Child Psychiatrist and Dad Explains Why He Banned Sleepovers for His Kids

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There is nothing more triggering to parents than hearing another parent (or worse, a childless person) preach about what they refuse to do with their kids.

We’ve all heard the Karens out there blathering on and on about everything from leashing kids in public to how they’d never allow her perfect babes ever to make a mess. 

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But every once in a while, someone will pipe up on some aspect of parenting that will turn even commonly considered safe activities on their head.

That’s exactly what happened when Dr. Mitnaul took to TikTok to explain why he has banned sleepovers for his kids.

And after hearing his points, I’m over here seriously wondering how I feel about my kids going on sleepovers.

Larry D Mitnaul, MD, MPH, MS, is a double board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist based in Kansas.

He has quite a loyal following on social media and even founded the Be Well Academy, where parents can take informational workshops on things like toddler tantrums to help us while we’re in the early years of raising great people. 

In a recent TikTok video, Dr. Mitnaul raised eyebrows when he said he banned sleepovers.

The video has been viewed 1.9 million times and has nearly 5K comments from parents arguing over the merits of what he says.

It all started when Dr. Mitnaul posted a “5 Things I Would Never Do As A Professional,” in which he shared five things that he won’t do as a parent based on his experience as a psychiatrist.

He mentioned cell phones, TV in bedrooms, and smack talking your spouse in front of kids.

Also on his list was doing everything for your kids instead of teaching them to be independent, and no sleepovers.

It was that last one that got TikTok up in a tizzy, so he followed up with an explanation video.

The psychiatrist and dad of six explains in his viral video that when he said sleepovers, he was drawing a distinction between sleeping at a relative’s home, like grandma’s house, and sleeping over with friends where there is little or no supervision. 

He points out that in the comments section of the 5 Things video that plenty of teachers, social workers, and folks from law enforcement had a lot to say about banning sleepovers.

“What do we know or what have we all experienced that might leave you scratching your head?,” he asks.

“One of the biggest is, often the stories that come in to us about trauma, about exposures, about inappropriate things in the lives of kids are often at the corners of experiences.”

Those corners, he goes on to say, are where kids will find little supervision and feel empowered to try risky behaviors that they wouldn’t otherwise try. 

“Sleepovers often provide the right kind of opportunity for kids to get in over their head,” Dr. Mitnaul says.

“So, if my intention is for my child to have wonderful and close relationships with their peers, and for me to have a close relationship with my child, I want to make sure that they do that in a situation and time that is most likely to be profitable for them and less likely to leave them scarred with trauma from which they might need to heal for the rest of their lives.”

@doctormitnaul

Part 2 – Why I don’t allow sleepovers ? #5things #psychiatrist #childpsychiatrist #psychiatristsoftiktok #nosleepovers #thingsiwontdo #explained #parttwo

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As you can imagine, this ignited quite a debate about sleepovers in the comments section.

Plenty of parents agreed with Dr. Mitnaul and reiterated that the risk for injury or trauma is just too high for a night of fun away from parents. 

JGlo wrote, “Sleepovers are either fun experiences or tragic ones. I won’t take that risk with my kids because if something bad happens, you can never undo it.”

Screenshot of a TikTok comment.

TikTok user Bonnelh agreed, adding that kids these days live in a different world than we did when there was no Snapchat or Instagram.

“I fully support this,” they wrote. “As a former teacher and former kid lol, sleepovers were always trouble. With social media, it’s even worse!!!”

Screenshot of a TikTok comment

Still, others took a hilariously practical view of sleepovers.

MK wrote, “Sleepovers are a nightmare! I don’t want 10 kids [lol]!”

Screenshot of a TikTok comment.

But not everyone in the comments is on board with Dr. Mitnaul’s stance on sleepovers.

Others were quick to point out that banning sleepovers may be nothing more than fear-mongering. 

Kummunista wrote, “Ehhh, this doesn’t feel like a position informed by psychiatry, it feels like a position informed by a personal experience. Kids need space from adults.”

Screenshot of a TikTok comment.

A.leesh.a added, “Social worker here – I support sleepovers with people you know well. Kids are more at risk of their own family members than at sleepovers.”

Screenshot of a TikTok comment

The horrifying truth is that nearly 93% of all kids who are victims of sexual abuse and assault know their abuser.

According to Rainn, that 93% break down like this:

  • 7% of sexual assault/abuse perpetrators are strangers
  • 59% are acquaintances
  • 34% are family members

Furthermore, Rainn notes that 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys will be victims of sexual abuse before they turn 18.

And girls between the ages of 16 and 19 are “more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.”

But fear of abuse is only one side of the conversation.

Many other pointed out that it was the positive experiences that had at sleepovers that helped them to better understand just how bad they had it at home. 

Lacey Bacon wrote, “as someone who had abusive parents, sleepovers taught me that parents can be kind and mine weren’t normal.”

Screenshot of a TikTok comment.

Ultimately, it’s up to us as parents to decide what we are comfortable with when it comes to raising our kids.

And sure, there are a ton of negative Nancys out there who like to shame parents by telling them what not to do.

But hearing from Dr. Mitnaul on why he bans sleepovers provides a great opportunity to think through exactly how I feel about my kids sleeping at their friends’ houses.

And honestly, until I saw this video, I really didn’t give that normal childhood rite of passage much thought.

 

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