- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 2, 2007

The question of whether children should share rooms came up on my Web site the other day, causing me to realize that in 31-plus years of writing this column, I have never touched upon the subject. As it happens, I’m still not going to more than lightly touch upon it because the parents who chimed in on the ensuing discussion really said it all. I’m just going to give the floor to them and take a break.

One Florida mom related that she happened upon the advantages of room-sharing courtesy of her son, now 2. When he was born, his older sister, now 4, moved to a toddler bed and he took the crib. The family then relocated to a bigger house, and eventually both children were sleeping in regular beds with trundle beds under them.

“Night after night,” the mom writes, “when I checked on the kids, I would find my son sleeping on the floor in his sister’s room. So, I started putting him in her trundle bed and now he always sleeps there or even in bed with her.

“Although they sometimes have their moments (Don’t all siblings?), my kids rarely fight or roughhouse with each other. I teach them to be respectful of one another and make them kiss and apologize if they argue or get too rough. I see how disrespectfully so many other siblings treat each other, and I think I don’t have that problem because my kids share a room.”

Another mom chimed in about her three room-sharing sons, ages 3, 8, and 10. “They play together, share, and take care of each other. They really are the best of friends.”

When it comes to chores, the older brothers help the 3-year-old make his bed and put away his laundry. They also help him get dressed in the morning, take a bath at night, and whenever they make lunch for themselves, they make lunch for him, too. Despite their age differences, they play together well and the oldest often reads to the youngest.

(Every parent who contributed to this discussion mentioned how cooperatively room-sharing children work together, even when there is a significant age difference.) When will this arrangement come to an end? Perhaps never.

This mom says, “One time I told the oldest boy that when the oldest child, a girl, leaves home, he’ll get his own room. His voice got a bit shaky and he said, ‘But I want to stay with my brothers.’ ”

So be it.

“I think sharing rooms, toys, clothes, and chores causes children to invest in each other,” wrote yet another mom, “and when you invest a part of yourself into something, you value it more. Sharing rooms has had a significant positive impact upon the relationship my children have with one another.”

She goes on to say that she never mediates arguments between her children and feels that policy has added significantly to the success of the room-sharing arrangement. She also feels strongly that overindulged children do not share anything, including rooms, well.

I wholeheartedly agree. As I have said before, the more material things a child has, the more possessive and territorial the child becomes. So, if you have two children sharing a room, save money and buy just enough playthings for the room instead of buying two sets of playthings.

The mom of two sets of twins, ages 5 and 3, wrote that each set shares a room and sometimes the same bed. “We have a big family and sharing rooms was not a choice,” she writes, “but we have discovered that kids usually like it, especially if room-sharing starts when they’re small.”

She feels that the reason her children have never had bedtime or nighttime fears is because they keep each other company at night.

“As of now,” she adds, “our kids share everything, clean their rooms together, and we do not have any jealousy issues.”

When the discussion had run its course, it was unanimous: If you want your children to enjoy a relationship that is not characterized by jealousy and conflict and to work together cooperatively, then room-sharing is the ticket.

I wonder, is it possible that, on average, siblings share rooms better than husbands and wives?

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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