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t2009 03-14-2012 08:50 PM


(cross posting in gentle discipline)


I am finding myself more & more at my wits end with my son right now. He's almost 3. Generally, we're having a rough time, but DH & I are both able to maintain our patience during the day... It's bed time that turns us all into monsters.


DS always starts the night out in his bed & has for a long time now. He transitioned to his toddler bed relatively recently (now about 1 1/2 or 2 months ago) & things have gotten progressively worse. To the point that literally we all end up going to bed at the same time & waking up at the same time. DH & I hardly have time to clean up the dinner dishes let alone have any time to ourselves either in the evening or mornings (also REALLY interfering with my ability to catch up on work or get ready for work so that I can leave close to on time), and DS is hardly sleeping 8 hours at night!


Last night & tonight have been the worst. I have totally found myself acting out -- mean, forceful emotionally & physically (holding him down when he kicks the blankets off, putting him in back bed when I know it's no use... he'll just get up again). I would be scarred if I were him & heard the tone in my voice! Then tonight, DH wanted to implement consequences (not logical or natural -- we do natural consequences, as in "well, you didn't cooperate so now we don't have time to do X"). This is totally against my discipline philosophy (though so is my yelling at him...) but I'm at my wits end so I say fine. We do our nighttime routine & he's so tired, I'm thinking great he'll just go to sleep. Nope. We finish our cuddle time (I set a timer because he actually never cuddles but just wiggles & chatters, not calming down) & he suddenly gets riled up & won't calm down. I threaten that he won't be able to come to bed with us tonight. Doesn't work & I leave angry. DH threatens & takes away a beloved truck (not something he sleeps with). The tears begin. He continues to run around. I threaten to take another truck & do when he doesn't cooperate. He's screaming. Asking to nurse & I say no because we already did & it's time to get to sleep. DH gets him to calm down & DS is saying he's going to take away our toys (which is of course why I didn't want to do illogical consequences in the first place, aside from the fact that it's totally arbitrary & makes no sense to his brain). He continues to run around. I take away another truck but he seems not to care anymore.


He's finally asleep by about 10. He fell asleep around 10:15 last night, ended up in our bed & was awake at 6 when my alarm went off. We've tried pushing up his bed time but it didn't seem to make a difference. And a VERY early bedtime is difficult because I don't get home until 6 or 6:30 -- though I'd try it if I thought it would help. But no matter what time we start it takes at least 2 hours to get him to bed, sometimes longer if you include teeth brushing, etc. It's gotten so we hardly ever bathe him at night since that would just add to it. We're also very careful not to give anything sugary after dinner (which for us means fruit). He sometimes takes long (3 hr) naps to catch up, but that's not the norm so I really worry that he's missing out on important amounts of sleep. Plus, we can't sustain all of us having the same bedtime & wake time -- when else can we get the taxes done or figure out preschool or just have some alone time?!


I know he's still adjusting to the new freedom of the toddler bed, I know I'm doing it all wrong... please someone help me get back on a gentle & loving path! 

yellow73 03-14-2012 09:26 PM

Is it all possible to transition to having no nap and an earlier bedtime?  


Mine started sleeping better when they didn't nap at all, which they were naturally getting out of by about age 2, and bedtime became about 7pm, which I realize might not work for your schedule.  


The only other thing I can offer, is that my terrible sleepers finally started sleeping through the night at about age 4.  We did allow them to come to our room at night at age 3, but they had to sleep on the floor next to my bed (in a toddler bed or sleeping bag.)  They did seem to still have the need to be close to us at that age, but really I was shocked at how turning 4 suddenly meant sleeping for 10-12 hours in their own beds, in their own room, consistently.  

t2009 03-16-2012 07:07 PM

Yellow73, funny that your kids stopped coming to you right at 4. We really don't mind DS coming into bed with us, as long as he starts out in his own bed (he's never been able to calm down at the beginning of the night next to me or DH). I actually feel the worst for telling DS he couldn't come to our room. greensad.gif As for naps, we'll see. For now it seems like he still needs some napping during the day but I think cutting back might be good... This may be the start of transitioning out of naps (he's skipped a few lately). Thanks for the ideas!

yellow73 03-17-2012 09:44 PM

It's such a rough stage!  I was trying to remember what worked for us during that stage, and I remember that there was a period of a month or so when we just couldn't get my son to settle down when I was around for bedtime so I started leaving the house around that time and let my husband handle it.  Not sure if that makes any difference for your son, but it did for us.  After a while they worked out a routine, and it settled things down. Also, we did have his toddler bed in our room for a while. My son had some anxiety about waking up without us there, so it seemed to help him relax to know that he was in our room. I know that isn't for everyone, but I was all about whatever got me more sleep, and that helped.  


With my oldest son, he was ready for his own room, right next to ours when he was just turning 4.  Before that time, we tried to move him and he had nightmares every other other night for 2 weeks, so we knew he wasn't ready. Six months later he handled it fine.  2nd son had an easier time moving out because he had his brother to share a room with and wasn't alone, so he was out by age 3, even though he still usually came to our bed in the wee hours for some cuddling, but would fall right back to sleep.  


What's your bedtime routine like?  We did the early bedtime thing, but I have at least 2 friends who had schedules with work that made sense for them to have a fairly late planned bedtime, like between 9-11pm. Their kids took late afternoon naps then they had family time in the evening after they got off work.  It might be hard for your son to settle down for bed so soon after you are all home....could that be part of the problem?  It might be better to have brief routine, and off to bed later, than to drag it out for a long time when they aren't quite ready to sleep. 


Personally, bedtime is my least favorite part of the day, because I am tired and out of patience by that point after being with them all day.  I can imagine working all day and then dealing with them isn't any easier.  Be gentle with yourself, none of us are perfect parents!  

D_McG 03-20-2012 04:43 AM

Was he in a crib before that?  If so I would put him back in it.  


Either way I think it's time for him to fall asleep by himself.  All of mine reached that point - where my presence was riling them up and frankly I was 'done' and could feel myself getting mad just wanting some time alone with my DH.  It worked really well here to leave in increments.  "I'm going to wash the dishes".  "I'm going to make a phone call" and get him/her used to being alone for a few minutes.  Then after a while of that I could get firmer.  That I'd be back in 5 minutes and if they didn't stay in their rooms for that length of time then the timer would start again.  


It worked v. well and now all my kids go to sleep alone.  Even my baby (but that's just like a magic thing.  I didn't do anything for it).  

t2009 03-22-2012 08:09 PM

Thanks, so much, Yellow73, for the encouragement! You know, maybe it is that it's just too much to have me come home, play for 15 minutes (or so), do dinner & then to bed. And maybe he's just going through a period where he's having trouble settling. The more I think about it, though, the more I think maybe you're right that the naps are interfering with nighttime sleep. I think now is a really hard time... when he was younger I just expected it to be tough, but now that we've gone through periods of relatively good sleep it's extra hard when he shakes things up. Things haven't necessarily gotten better, but I've been (mostly) more patient, which I at least feel better about.


D_McG, I have really thought about going back to the crib, but we partly switched to the toddler bed because he was potty training (& we wanted him to be able to access his potty at night easily) & now that he's fully potty trained I hesitate to take a step backward. But I think your idea of telling him "I'm going to do x" might work with him. We've tried just saying "I'll be back" or even setting a timer, but that hasn't worked. Thanks!

sundaya 03-25-2012 07:58 PM

We are coming out the flip side of this same sort of thing. DD (3) still co-sleeps with us and DS (8 months). However, what is working for us, finally, after trying many many things, might give you some ideas.  After our bedtime routine, if she's unable to settle,  I say something like, "wow, you seem to still have a lot of energy. I'm going to read (do dishes, work on the computer etc) until you're ready to go to sleep. You just let me know when you're ready, and we can cuddle and tell some stories/rub your back/whatever." Basically, just saying, you get whatever you need to get out of your system, but I'm going to take care of myself in the meantime, so that I can stay calm. I found that when I am able to just react with a calm, "wow, you're really still bouncy, what can we do to help you calm down" it changes the dynamic completely.


Sometimes now, she will ask me to sit and rock with her for a few minutes, or rub her back, or tell her a story, or do a sacral rock when I ask what I can do to help her relax. The sacral rock probably helped her the most at first, when she was so overtired she could hardly be in her own skin, much less relax. All that is, is that she lays down on her belly, and I put a hand flat on her bottom and kind of sink in a bit, so that I can rock her side to side so that her whole body moves. Really fast at first, to match that jittery energy, and then slowing down. She sometimes prefers to lay on her back and I rock her from her lower belly. I think it's helped her to have some tools to help her relax, because she wasn't able to do that on her own.


For me, it's definitely been a process of letting go of control. I just want to make her lay down and be still, because you can't go to sleep if you're running around the darn room! But, at least for us, it got where DD was so overtired, that she couldn't lay down and be still without a lot of help, and, I think, also taking away the pressure to "go to sleep NOW"  She was in some over-tired place of winding herself up on the negative attention.The first few nights we did this were not fun. She just kept trying harder to provoke me, and stayed up much later than I wanted. My goal at first was just not to lose my temper. After that, it's gotten easier and easier. We're maybe a month in now, and most nights are good. She's going to sleep by 8:30 at the latest. The anger is gone from bedtime, which was the thing I wanted most.


I hope you find what works for your household and are able to bring back peacefulness to your bedtimes. I know how hard and exhausting it is.

lessmith23 03-26-2012 05:06 PM

Originally Posted by sundaya View Post
For me, it's definitely been a process of letting go of control. I just want to make her lay down and be still, because you can't go to sleep if you're running around the darn room! But, at least for us, it got where DD was so overtired, that she couldn't lay down and be still without a lot of help, and, I think, also taking away the pressure to "go to sleep NOW"  She was in some over-tired place of winding herself up on the negative attention.The first few nights we did this were not fun. She just kept trying harder to provoke me, and stayed up much later than I wanted. My goal at first was just not to lose my temper. After that, it's gotten easier and easier. We're maybe a month in now, and most nights are good. She's going to sleep by 8:30 at the latest. The anger is gone from bedtime, which was the thing I wanted most.



This has been totally our experience as well.  I used to get so angry that it just made the situation worse.  DD is almost 3 and what we've started to do, if she's clearly not tired at her normal bedtime, is to give her options.  She can either look through her books or talk her her animals etc. but she must stay in bed.  This works well for us because I'm not resentful of her cutting into "me time" and frustrated trying to get her to go to sleep when she's clearly not ready, and she's happy to have a choice so is willing to stay in bed.  She's usually asleep fairly quickly anyway as I think for her at this age it's about having some control and these are options we can both live.


I'm just happy to not dread bedtime the way I used to and that's it's become a nice way to bond and end the day together peacefully.



t2009 04-10-2012 09:33 PM

Thanks for the ideas, Sundaya & Lessmith23. I read your posts a while back & have been working hard on letting go. Some nights are better than others.

Sundaya, I've tried the sacral rock & also some massage (DS will sometimes request a massage) but I can feel his body just go all tense & he doesn't relax much.

I've also tried just giving him freedom but he is so needy at bedtime that he won't stay in his room.

Nothing is really helping yet, at least not consistently. He's actually been worse the last few days than ever & I haven't been reacting as well as I should. Tonight I was super calm... Until he kicked me in the chin. He has this thing about kicking off his blanket when he doesn't want to go to sleep. I was gently helping him keep his legs to himself as we laid down & cuddled. Or tried to cuddle ... He just rolls & flails about & generally just makes it intolerable to be near him. But then try to leave him & he doesn't want that either. It was in the process of getting up & leaving that he kicked me. I started crying - it actually hurt & also I was so frustrated. But I kept calm, until he tried to kick me again & then I totally lost my patience.

He's so helpful & pleasent during the day (mostly) but is totally intolerable at bedtime. Both DH & I are once again at our wits ends. I feel like we've tried really hard to tackle the whole bedtime thing in the best way possible, but it's just getting worse. And he really does need a nap still. I feel like DS does not handle being given more choices well & he also reacts poorly to my or DH's presence.

Super frustrating & I'm running out of ideas & hope! Thx for reading.

Super~Single~Mama 04-11-2012 05:57 AM

First, BIG hug2.gif


Bedtime is horrible. I hate it, and so does my ds (well, he just hates to sleep). I do not cuddle him at bedtime, because it stimulates him. If I lay down with him, I lay with my back to him and am totally silent and still. I tell him before bedtime that if he talks, or moves around, that I will leave. I follow through. It feels mean, but its not mean - its setting boundaries and then following through. Kicking gets time outs in my house too, regardless of what time it is.


Something else that I have started recently (totally by accident btw), is reading bedtime stories in the living room on the couch. Then brush teeth, and then bedtime. It seems to help drive home that his bed is for sleeping in.


Also, when we were having the WORST bedtimes EVER, ds kept saying that he was afraid of the dark, and I just could not figure out why. Finally, by accident, I discovered that as soon as I would leave the room and go downstairs, the cat (who was really shy and didn't like DS, but who liked me and always thought I was in the room) was going to scratch at the door to be let in. Poor ds thought it was a monster because he didn't realize it was just the cat (who weighs less than 5lbs and is NOT scary in the least)! That was when we lived with family, and it doesn't happen now that we moved into our own place, and ds knows its the cat when it happens now.


Hugs though, bedtime is awful.

t2009 04-11-2012 08:04 PM

Thanks Super Single Mama! That's so sad (& oddly sweet) that your cat really was creeping out your son! Poor guy.

I think we're totally going to try moving stories to the couch or our bed -- that's a great idea! I think it's too much stimulation for me or DH to read to him while he's sitting or flipping around in bed.

Sundaya & Lessmith23, I REALLY took a big step forward letting go tonight. After stories & nursing I told DS that I had to do dishes but that he could sit & read until he got tired. He came out a few times to ask me to get him a book but was really excited to have the freedom. I reminded him that he could turn off his light anytime & go to sleep on his own. Eventually it got quiet (maybe only 20 or so minutes, if even that... I was trying to let go & not keep track...) so I checked in on him & light was out & DS was lying down! I'm shocked. I was sure he'd be up for an hour or more. Who knows what tomorrow will bring but it was an anger free bedtime tonight!

Thanks mamas!!

sundaya 04-12-2012 05:45 AM

We are still a work in progress, some nights still veer towards rough, but I've definitely found that the more I can let go and worry about my own reactions (as opposed to focusing on DD's behavior) the better it works out. There's definitely part of me that's going (inside), "OMG, do you know what time it is, just lay down and shut up already, because I've been on all day and I need you to sleep NOW so I can get a little down time. I'm never going to get a minute to myself WAAAAAHHHHHH"  I've also managed to keep the anger gone, but some nights it's definitely harder than others.

I'm glad to hear your update. It sounds like things are slowly getting better in your house. One day, we'll look back on this and laugh, right....??

onesontheway 04-28-2012 06:43 PM

Hi there,

I have been through similar sleeping issues with my DD over the last 5 years. In hindsight, I wish I didn't have so many rules and ideas in my head how things "have" to be. The more rules I made, the harder it was for everyone and the more dissapointing it was when things didn't go how I thought they "should". This may not be helpful at all, but I have finally reached the point where I am embracing less structure. If my DD can't sleep or is strugging with "bed time" then there is no bed time. She can do an assortment of activities in another room while I have my time with DH or just be by myself in quiet. Bed time parenting has always been one of the hardest things for us and finally I am asking "Why not?" and it feels so good to not follow any traditional parenting rules. Again, that probably wasn't helpful but I wish you the best.




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