How to deal with 4 year old flipping out at bedtime? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 3 Old 07-07-2011, 04:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi - I posted this last night in the "Childhood Years" subforum, but have gotten no replies... Not sure where best to post it, but this might fit.  I don't know if I explain myself very clearly, so please don't hesitate to ask questions.  But basically I'm trying to understand first why he might be acting this way all of a sudden - how to figure that out, and how to deal with it in a firm (not caving in to his disruptiveness) but loving and respectful way that will help him feel secure.  Thanks for any help you can give... (or if you know where would be a better place to post, please feel free to point me there...)




I could really use some help, thoughts, experience, etc...  I've got four year old twin boys who sleep in the same room (we don't have any other bedrooms, so separating is not an option, and I don't think it would be any help).  They had been going to bed great for quite a while.  We have a routine we do every single night.  They would sometimes give us a bit of trouble, but it was rare that there were any major problems. 


For the past few weeks, things have been rockier - since the weather started to get hotter (we don't have central air and their room does get pretty hot), and since school ended and they've been staying up about an hour later than they had been during school (8:00 as opposed to 7:00).  They're also sleeping about an hour later usually, so they're getting the same amount of sleep.  It's been one (D) more than the other (G) giving us the problems.  Problems being not following the routine, not laying still and quiet (it's our rule that they lay still and quiet while we sing two songs and if they don't we can't sing - so they give us trouble, we don't sing, then they're upset, and on and on...). 


But I would say over the past week, D has started really flipping out.  He'll be fine (mostly) until he's in bed and it's time to be laying quietly while we sing, give hugs & kisses and say "I love you"s.  Then he usually insists he needs to use the potty again (even though he just has, sometimes twice), and gets upset at being reminded what his "job" is, and just keeps asking for this or that.  And we try to find a balance between respecting legitimate needs, but also sticking to our expectations.  And the past three nights now, he's just lost it, out of control crying, screaming, hitting - just beside himself.  And we leave, which feels horrible, but this is after repeating our expectations over and over and telling him that if he can make an effort to calm down we can help, if he doesn't, we can't.  So we leave, then 5 minutes later I go up, and 5 after that if I need to until he's worn himself out to the point that he's willing to be a bit more reasonable and calm and then I give him a drink of water, sing him a song (not the one that he missed out on because of his behavior) and say goodnight.


Tonight, he really seemed desperate, clinging to me and screaming not to go, screaming and crying for me to come back up... It felt like he was scared somehow, but I don't get it.  He hasn't said anything about being scared at night, or having scary dreams.  I was so torn - to feel like he was feeling scared and desperate and to walk out of there, but at the same time, he was totally out of control, and I felt like I had to set some boundaries, not cave in (I had told him before we started our routine that if he needed anything he had to tell me then, because when we started our routine, no more special requests.).  And he was not listening at all, not to anything.  It was really really bad. 


I'm just at my wit's end.  I have no idea why all of a sudden he's having such a hard time.  It's been a month since school ended already, we're falling into a daily routine for the summer, there haven't been any big changes in our lives that I can think of... In general he's been much more confrontational (yelling, hitting, thrashing around, telling me if I don't do something, he's not going to be my friend, etc.).  Any ideas what could be going on?  Or what we might try?  Help, please!!

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#2 of 3 Old 07-07-2011, 11:13 AM
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I know that with it staying light out longer, getting kids to bed can be challenging.


Do you have a night light in the room?  Does your son have a favorite cuddly toy?


Can you put in a ceiling fan for the boys room? Maybe put glow in the dark stars on it or some such fun thing?


Do you have a good summer routine for during the day? That could be part of the problem.  


One thing that comes to mind is ignoring the child with the behavior issues, and praising your son who is being good.  


Another thing would be having your sons help you create a evening routine chart of things they need to do (or will happen).  So, it might read, drink of water, bathroom, wash face, brush teeth,  two books, cuddles, two songs, sleep, etc.  


We faced an issue with DD who just turned 4 coming out to use the potty 3-4 times a night, wanting a drink, etc.  So what we did was to ensure that she had a drink of water before reading stories...and then had her use the potty.  We then decorated an index card as her "nightly pass" that she can use just once to leave her bed if she needs to.  She seems to really enjoy handing us her pass, and then we put it in the kitchen and tell her she can pick it up tomorrow.  


Another option would be to have your son who is causing trouble go to bed earlier the next night--although I would use that as a last resort.

Mom to DS(8), DS(6), DD(4), and DS(1).  "Kids do as well as they can."

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#3 of 3 Old 07-22-2011, 04:19 AM
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Have you tried asking him the following day why he is having such a hard time? Our 3 yo daughter is also having a very rough time at bedtime, very much exacerbated by the arrival of our new baby. During a calm moment I asked her why she was having a hard time and she was able to give me some very clear answers about why she is so upset/explain her fears/talked about how she did not like to be alone. We are still working on finding ways to help her at bedtime, so I don't have any wonderful solutions at this point, but it has helped to at least find out what some of her concerns are.

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