Help - 4 year old suddenly flipping out at bedtime! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 07-06-2011, 06:19 PM - Thread Starter
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If there's a better place to post this, feel free to point me there... Otherwise:


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 4 Old 07-08-2011, 06:38 AM
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Something I haven't tried, but have read about here, is to sit down during the day, and discuss bedtime expectations.  Make a chart (with pictures) of all the "steps" at bedtime.  Have the kids walk you through the chart when it actually is bedtime.  Some people like to make it so you can give a check-mark or star for each bedtime "step" completed.  I guess the idea is that somehow it gives the kids more ownership of the bedtime routine, and also by having this neutral "thing" to consult (ie. not mommy or daddy) it removes any power struggles.


Good luck!


ETA - my kids are allowed to read/look at books as they fall asleep.  Ds (3.5) falls asleep almost immediately, and dd (6.5) usually reads for about half an hour before falling asleep.  If you don't already, maybe let them have a book to look at, or even put on a CD of some soft lullaby music, when you leave the room.  It might ease the transition if he's feeling anxious about having you leave.

Kate, mom to 7 year old Djuna and 4 yr old Alden. Missing our good friend Hal the cat who died June 2, 2010

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#3 of 4 Old 07-08-2011, 08:37 AM
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mostly wanted to offer hugs as I can relate! (my boys will 6 in about 2 months)


all I can offer as far as suggestions is that when we've hit major resistance to routine that had been working it usually means there needs to be a shift somewhere.  This usually happens right when we finally feel like we have a handle on things...


Like the PP said, maybe you can sit down during the day and discuss bedtime, as for their ideas, add in something they come up with.


One of my boys has suddenly decided he is scared and woke up 4 or so times the other night.  It has coincided with the heat so we cooled down the house last night and it seems like that helped.  We also leave water in spill-less sippy cups in their beds.


I also often lie down on the floor propped on a pillow until they are well settled (sometimes drifting off before they do).


Good luck, hopefully it will be short lived.

mom of twins.gif boys born 9/13/05 and dog2.gifdog2.gif

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#4 of 4 Old 07-12-2011, 06:05 PM
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hug.gif Hugs. I'm going through something similar with my 3 year old.

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