And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)
The mother of a 7-year-old boy asked me how to get him out of her and her husband's bed.
"Oh, gosh," I said, "that's easy. Just tell him he may no longer sleep in your bed, and don't let him back in."
"Oh, we've tried that," she said, "but he becomes very upset, almost to the point of hysteria, if he can't sleep with us."
I pondered this-struggling with the impulse to say "So what?"-as she proceeded to tell me that she and her husband had reached a "compromise" with their son: If he agreed to sleep in his own bed, he could watch television in his room until he fell asleep. But, she said, when they want him to turn off the TV so they can fall asleep, he becomes "very upset, almost to the point of hysteria" and wants to come into their bed.
This mom was not describing a bedtime problem, nor does the problem even lie with the boy. The problem is that these parents have never claimed their authority over their son and cannot, therefore, stand by decisions that upset him. In effect, this mom and dad have never forced their child to give up being a self-centered toddler and accept the Prime Reality Principle: What one wants and what one needs are rarely one and the same. For a child to accept that governing truth, he must be blessed with parents who give him everything he needs and very, very little of what he simply wants. And as promised in John, that truth will eventually set him free-free of the encumbrance of covetousness and selfishness (materialism).
Parenting should conform not to contemporary trends (e.g., letting children sleep in the marital bed), but to the blueprint set forth by our Heavenly Father. This perfect model embodies a number of truths, including:
God does not give us what we want, but rather what we need, whether we want it or not.
God's authority is constant, unwavering. He does not change his mind because one of His children becomes upset with Him.
By reflecting these same truths in their relationships with their children, parents become God's representatives in their children's lives. As accepting God's authority sets us free, so parental authority, properly executed, sets a child free from infantile dependencies and puts him squarely on the road to becoming an obediently responsible human being. And just as anyone who has not accepted God's authority is in a state of spiritual bondage, a child who lacks parental authority (and is therefore unable to accept it) is in a state of emotional bondage. This 7-year-old boy does not need to sleep in his parents' bed. He simply wants to. He needs to be liberated from toddlerhood, and every such liberation is accompanied by the sound of screaming, sometimes "even to the point of hysteria."
A marriage is comprised of two people, not three, and a child should not think otherwise. For that simple, Scriptural reason (see Gen. 2:24), this child needs to sleep in his own bed, whether he wants to or not. At his bedtime, he needs to go to sleep, not watch television, whether (in either case) he wants to or not. The solution to this problem is for these two parents to straighten their backbones and tell their son, in no uncertain terms, that when it is time for him to go to bed, he will go to his own bed, and he will not watch television, and he can cry about it for as long as it takes for him to come to accept that those "truths" are not going to change.
This is an example of "reality therapy," and nothing cures faster than a healthy dose of reality.