Lying Down With Your Children: Healthy or Not?

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There is a lot of short-sighted finger-pointing when it comes to raising healthy, well adjusted,
independent kids. One debate over which parents treat other parents very
badly is whether or not you should lie down with your child at bedtime.

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Blogger Wendy Wisner feels this time in a child’s life when he even wants you around is precious and temporary. She writes, “I lie down with them because there have been plenty of nights in the past few years that my older child did not need me there at all — times that he literally shoved me out of his room so he could fall asleep on his own. But I lie down with him the nights that he is stressed, restless, or just needs me and doesn’t know why.”

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Wisner believes this is a special time of day when her sons’ inhibitions decrease and
they tend to reveal their secrets. “As they’re drifting off, they’ll pour out their hearts to
me, opening up about stuff they keep under lock-and-key during their waking hours,”
she relayed.

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Founder of the Your Modern Family website, Becky Mansfield, agrees with Wisner.
Admitting to the fact this habit of 5 minutes can turn into 40 pretty quickly, she still
submits, “This is when the good stuff comes out. This is when I hear all of those details
that almost-teens don’t tell their moms anymore.”

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Mansfield would argue beyond this quiet moment of closeness, this attention paid to
your child lays the groundwork for his beliefs about his own self-worth. When asked if
she will lie down with him, Mansfield caught herself often saying to her son, “Just for a
second,” and then rattling off the numerous other tasks to which she must attend.

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Upon reflection, Mansfield realized what she was transmitting to her child in this simple
phrase was: “‘Just for a second. Other things are coming first.’” What she would rather
say to her kids through the simple act of listening to them at night is, “TODAY, RIGHT
NOW, YOU ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO ME.”

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One study conducted by Drs. Yoo Rha Hong and Jae Sun Park support positive
reinforcement for polite behavior. In their study, they write, “Children who misbehave
often do so not out of malice, but out of ignorance, boredom, or frustration, and simply
need to be taught, listened to, or redirected.”

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Drs. Hong and Park found children who are ignored misbehave to seek attention.
“When parents respond immediately to attention-seeking misbehaviors, such as temper
tantrums or screaming, it inadvertently reinforces that behavior… Children develop their
opinions about themselves by observing the way significant others respond to and
communicate with them.”

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Alicia Silverstone, actress and author of The Kind Mama, feels the practice of letting a
child “cry it out,” teaches him to devalue his own innate cues and to not trust his parents
to be there for him. She argues it also goes against a mother’s deepest instinct to
nurture her child as only she can.

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Silverstone mentions a study comparing two groups of colicky babies in which one
group received immediate attention and the other was left to self-soothe. The ones
given immediate comfort cried 70% less while those left to their own devices
demonstrated little if any progress comforting their panic and distress alone.

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The choice comes down to whether we want to force our kids to toughen up (which we
can’t) or teach them to behave lovingly towards others (which we can). It could be as
simple as paying attention to your child’s needs; not perpetuating rude behavior and
always rewarding positive behavior.