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Parenting my boyfriend's son...

My boyfriend of a year and a half just moved in together. He has a 3 year old son who stays with us most of the time now. His was living with my boyfriend's parents before and still stays there a couple nights a week. When he stays at their house, he sleeps in a bed in their room and we can't get him to sleep in his own bed at our house now. And he also still wants his pacifier all the time and he's too old for it. My boyfriend will only give it to him at bedtime but his grandma gives it to him whenever he wants. How do we get him to start sleeping in his own room WITHOUT the binky?

What should we do?




Wendy's advice

There are a couple of ways you could go here, but whichever you choose, the first thing you'll need to do is to get the grandparents on the same page as you. Both you and your boyfriend need to sit down with them and discuss what you want to do and why it's extremely important for them not to undermine your parenting by doing the opposite.

Firstly, the pacifier issue. Many children rely on the comforts of a pacifier at night with no harmful effects until they outgrow it on their own, sometimes not until the age of 4 or 5. Knowing this, I would leave the issue alone at least until your family situation is a little more settled. I believe that taking away the one security tool he has, at a time when there's a lot of change going on around him, would be unfair. However, restricting his use of it only to bedtime, and not letting him get past the age of 5 still using it would be acceptable. If you're really not willing to let him have it anymore and want to quit cold turkey, you'll need to do some work, and to deal with the possible upset and tantrums this may cause. First, I'd give him a few days' warning and be positive about what is going to happen. Tell him it's time for the binky to go, and that there won't be any new ones after the day you've picked. When the day comes, have a small celebration (invite the grandparents so they can be a visible part of it), toss the thing, wave bye-bye, and congratulate him on being such a big boy. Then prepare for the next few days to be hell. Do not, under any circumstances, buy him another one when the crying, whining, screaming and sleepless nights become unbearable. It will pass.

As for him sleeping with you, unlike the pacifier issue, this is something I'd try to nip in the bud. It's important that he doesn't see this as a rejection, so be positive about the change. Emphasize what a big boy he is and make sure he has some comfort items like stuffed animals in his room. If there are any small decorating jobs he can help you with in there, let him be involved. If he still naps during the day, I'd have him sleep in his own bed just at naptime at first to get him used to sleeping alone. When you feel he's ready to try sleeping there at night, have a bedtime routine such as reading a book together or singing to him (or both) after he's gotten into bed. You need to be prepared to have to sit in there with him, and to be comforting and reassuring if he wakes up crying in the first couple of weeks. As frustrating as it is to have to spend half your night up with a toddler, don't be angry with him or use guilt or shame-inducing arguments to get him to sleep better. Keep in mind that he is unable to sleep alone because he hasn't received a consistent enough message about this from the adults in his life.

It seems to me that your stepson is looking for some security and comfort. If you can make sure he gets plenty of it in other ways (your attention, your love, your time, consistent parenting/grandparenting and rules etc), he'll be fine.




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