad's house, doesn't mean it is going to happen at YOUR house. Children understand limits and boundaries. They know what they can get away with, and with whom. Make it clear that AT YOUR HOUSE, the rule is he has to stay in his room after he goes to bed. What rewards or treats does he enjoy? Make those an issue. He may not care much about Santa or TV, so threats about those may not change behavior. Are you giving your child enough attention at other times of the day? Nothing can replace or be substituted for the attention a child receives from his parent(s).

As a teacher for more than 10 years, I've seen many children and parents, and I would have to say that you need to figure out what can feasibly work for your household. Don't set unreasonable time limits (by when you expect him to sleep in his room all night). It only sets you up for disappointment. Just watch for improvement (20 minutes longer, etc.), and reward those little steps. BUT DON'T GIVE UP.

KEEP IN MIND that CONSISTENCY is important. Bribes and threats do not work if you do not follow through. Don't make threats about Santa not coming because most likely you are going to give him presents. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Don't make promises and threats you can't keep. Your child will soon figure out that your words mean nothing and if you think he's hard to handle now, just wait!



answers from Chicago on

Wow, my daughter is only 15 months, so I do not have any first hand experience with this. My daughter already comes in and sleeps with us early in the morning because she sleeps better and longer that way, until 7 instead of until 5:30. But I have to say that my gut feeling when reading your post is that you are being awfully hard on your son. You say that for years you shared a room and now you expect him to just be able to sleep alone on his own. Do you really think he is "plotting" or is he perhaps just scared. In his mind he may be having bad dreams. Perhaps he can't fall asleep and is imagining bad things happening.

Also, I wouldn't expect medication to be the save-all. My husband was diagnosed ADHD before it became commonplace and was on Ritalin through college. He finally took himself off of it because he didn't care for it (his story is that Ritalin makes you focus but it can't control what you focus on, he would have papers due but would have the cleanest room in his frat house). Plus, it is actually an upper so the medication may affect your son sleeping. My husband would take his left-over Ritalin when we was doing an 8 hour car ride home to stay awake.

Finally, you say that you were married in August, that was probably a big change in your son's life and he is probably still adjusting and will be for a while. He probably wants more of your attention that your new husband is receiving now. You also say that you are hoping to expand your family. Have you talked to your son about this. This may also be bothering him since he has been your only child for quite some time.

I really think that you need to give your son a break. He seems to have a lot going on for a 6 year old to deal with. You state that he is already going to therapy, have you mentioned this at therapy? Perhaps they can help you and find a solution that will be worthwhile to both you and your son.

Good Luck,



answers from Chicago on

Is there somewhere you can put the cats so that you can try locking the door? As mentioned, the gradual approach would probably not work with a 6 year old, so you may just have to find a way to go cold-turkey... I can see how the living room would be an inconvenient place for your son, but wouldn't it be more convenient than in your bed?
Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

Hi A.,

I can SO relate to this. I am a single parent and have been since before my son's second birthday, I am the residential parent and my son did spend the night with his Dad, (once or twice a week), and I'm pretty sure he slept with his Dad until he was 7 or 8 years old. My son was diagnosed ODD and I used to have a problem with him going to sleep in his own bed. I used to let him fall asleep in the living room and then carry him into his bed. My son and I went to a program called Tuesday's Child and the recommended the following procedure:

Do your normal bedtime routine, i.e., bath, brush teeth, etc. Our bedtime routine included me reading him a story while he was lying down in his bed. When the story was over, I kissed him on the cheek and said "Good Night". He would immediately get up and come out of his room. I was to lead him back to his room and bed, (without saying anything to him), and immediately walk out of the room. I was to do this each and everytime he got up. The first night, my son got up 33 times and I thought to myself, this is ridiculous, it's easier to just let him fall asleep in the living room. About the 20th time or so, I said to him. Chris, it's bedtime, you need to go to sleep and I will talk to you again in the morning. I was also to record how many times my son got up. The second night, my son only got up 8 times and the 3rd night my son got up and came out of his room 3 times. The 4th night and EVERY night after that, my son went to sleep in his own bed and did not get up and come out of the room at all. I was SO glad I went through that beastly first and even second night and continued with this procedure because after the 3rd night it worked like a charm and has been so wonderful for me and really for him too.

Hope this helps,

J. Penfield
[email protected]

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