Last night my 3 year old DD woke up screaming for her bear (she is a hoarder and takes the house to bed with her). I jumped up so fast my head was spinning. I was trying to help her as quickly as possible so she didn't wake her 5 month old brother. I responed getting the bear and remained calm, and went to bed. Then 2 minutes later she did it again (over her mice) and I wasn't as patient because she woke her brother. I said, "Now I have to go nurse your brother because you woke him up...It is the middle of the night and it is time to sleep...you woke mommy, daddy and brother. I need you to be quiet." I said this not yelling but in a FIRM maybe scary for her voice. I feel it was too harsh, but maybe not. I tend to worry about being too hard on her but lately, I am getting more worried about her being the boss of the house and not being very considerate. I was far more patient and gentle before her brother was born but she unintentionally wakes him almost every time he falls asleep so I feel I need to protect his need for sleep. I feel bad because my tone was so snappy and I said YOU did XYZ and probably shamed her. She looked upset and fell into her bear and quietly cried. she did not disturb anyones sleep again last night. How would you handle this situation? I've been dealing with her night waking more than my sons since he was born. I know she is new to being a big sister but I think at 3.5 she should be able to make middle of the night requests quietly. If she was scared or had a bad dream, then I understand and would have reacted differently. Any thoughts?
Ideas on how to respnd to middle of the night requests from 3.5 yr old.
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Did she know where her bear was and able to get it herself? I remember I had to specifically one day sit my kids down and tell them that I did NOT need to know anymore every time they woke up, if they were able to take care of whatever it was on their own (dropped pillow, bathroom, drink) - that the only things I needed to be woken up for were nightmares and them being sick. It.Was.Amazing. And I could have kicked myself for not doing it sooner, because mine were like almost 4 and 6 at that point. They were quite surprised that I didn't need to be informed of their every move, every moment, anymore.
Soooo, I would suggest thinking about what kinds of things make her call out for you, decide which she can handle on her own, then specifically tell her that. You might be surprised how well it works!
As for your scolding her, it was late at night and it was disruptive - while not ideal, you are a human being trying to manage the sleep/happiness of 4 people, and things might not always be ideal. I wouldn't sweat it too much, be gentle on *yourself*, too.
I am working on her independence with stuff like this. I like your idea to have a talk with her about how she can get these things on her own. I would have to remove a gate and keep a dim light on in the living room. She would likely be afraid to enter the dark living room alone at night. The gate is on the hallway (not her bedroom door) so she can't roam all over the house. She can get to our room and the bathroom but not the rest of the house. The gate is a relatively new addtition, so I'm not insistent that it remains, though it does offer some peace of mind that she wasn't on the loose. We have a long way to go on her independence. She still needs (wants) me to do so much for her/with her. I don't mind helping her at night but I really do mind the screams and demands for help. It would be best if she could just get what she needed on her own. Our house is proofed so she really couldn't get into much. Something to think about and work on for sure.
If we approach the whole nightwaking thing from the kids' perspective, here I am just a little kid. I wake up, probably from a dream, and reach out for something, someone, anything comforting. So--she's doing the "right" thing. She's trying to self-soothe...but add a dark place and an unfound bear to a dream, and a case of the freakouts is likely to happen. She's far too young to wake up, freak out, and think "oh hey, everyone here is sleeping. If I make noise I will wake them". Nope. At the moment she is sleepy, confused, and lonely. Her brain is really busy right now, and during sleep there is a whole lot going on! When DD was around that age she would nightwake, but soothed quickly so we didn't lose a lot of sleep.
I suspect that this too shall pass, but if we approach your situation from a child-centered angle, it would be important not only to help her through her nighttime troubles, but also through compassion to help her realize that she is not doing anything wrong because it happens to most kids. Sometimes, if parents are too hard-core about nighttime boundaries, there can be some truly anxiety-producing things that happen and the kiddo's takeaway will be "I'm all alone in this. Nobody will help me, so I'm not going to even bother with them" which is perhaps what we are all trying to avoid with all our gentle parenting.
You also mention that you are afraid that she will become the boss of the house, yet you noted that is was an unintentional thing (waking babe), and so I wonder if the irritation that results from the sleep-robbing she's been unintentionally doing is more mom exhaustion than an issue with dd spewing chaos? It's hard work dealing with the needs of two babes when all you want is a couple hours without interruption, right? I think if you're able to see DD's nighttime activity as an age-appropriate, developmental thing you'll be able to give her a pass on it and love her up. That's the only thing nightwakers are looking for, really...reassurance that somebody is around, they are safe, etc. It's lonely being all by ourselves at night!
And I know it's not everyone's favorite idea, so I'm expecting a flame on this, but cosleeping kids typically don't have these issues, at least in my experience....and that might work, too, if sleep is more important than structure.
Thank you Lanamommy. I am tired and it is a good reminder that she is just so young still. She slept with us until 2 years old (before I found out I was pregnant) and then we moved her to her own room (where I slept with her). Then I very slowly worked my way to my room which is so close to hers. She is always welcome in our room and I tell her that all the time. She sometimes starts there and then moves back to her own room. I'm open to the idea of bringing her back to my room, but I worry I would disrupt her sleep with the baby's needs. Trust me, I have thought about ditching our king frame and all sleeping together. She falls off of her bed every night (now a mattress on the floor) so her on our King would be kind of risky. I bought her a sleeping bag and told her she could bring it in our room any time she wants, but she doesn't ever seem to want to do that. I feel terrible about her being alone in her room, when we are all together. I never really felt annoyed by her night waking until the baby was a few months old and would wake with her every move. I need even more patience than ever, which is why I posted here to hopefully get some gentle advice. It is hard to find those with a gentle perspective on this.
She doesn't intent to wake the baby but she often does (def not spewing chaos). She is a bit bossy and demanding but that is another thing unrelated to the sleep of both kids. I just worry I'm being too accomadting at night and contributing to the problem of her waking and shouting for me to get things for her. I guess I'm torn on the matter.
I often find myself fighting against a strange thought-invader that was my own childhood experience. Even as an adult, a kid would say something I thought was sassy to a parent, and I braced myself for the slap--if you follow. Sometimes I sit there questioning whether I'm creating a monster, but then I override it and think, "no. this is exactly the kind of freethinker I want". One day this week (my kiddo is a grazer with food--and most times I like that) I'd had enough with "MOMMY! I'M HUNGRY!!". Really, it was like every 5 minutes. She had a mess of stuff in front of her to choose from, all ready to go, and yet still hollering. My knee-jerk reaction was to show my frustration. I said "My ears are starting to explode, sweets. I don't want to hear these things anymore. What is it that you really need? Do you think you could choose your own [apple, orange, etc] from the fridge?" She stormed off crying. And then she said the key thing, "no. I want you to say all of them". We've had this thing that has now become a fun game for her, but a nightmare for me. "Would you like an orange? no. An apple?no. some seaweed? no. dried bananas?no. lettuce? no. kale? no. pickles? no.". She likes the interaction. I hate the verbal menu. I have to shift that to something else equally fun. She's helping with a new menu, though, so she'll just have a range of 8 or so snacky foods available all the time...so she can start to help herself to them...at least I hope so.
I guess what I'm getting at is this: Sometimes it's about something completely different. It might be "I want to cuddle with you but I want to be a big girl so I don't want to cuddle with you but I want to" kind of thing...it might be that stage of growing independence that involves stomping and hmmmphing, it could be like "do you still love me now that there is a cute baby around" but it does all seem kind of typical.
I wonder if a paradox might work, such as "honey, at night you seem to be needing me and missing me, but I have to have sleep because I will be so, so tired. I want you to stay here all night and see if that helps with your needs. I don't want you to go to your bed in your room. I want you to sleep here with your bear and all the rest of us." I wonder if she would beg to go back to her bed, or she would just settle in and get some rest? It might just be for a couple of weeks while her little neuro system does magic in her head.. or, of course, you might end up with a circus in the bed--who can tell? ;-) but it might be worth some good sleep, at any rate.
When my DD was around 4, I set up a bed for her in her playroom. She was so excited about it. But, as it turned out, she wanted the bed in there, but didn't want to sleep in it, rather she wanted to put all her babies and stuffies to sleep in it and continue cosleeping (or have me sleepover...). When I had a choice between a twin and a king...well, you know, it was a nobrainer. Now, we're all together--80# dog (who sometimes sees something out the window and has a barking fit in the middle of the night), DD and me. The dog occasionally has a bit of trouble finding his spot at the end of the bed, and walks all over us in the process. DD once in a while will wake up with what the pup does, but often times she sleeps right through it. I just don't know how. I have to check if she's still breathing after one of the dog's outbursts and she doesn't wake up! LOL. I would guess that your DD would likely sleep right through the nighttime nursie buffet... I assume the babe is cosleeping too?
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One_Girl...thanks, you made me feel better. I even smiled a little. For some reason, I have beaten myself up quite a lot over this today. I feel my response isn't unreasonable either, though I would like to do better next time. I have been so patient for 6 months since my son was born and I guess I'm allowed to have some bad moments too.