I received this e-mail from Shauna, who listens to WBCL in Fort Wayne. Shauna writes:
Dear Dr. Bill,
I have a three boys, ages 2, 9, and 13. When it’s time for bed my older boys don't want to sleep in their rooms. They prefer the couches in the living room, or sleeping bags under the table — anywhere but their own rooms.
The problem is I no longer have a place in the house where I can have some quiet time to myself. My husband works nights so he’s not around to deal with this, and it’s too exhausting to argue with my boys about it every evening. What should I do?
The solution to your problem doesn’t involve arguing with your boys. Words, reasons, and arguing are rarely effective in getting kids to change their behavior. What will change behavior is setting firm rules and then implementing consequences when those rules are broken.
My guess is that your boys don’t want to sleep in their rooms because they’ve discovered it’s more FUN to stay up late and have a “camp out” in the living room.
Calmly let them know that unless they sleep in their rooms—and stay there for the entire night—they will lose some kind of activity or privilege the next day. The consequence needs to be something that’s important to them—such as no TV, no video games or no bike-riding.
If they break the rule, implement the consequence. Don’t get drawn into an argument or give in to whining or complaining—simply take away the privilege.
If you stick to your guns and your husband backs you up when he’s home, your boys’ creative sleeping arrangements may soon be a thing of the past.
Thanks for writing, and good luck!