Q&A: How do I manage a high-needs child?
I have a 3 1/2-year-old who has never slept through the night, sleeps with his mother in his room, and drinks six to 12 bottles a day of juice and milk. We really believe he is a "high-need" kid and requires special attention. We have been reading a book called Raising Your Spirited Child, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. Have you heard of this book?
Is there anything you suggest we do to help him sleep through the night? Is drinking so many bottles a day not a good idea, and if so, why? My wife and I are in disagreement on what we should do. Can you please help?
There are many different parenting styles, and theories as to which is the best come in and out of fashion. Remember “Spare the rod and spoil the child?”
Each parent, child and family is different, so there’s no “one-style-fits-all” answer.
Your preschool-age child is continuing with the habits of a much younger child, being unable, or unwilling, to sleep alone and through the night, and still using bottles. Is this really OK with you?
If not, it’s time to encourage him, teach him, and then expect him to develop more independence. This can only be successful if both you and your wife are on the same page. If the two of you aren’t consistent with the messages that you each send, the child will be confused.
The bottles definitely need to go. Not only will they cause significant tooth decay, but 12 bottles a day doesn’t leave much room for a healthy solid intake. Either phase them out slowly, replacing some with water first to make them less appealing, or throw them out altogether. Sure, your son may be mad at first, but probably won’t choose stubborness over satisfying hunger and thirst.
To change the sleep pattern, I encourage you to at least read a book by Richard Ferber called How to Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. Being firm on this issue will teach him better future sleep habits, allow you, as his parents, to assert the authority that you need, and let you and your wife have more time together in the evening.