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2 year old - Bedtime struggles

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I'm so excited to see this forum! 

 

I have a common parenting dilemma but I want to make sure that I am doing everything I possibly can to be there for my daughter while establishing boundaries, etc. 

 

A little background:  We have a beautiful easy "weaning" story.  I nursed my daughter until she was 22 months old.  I became pregnant a few months earlier and my milk dried up.  She is the one who told me the milk was gone. I continued to nurse her, however, but shortly after that, we read a book about mammals nursing and there were, of course, humans in the book.  After seeing the baby nursing and the toddler eating a sandwich, she proclaimed to everyone that would listen "I'm all grown up, that's why the milk went away" and never nursed again. 

 

Fast fwd 2 months later...our bedtime is no longer the milk filled snuggly haze it once was. It's now a toddler demanding 88 glasses of water, 22 trips to the potty, 12 books read each 8 times, a snack, more lotion for itchies, sing 47 songs, not that one, yes that one, need daddy, now I need mommy, stand up and hold me, rock me, sit down and hold me, wear me, I could go on FOREVER.  Bedtime is now 2 hours long and leaves EVERYONE frustrated, even her.

 

I am a trained behavior analyst.  But I have also raised my daughter in an "attached" way and I fear that my old methods used for special needs kids may not always meet the newer emotionally secure and attached family way. But I needed something.  Waiting for the baby to come is not the time to manage this terrible time in our household.  So I implemented a sleep routine board where she selects the order we do things, how many drinks, how many books, etc. She flips them over when we have completed the activity, then we move on. We let her know that once an activity was done, we are not going back to it.  Once a choice was made, there is no changing it.

 

We tried this last night for the first time. It was GREAT leading up until the last part.  She looved picking the order and choosing how many and flipping them over. Then came lights out. WELL. NOT GREAT.  It was the worst parenting experience I've ever had.  I held her with her favorite blankey and rocked and sang, but she was having none of it.  She screamed and cried like I have never heard and BEGGED for everything under the sun, she tried using manners, tried screaming, tried calming down and asking nicely, went absolutely berserk, begging and begging for everything she usually had.  I knew from my schooling that I couldn't give in now, that it would just make her more apt to scream louder and harder the next time if I "gave in".  But at the same time....I felt like she was sooo upset that all of a sudden we stopped meeting her "needs".   I felt HORRIBLE.  I was sobbing and she was sobbing.  I just kept telling her I understand going to sleep is hard, asking her if she needed a hug (hugs and kisses were the only request that were allowed), and trying to hold her and rock her and sing to her. I put her down in the crib a few times during the two hours and told her mommy needed a break.  I would leave for 1 minute to use the restroom or to regain my sanity and come back.  Ultimately, after sobbing hysterics for two hours, I told her I knew what would help and swaddled her like I did when she was a baby.  She was out in two breaths.

 

Of course I cried for another hour about the whole experience, emotionally drained and pregnant and tired myself. I just want to be a good parent and meet her needs AND our needs as parents. Is there a better way to clean up this routine??  What can I do to make it easier on all of us?  I just want bedtime to be a wonderful time of cuddling and snuggling and settling down gently at the end of the night.  Can you help?!

 

Thanks so much for reading!

post #2 of 5

Dear Momma,

 

Thank you for writing in. I have much compassion for your story and I am so sorry you had to endure a night like that, especially while pregnant. I hope to address your concerns and offer possible alternatives that may prove successful. You posted yesterday morning; I am hoping last night went better and that you can utilize whatever is helpful here by tonight! Post here or email me at LoveParentingLA@gmail.com and let me know how things unfold.

 

Celebrate what is working: I think your motives have been right on track. You want to honor your daughter's needs, as well as the needs of you and your husband, you seek to establish boundaries while being there for your daughter, and you understand the value of follow through. As well, even though you didn't see immediate results in the form of easy acceptance, your solution of the sleep board did include your daughter in the decision making process which often helps a child accept new limits.

 

I have a few suggestions for the new routine.

 

1) Having a conversation about why you're making the change: Maybe you did this when you implemented the new routine, but if not, I suggest you do so. This process will reiterate why the change was necessary. You can include your needs as part of the equation: I need rest at the end of the day, especially, when I'm pregnant, and I don't want a battle over sleep. As well, narrating your process will help your daughter as she develops her own decision-making process and finds solutions to her problems in the future.

 

2) An invitation to sleep: As you talk about your new routine and how you would like things to unfold at night, you can also include an "invitation to sleep," wherein you describe the gifts of sleep: this is when your body grows, this is when you can play in "magical dreamland," and this is when all the animals, flowers and fairies sleep. You are attempting to reframe "sleep" as a wonderful place she is invited to join, as opposed to something that is being done to her. This may take a couple of rounds, but over time, you may see a difference in how sleep is perceived in your home.

 

3) Two locations for the routine: A L.O.V.E. Parenting Technique that has been helpful for many of my clients has been to have two locations for the bedtime routine. All of the activities that are part of the wind-down (books, songs, made-up stories, water and any final snacks) are to be done on the couch. Ideally, you are cuddled on the couch, under a blanket and sharing a special slowing-down, decompression-from-the-day together en route to sleep. Once the previously agreed upon number of books, songs and stories are completed, and after a "final pee," you take a purposefully meditative walk to the "sleep chamber." The bedroom is already set up for sleep with the curtains drawn, the covers pulled back on the bed, the lights off, and perhaps soft classical music playing and/or a nightlight is on. The energy of this room is like a sanctuary, a spa, or a yoga class; once you step foot into the sleeping room and lay down it is "eyes closed, mouths closed." Again, as you walk into this inviting room, sleep becomes less of something you are trying to "do to her" or "get her to do" and more of a beautiful, beckoning environment you are inviting her to surrender to. Eyes are closed and mouths are closed because that is what is needed to facilitate sleep; you are trying to reframe this behavior as helping "sleep" get what it needs, rather than something your daughter "has to do." You can set the stage with your daughter that the dream angels and sleeping fairies are already asleep in her room while you are reading on the couch. They are waiting in dreamland for her to join them.

 

4) Setting the stage: You can help prepare your daughter for bedtime by reminding her during the day about the new routine: the two locations, the dream angels and fairies asleep in her room, and how once you go into the "sleeping room" it's "eyes closed, mouths closed."

 

5) Daylight connection: As you remind your daughter about bedtime and how nighttime is for sleeping, you can ask if she has anything she wants to talk to you about now? You can also ask her if she would like an extra special cuddle during the day? Let her know you available and focused on her. In this way, you are providing extra intentional connection during the daylight, hoping to fulfill any unmet needs that sometimes overwhelm a child when it's time to kiss the day goodbye.

 

6) Extenuating circumstances: At your daughter's age, it is always important to look at nap time and its relationship to sleep. If she is waking from a nap later than 4pm it will usually affect her ability to fall asleep easily, especially if bedtime is 7:30pm (which is generally recommended for children.) As well, you want to be aware of foods that dissuade sleep, such as sugars, dyes and caffeine in any form. Late naps and physiological stimulants do not promote easy nighttime sleep.

 

7) An option: Many people would agree that comforting your daughter in the room, while she falls asleep in the crib is positive and your should not change this because she is developing her own relationship to sleep and she has your loving presence close at hand. Having her in a routine of falling asleep by herself in the crib would definitely be helpful when you have the new baby. There is another option, however, that you might consider if things persist with much distress at sleep time. Since you are committed to soothing your daughter to sleep, you may consider laying down with her until she falls asleep. This would mean a double mattress on the floor or low to the ground, such as a futon. In this way, after the couch routine, you would enter the bedroom together, and both lay down with "eyes closed and mouths closed." In this model, you lay with your daughter as she transitions to sleep and then you leave the room and have your evening. Once you have the new baby, you would be laying and nursing the new baby on one side, while cuddling your daughter on the other side. This arrangement could help your firstborn feel included once the new baby comes, but can also mean a lot more effort from you. Most attachment parenting families will enjoy many different arrangements over the years.

 

The big reaction: I know that night was trying and as you stated, your worst experience in parenting. Understand that just because your daughter had that big reaction the first night, doesn't mean that she will necessarily react that way night after night; some toddlers express their big feelings, you hold the line, and then they "get" it and the new routine is established. For other children, the reaction remains the same night after night and they may be in true distress. You can always pause, reconsider and decide to adapt your plan. This may sound like a contradiction, but while consistency is of great importance, so is flexibility. Deciding when to hold the line and when to alter your plans is where your intuition and deep attunement to your child come into play. 

 

Saying no: It sounds like there was a huge disparity in how you attended to your child's needs the first night with 50 books and jumping through hoop after hoop, and the second night where you held your boundary for two hours despite her reaction. I would encourage you to bring a little bit of the clarity you found the second night into your regular life so your daughter gets used to "walking through the no." This is a skill learned (within reason) like any other. This is not to say we want a life of hardship for your girl and for her to always "grin and bear it," but, rather, to strengthen her skill set of getting to the other side of disappointment, especially, with your loving support.

 

Pregnant with number two: Pregnancy with the second child is often a huge transition for attachment mommas because the physical demands of your pregnancy necessitate limits that you may otherwise be able to overlook. Understand that you are at the effect of your hormones and weeping and fatigue are to be expected. You are in a state of becoming a parent to two beings, and tending to your "other child" begins in the womb as you care for your pregnant self.  

 

Blessings: You sound like a truly loving, compassionate, reflective and thoughtful parent. I wish you many blessings on this journey of parenting and expanding your family. Sweet dreams.

 

Love,

Jessica

Birthing A New Mother home study program NOW AVAILABLE for pre-conception, pregnancy & the first year of motherhood. I am a featured contributor in this course brought to you by Conscious Motherhood.

The Ultimate Parenting Course will be available November 15, 2011. A cadre of the best of today’s progressive parenting experts come together in this transformational 8-week home study course for parents of children birth to 7 years. Email me at LoveParentingLA@gmail.com for pre-order.

The L.O.V.E. Parenting Birthkit has helped women have a transformational and empowering birth. Written exercises, audio & private coaching. Amazing for first or second pregnancy.

Sign Up for my E-Zine! Email: LoveParentingLA@gmail.com

Like me on Facebook L.O.V.E. Parenting and Follow on Twitter @LoveParenting

Private Coaching Session! Phone or Los Angeles office. www.LoveParentingLA.com

“Truly amazing woman. I love her advice.”—Carrie-Anne Moss

“All you have shared has helped tremendously.”—Lisa Bonet

“I am experiencing nothing short of a miracle thanks to your laser beam approach.” –Andrea Bendewald

 

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post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Jessica,

 

Thank you SO much for your reply.  I wanted to be sure that I updated you here.  My daughter ALWAYS remembers everything you tell her before she goes to sleep.  If I say "we can read that book in the morning", her eyes will pop open at dawn and she will say "where's that book we were going to read?".  So after that night of stress and crying, she opens her eyes and asks for the SLEEP CARDS!  She went through all of them and had a whole story "remember I had my water, mommy? Then we read 3 books..."...etc.  I was bracing for the end where she would want to discuss the hysterics, but it NEVER HAPPENED!  I didn't break my child!  She's not forever scarred from the night's events! 

 

Fast forward to nighttime...my adrenaline pumping, we were going to stick with it...She was super happy to put together the schedule again.  Then lights out...cuddle with mommy.  She made 20 brief requests, but they were extinguished with a "you've already flipped that one over, so that means we are all done with that".  Then she WENT TO SLEEP!  This process went from over 2 hours to under 20 minutes. And NO TEARS!  Last night, even more improvement: She asked for 5 things, was told the same thing, then went to sleep - 9 minutes!!  This morning she ran into our room to tell daddy that she was such a good girl at bedtime, so she clearly recognizes the impact even the next morning.

 

That said, I will definitely take your advice as well as I think some of them will really help with the upcoming changes in our lives.  I love your idea of explaining what sleep is for...she is extremely curious and is always asking why...I think it will help so much for her to understand WHY we are going to sleep and at this designated time.   I think the two locations things could also work for our family.  I love the idea of the room being "spa-like" and all the other activities being in a family place.

 

Under extenuating circumstances, you mention nap.  Luckily, she takes a nap from 12-2 every day and hopefully that isn't interfering in her sleep.  We are also very cautious about her food because she has severe food allergies and intolerances (though sometimes an exposure DOES interfere with sleep). 

 

The idea of laying with her on a double bed sounds wonderful because I was wondering how I would hold TWO babies in the rocking chair at night, but it sounds like that would be a wonderful snugglefest for everyone!  I think our family could also make that one work...especially adding the new baby into the picture! She is just about ready to leave the crib anyway.

 

The "no" stuff: I think it just blindsided us.  Our daughter has always been so agreeable and "reasonable" and has always listened, no arguing, no bartering, no begging.  But of course, then they grow up :-D.  The success we have seen at bedtime and knowing that we are ALL much happier has motivated us to reign in some other areas that are becoming more difficult as she realizes she is an individual.  You are also right on with the change for an attachment mama with pregnancy.  I have a hernia so its not always easy or comfortable for me to hold her all the time.  I used to wear her everywhere...now it's just not comfortable for either one of us (daddy still wears her a lot though).  And with exhaustion comes less patience...I think she picks up on that and pushes just a bit further than she normally would.  I think "walking through the no" is a great skill and teaching her how to survive disappointments will be helpful to us all! 

 

Thanks so much again for your advice and support.  I really appreciate you volunteering your time to help families like mine!

 

post #4 of 5
Wow Jessica, that sounds like some really amazing advice. I can't wait to try it out with my 2.5yr old DS who sounds a lot like the child described here. It's not often that I read sleep advice that I haven't tried / think might actually work. I'm excited. Thanks!
post #5 of 5

Thank you so much for writing in. I am glad it resonated with you! Feel free to email me at LoveParentingLA@gmail.com and I'll add you to my list to receive the free Ezine with more tips and information. Best, Jessica

 

 

Birthing A New Mother home study program NOW AVAILABLE for pre-conception, pregnancy & the first year of motherhood. I am a featured contributor in this course brought to you by Conscious Motherhood.

The Ultimate Parenting Course will be available November 15, 2011. A cadre of the best of today’s progressive parenting experts come together in this transformational 8-week home study course for parents of children birth to 7 years. Email me at LoveParentingLA@gmail.com for pre-order.

The L.O.V.E. Parenting Birthkit has helped women have a transformational and empowering birth. Written exercises, audio & private coaching. Amazing for first or second pregnancy.

Sign Up for my E-Zine! Email: LoveParentingLA@gmail.com

Like me on Facebook L.O.V.E. Parenting and Follow on Twitter @LoveParenting

Private Coaching Session! Phone or Los Angeles office. www.LoveParentingLA.com

  • “Truly amazing woman. I love her advice.”—Carrie-Anne Moss
  • “All you have shared has helped tremendously.”—Lisa Bonet
  • “I am experiencing nothing short of a miracle thanks to your laser beam approach.” –Andrea Bendewald

 

LPLOGO.jpg

 
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