Parenting Q & A-Children sleeping alone, When to medicate, Private areas

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By Gregory Ramey, PhD, child psychologist at Dayton Children's and Dayton Daily News columnist

Edition: August 19, 2007 | Topic: Questions from readers


My 8-year-old has never consistently slept in her room by herself. She typically refuses to go to her own bed, or gets up during the night and ends up in our bed.

This doesn't bother me, as I think she needs our emotional comfort and support. However, this is a source of conflict with my husband, as he is increasingly uncomfortable with a child her age routinely being in bed with us. I've tried to tell him that this is quite common in many other cultures, but he still thinks it's wrong. Your thoughts?


You are correct that in some cultures, including some families in the United States, children routinely sleep in the same bed as their parents. However, you are wrong in thinking that your daughter is doing this because she needs "emotional comfort." This behavior is more likely simply a habit, something she does because you allow it.

The fact that your husband is uncomfortable with this situation is reason enough for you to take action. There's no reason why your daughter cannot learn to sleep in her own bed.

Help your daughter fix up her room so it is attractive, friendly, and reflects her age. Inform her that from now on she will need to sleep in her own bed every night. Tell her that if she gets up in the middle of the night, you will direct her back into her own room.

When she first goes to bed, it would be reasonable for you or your husband to spend some time with her, perhaps reading or talking about the day. If you consistently redirect her back to her bed whenever she tries to enter your room, this problem with go away within two weeks. If you are concerned about other aspects of her behavior or emotional functioning, consult your family doctor for a referral to a mental health therapist who specializes in working with young children.


My son has been on Ritalin for about five years. Every summer, my doctor recommends that my son take a "medication vacation" and not take Ritalin. This past summer, his behavior has been absolutely outstanding. He appears more mature, focused, and conscientious. I am wondering if I should restart him on the medicine when he goes back to school in a few weeks, or if we should try him without the medicine and see how he does.


Since your physician prescribed the medicine, you should consult with your doctor before making any decisions.
As children mature, they learn different ways to deal with their impulsivity, distractibility, and difficulties in concentrating. Many physicians recommend periods without medicine during the academic year to determine if the Ritalin is still necessary. It seems like this would be a good time to see how your son does in school without any medicine.


My 5-year-old son has always been a very normal and well-behaved child. Suddenly, he began rubbing his private area at day care and when he is home. He does this almost constantly throughout the day. I don't want to punish him, but this is very embarrassing and I think rather inappropriate.


While a young child rubbing himself is not unusual, the fact that it began so suddenly and with such intensity gives me concern. Talk with your family doctor to be sure there is not a medical problem that might be causing your son some discomfort. In addition, you should also talk with him regarding whether there has been any inappropriate touching between himself and others.

In general, professionals suggest three guidelines with respect to children rubbing their private areas. Parents stress that such behavior should only be done in private, when alone, and not excessively. Talk with your child about those guidelines. If this behavior continues in spite of your corrections, you may wish to consult with a mental health professional.

Dr. Ramey Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit and join Dr. Ramey on facebook at

©2010 The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. Columns may be reproduced with the permission of Dayton Children's.


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