4 year old -- sleep battles (among other things) - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 19 Old 07-08-2012, 09:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm about at my wits end. My 4 yo has never been a good sleeper but it's been getting worse lately. She's been so disruptive at preschool naptime that her preschool has asked that she leave before naptime. (Ugh.)

 

We have made a rule that she must nap at home -- or at least have quiet time -- but it's a constant struggle to get her down. We've tried establishing a routine -- snack, story, turn on relaxing music, and I'll lay with her for no more than 5 minutes.

 

Or at least, this is the plan.  She's usually so disruptive by the time we get upstairs that it's a struggle to get through the story and she'll try to prolong the story as long as possible, asking for more stories (we have a one story rule) and then wiggling when it's time to cuddle. We have a three strikes system. I warn her twice that if she continues to wiggle/be disruptive, that I will leave the room and close the door. I do this without yelling but up until I leave, she thinks it's a game.

 

Once I leave though, she goes into hysterics. She has gone half an hour, an hour, of crying, screaming for "someone to cuddle me!!" but when I have done that, we just go through the same song and dance again.

 

Bedtime is more of the same. There was a time when we could do our normal bedtime routine (same as naptime) and she'd go to bed without incident. Now it's running around, trying to put off bedtime, and more often than not, falling asleep only after tantruming for a good, long while.

 

She's always been bad with transitions so we've always been careful to explain what's going to happen so it's not like it's a surprise that I'm getting up to leave! This has been happening for months now, always with the same result. Her school has said that she tends to manipulate with her tantrums and that's definitely true at home.

 

We have cut down screen time, don't allow sugar after 5:00PM (and only then between 2:00PM ~ 5:00PM, one cookie or a sugary drink). She has to "earn" her limited screen time by first taking at least a 1 hour nap. There haven't been any huge things happening in our lives lately, no siblings to fight with, etc.

 

We've gone from a family that never, ever let her CIO when she was a baby/toddler and yet now, she's crying herself to sleep more often than not! It breaks my heart. But the alternative is either she doesn't nap (or sleep until midnight!!) OR she holds me hostage for both naptime and bedtime. She's getting about 8 ~ 9 hours total of sleep, and that's if we're lucky. It's not healthy for her, it's not practical for either her or me, and it's getting to be extremely disruptive for the entire family, who has to sit through her entire tantrums that can easily last up to an hour or more. :( (She often does not want comfort from anyone else other than Mommy. All I can do is sit and feel my heart break. Comforting her only makes these episodes last longer.

 

What do I do??


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#2 of 19 Old 07-08-2012, 10:10 PM
 
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I am so there right now too w/ my four year old daughter.  I want to find a loving way to put her to bed but the fits and tantrums make me so frustrated w/ her and I too feel held hostage.  I wish I had advice, but I thank you for sharing this as I don't feel so alone in this.  I'm trying to be firm and it breaks my heart to see my girl so sad and having so much trouble w/ sleep.

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#3 of 19 Old 07-09-2012, 11:01 AM
 
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Have you tried a reward system? You can provide a reward if she "easily" goes to sleep. You need to define "easily" in very concrete, clear terms for her. For example, 1) she is quiet when you leave the room, 2) she does not wiggle during cuddle time, etc. You could also set a timer for the cuddle time so that she can clearly see how long it lasts for. She could earn a sticker for every nap and night time that she meets the requirements you are looking for, and then a bigger reward (of her choosing) when she has a certain number of stickers. You may want the requirements to be a little easier in the beginning so that she can be successful and then gradually make them a little harder. You can also provide an incentive such as she can earn something she really wants that day (watching a favorite show, iPad time, etc.) as an immediate reward. You are doing everything else right as it is hard not to engage in a power struggle with them and it sounds like you are doing a great job of avoiding this! You are also not alone at all - I always tell parents that 4 years old is a very difficult age and they commonly engage in these behaviors. Their communication skills are excellent and they love to reason with you, leading to these behaviors. Hang in there and let me know if the reward system works :).
 

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#4 of 19 Old 07-09-2012, 11:08 AM
 
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Is she actually napping most days? If so that could be a big reason why she isn't going to bed at night at night. My kids actually get more sleep in a 24 hour period if they do not nap so we stop naps early. I don't do quiet time, it would just be a battle of wills so I decided that wasn't my hill to die on. 


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#5 of 19 Old 07-09-2012, 05:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am so there right now too w/ my four year old daughter.  I want to find a loving way to put her to bed but the fits and tantrums make me so frustrated w/ her and I too feel held hostage.  I wish I had advice, but I thank you for sharing this as I don't feel so alone in this.  I'm trying to be firm and it breaks my heart to see my girl so sad and having so much trouble w/ sleep.

 

Commiseration is key to a parent's sanity sometimes, isn't it?

 

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Have you tried a reward system? You can provide a reward if she "easily" goes to sleep. You need to define "easily" in very concrete, clear terms for her. For example, 1) she is quiet when you leave the room, 2) she does not wiggle during cuddle time, etc. You could also set a timer for the cuddle time so that she can clearly see how long it lasts for. She could earn a sticker for every nap and night time that she meets the requirements you are looking for, and then a bigger reward (of her choosing) when she has a certain number of stickers. You may want the requirements to be a little easier in the beginning so that she can be successful and then gradually make them a little harder. You can also provide an incentive such as she can earn something she really wants that day (watching a favorite show, iPad time, etc.) as an immediate reward. You are doing everything else right as it is hard not to engage in a power struggle with them and it sounds like you are doing a great job of avoiding this! You are also not alone at all - I always tell parents that 4 years old is a very difficult age and they commonly engage in these behaviors. Their communication skills are excellent and they love to reason with you, leading to these behaviors. Hang in there and let me know if the reward system works :).
 

 

We reward her with her precious screen time. But lately there have been times that she's like, "Oh, I don't want to watch TV!" so she'll bounce around instead of sleeping. Oof! Otherwise, it does work. Sort of. 

 

Thank you for the suggestions for setting a timer and the concrete ideas! Hopefully these can help her understand.

 

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Is she actually napping most days? If so that could be a big reason why she isn't going to bed at night at night. My kids actually get more sleep in a 24 hour period if they do not nap so we stop naps early. I don't do quiet time, it would just be a battle of wills so I decided that wasn't my hill to die on. 

 

It's really 50/50 on whether or not she'll nap. Sometimes she flops upstairs like a fish for the full two hours. The problem is that even when she doesn't nap, she doesn't go down any earlier. In fact, she doesn't nap, she may very well stay up until 11:00PM (or later!) despite bedtime routines, begging, shutting her upstairs in the room.


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#6 of 19 Old 07-10-2012, 06:03 AM
 
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I'm right there with you. DD is almost 5. You'd think that after 5 years of going to bed every night, she'd get it..? :)

 

But instead, we fight it. Even if I get her in her room at 830, she'll be awake until 1030pm in there drawing, playing with her stuffed animals, getting up frequently to come and "get a hug," which turns into "I need to snuggle with you out here in the living room," or "I can't sleep," which then escalates into a tantrum. I mean...I think that 4/5 years old is too old for this. I really do. 

 

I've tried the reward system with no luck. It's like....the more negotiating there is, the worse it gets. I tried stickers, I tried a notebook that goes between my house and my ex's house with a calendar and stickers in that, and it seems to be more that she's not connecting the actions with the consequences. I really don't want to bribe her with rewards, either.

 

I don't have the magic answer. I just wanted to say, BTDT, and I hope it gets better soon. I feel like with my DD, she's super overstimulated - not that there are too many stimuli around her, but that all of her receptors are on...instead of being able to prune or shut off what isn't being used, she's a giant wall of electricity. I don't know if that makes sense. Imagine an octopus (or maybe a centipede) with its legs and all of them trying to latch on to something, even though she's totally exhausted. She doesn't know how to wind down and shut off. I've started looking into good ways to support or guide her in filtering those impulses. 

 

Good luck <3


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#7 of 19 Old 07-10-2012, 02:55 PM
 
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It's really 50/50 on whether or not she'll nap. Sometimes she flops upstairs like a fish for the full two hours. The problem is that even when she doesn't nap, she doesn't go down any earlier. In fact, she doesn't nap, she may very well stay up until 11:00PM (or later!) despite bedtime routines, begging, shutting her upstairs in the room.

 

This is DS1 - he's ALWAYS been a trouble sleeper. Once he gets to sleep, he sleeps great - no getting up in the middle of the night or anything. But getting him TO sleep, oh god, that's a horror show. More often than not I've left angry because I can't take it anymore - and then of course I feel like crap for having left a negative impression at sleepy time. Rewards don't work, routines don't work, changing his diet didn't work, letting him skip nap didn't work...he's just one of those kids who can't turn his brain off very easily. And while I empathize because I am the exact same way, it doesn't mean I can stand another two-hour trying to get him to bed routine every night. Just. Can't. Do it. 

 

So I feel your pain. I figure when he's old enough to read, he can just stay in there and read. Until then, we just do our best. Which is not very good, IMO.

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#8 of 19 Old 07-10-2012, 07:01 PM
 
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I am in the middle of reading No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers.

Although I haven't read it all or implemented all that I want to, it has some really good info and tips and ideas for dealing with sleep issues. 

 

It totally sounds like your dd is over-tired and hyper-alert to the point where she has insomnia...not allowing herself to sleep. 

My ds (who is now 6) gave up naps before turning 3.  We just made bedtime earlier to make sure he was sleeping enough.  He absolutely wouldn't stay in bed for a quiet time, without a parent with him.  He wouldn't even play with toys quietly in his room.  Sometimes i just tried to do a story time/cuddle time on the couch.

Anyway, if it's not working, you have to try something different.  I hope you find something that works!
 


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#9 of 19 Old 07-10-2012, 08:47 PM
 
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jaw.gif wait what?!!!! preschool naptime troubles at 4? her preschool is COMPLAINING? that is RIDICULOUS in my books. in dd's dc 80% of the 4 year olds had given up naps. what the dc did was instill a half hour of just lay in bed time and then they could get up and do quiet crafts time that was laid out on the table for them to do. 

 

what do you expect her to do for quiet time? just laying in bed is kinda boring. do you give her a choice of activities to do? even if she is sitting up but just focusing on one thing and doing it for maybe half an hour. or maybe more. 

 

i think you need to give up the nap time (as it was regularly defined when she was younger). you might have quiet time - but max for an hour. 

 

do you guys do a lot of intense activity? not just physical but emotional and intellectual. one great one is horsing around. i cant think of the right word here. wrestling will really take care of the wiggles. deep hugs. she is not being naughty. she has a need that needs to be taken care of. if you cant could you get your dh to wrestle with her once a day at least. seriously wrestle with pushing her boundaries where she might get angry with dh. that is HUGELY helpful for kids like yours who has a lot of energy and is way too curious. 

 

she is at the age where she NEEDs more mommy time. there's a lot of emotional growth spurts happening and she really enjoys the assurance of mommy there at naptime and at bedtime. 

 

could you take a downtime at naptime and just lay in bed reading with her or whatever you do. 

 

has her imagination hit sky high? i think she is just needy now and the more you give her that the quickly she will get over her neediness.

 

i think you also need to figure out what her real sleep requirements are. she may not fit the box. so be realistic. 

 

let her be awake for nap time and hopefully she will not fight bed time so much. 

 

but once she goes to sleep she sleeps right through right? she doesnt wake up - most of the time right?!!!


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#10 of 19 Old 07-16-2012, 01:17 AM
 
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I agree with a lot of what meemee is saying.  My 4 year old hasn't had a planned nap since he was 2 ( would still sometimes nap in the car).  And he hasn't napped at all unless sick since he was 3.  I think he'd flip if I told him he HAD to nap.  What seems to work for us at bedtime is having a consistent schedule and having LOTS of physically energetic play during the day (running around, wrestling with papa, etc).  Usually if my son is trying to put off bed time, I will hand him his pajamas, get a book he really wants to read and tell him I'm going to his bed to read (either with him or without him).  He usually comes running.  There's been a few times that hasn't worked, but that seems because he really didn't want to read as he was too tired.  So after a few minutes, I just turn out the light and say "I'm sleeping.".  I still do lay down with him until he's asleep.  Most nights, he falls asleep very quickly (less than 5 minutes) after lights are out...sometimes it takes a bit longer, if he's got a lot on his mind...At this age, they really are starting to think about a lot of things and some are scary to them, especially at night.  

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#11 of 19 Old 08-22-2012, 05:06 AM
 
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Since my son has started Pre-K, he crashes and burns at naptime due to going 200 mph during the day. I also noticed that now at 4, rarely does he want to take weekend naps so I don't push it. Try eliminating the nap and having her play outside to run that energy out. That may help with getting her to bed easily. All that fresh air and running around works wonders with wearing kids down.


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#12 of 19 Old 08-22-2012, 04:03 PM
 
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We stopped naps right before 3 years old.  It took about 8 weeks to smoothly transition from no naps to a good routine (napping some days, not napping others, going to bed early or late depending) but after about 8 weeks it was smooth sailing.  Bedtime is way smoother.  Although I do stay until he is asleep.  We read until DS is asleep (and have since he stopped nursing to sleep) occasionally we will turn out the light before he's totally asleep. 

 

At the preschool where I work (and ds goes) there is no expectation that the kids will nap (and we are talking 2-6 year olds).  In fact we prefer if they don't fall asleep because then we have to leave a teacher with them after the other kids are ready to move on to something else.  They have quiet time, they can look at books, draw, do puzzles, play with trains, play with baby dolls etc, any sort of quiet activity, but not just laying alone and quiet.  

 

I would try something like that if you are set on quiet time, but I would look at transitioning away from napping.  If she is fighting naps and bedtime I would assume she was ready to drop naps.  The transition into fall/winter is an AWESOME time to drop naps because it gets dark earlier and there are usually fewer cool evening activities you'd want to go to.  I think the year we dropped naps ds went to sleep, with little to no effort by 6:30/7pm!!!!

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#13 of 19 Old 08-24-2012, 04:16 PM
 
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I know I am going to sound like a big kook here, but why not try just letting her crash out when she's tired? You can't control her sleep. You can't make her sleep when you want her to. She can't force herself to sleep, either. If you could just let her sleep when sleep comes to her, instead of according to a timeclock, then you wouldn't have to fight about it every single day. I'd imagine that constant fighting is worse for a child than irregular sleep patterns.

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#14 of 19 Old 08-25-2012, 11:03 AM
 
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I know I am going to sound like a big kook here, but why not try just letting her crash out when she's tired? You can't control her sleep. You can't make her sleep when you want her to. She can't force herself to sleep, either. If you could just let her sleep when sleep comes to her, instead of according to a timeclock, then you wouldn't have to fight about it every single day. I'd imagine that constant fighting is worse for a child than irregular sleep patterns.

 

I tried that with DS1 too. That was my natural inclination, actually. What happens is he gets about seven hours of sleep a day, then acts like a horrible brat when he's awake because he isn't getting enough sleep. It's not that he only needs seven hours--trust me on this, I can tell--it's that he can't get enough when left to his own devices.

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#15 of 19 Old 08-25-2012, 11:39 AM
 
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I know I am going to sound like a big kook here, but why not try just letting her crash out when she's tired? You can't control her sleep. You can't make her sleep when you want her to. She can't force herself to sleep, either. If you could just let her sleep when sleep comes to her, instead of according to a timeclock, then you wouldn't have to fight about it every single day. I'd imagine that constant fighting is worse for a child than irregular sleep patterns.

Yeah that wouldn't work with ds1 either. We've tried it, he doesn't get near enough sleep then acts out when he's up because he's so tired.

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#16 of 19 Old 08-25-2012, 01:29 PM
 
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I know I am going to sound like a big kook here, but why not try just letting her crash out when she's tired? You can't control her sleep. You can't make her sleep when you want her to. She can't force herself to sleep, either. If you could just let her sleep when sleep comes to her, instead of according to a timeclock, then you wouldn't have to fight about it every single day. I'd imagine that constant fighting is worse for a child than irregular sleep patterns.

i guess she has to be at preschool at a certain time so cant stay up too long. 

 

unfortunately for many children school times do not coincide with their natural body rhythm thus all this work for bedtime. 


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#17 of 19 Old 08-26-2012, 11:03 AM
 
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I know I am going to sound like a big kook here, but why not try just letting her crash out when she's tired? You can't control her sleep. You can't make her sleep when you want her to. She can't force herself to sleep, either. If you could just let her sleep when sleep comes to her, instead of according to a timeclock, then you wouldn't have to fight about it every single day. I'd imagine that constant fighting is worse for a child than irregular sleep patterns.

To some degree, I do this with my kids, but unless you're home all day, or can completely arrange your schedule according the child's needs that day, it doesn't work well.  My kids have never gone to daycare and we plan to homeschool, but there are still swimming lessons and things like My Gym, that happen at a specific time.  Plus, I have 2 kids, and the younger will gladly wake up early, while the older one would sleep in late, and between the 2 of them, we'd never get outside or do anything else.  And sometimes, I'm ready for my bed before they are...that doesn't mean that they'll play nicely by themselves and put themselves to bed when ready.  My kids probably go to bed later than most other people's, but I think you do need some structure depending on activities.  I don't force naps, and we all go to sleep at the same time, although I sometimes have to get up a few hours later to get work done.  

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#18 of 19 Old 08-28-2012, 12:27 PM
 
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I don't have any advice to share, but I wanted to send hugs because we're there too.  I think it's easy for other moms to say "well, why bother with the nap then?  My kids haven't napped since __ age."  But for one, mama knows stuff.  If mama says she needs help getting her kid to nap/sleep at night, trust that what she's asking for is what she really needs.  I feel like by 4 years moms are pretty tuned into what their kids need, and even if another kid wouldn't need it, she's probably right.  For another, some kids are harder than others.  Or maybe for some of us parenting is harder than for others.  Sometimes the solutions are really difficult to find and hard to implement.

 

 Not sure if this is the case for your kiddo too, but DS's behavior is a little out of whack in other areas as well.  Maybe it's all about the sleep, but he's been talking back a lot, taking correction very hard and generally being hard to please.  He's also been super loving, very helpful and more empathetic than usual (at times).  Huge swings in behavior and temperment.  I'm not sure which end is up anymore.


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#19 of 19 Old 09-04-2012, 07:11 PM
 
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We're having similar issues, though not identical. DD is 4 3/4 and has been a fantastic sleeper for for two solid years -- fell asleep relatively easily on her own, slept 11+ hours through the night without a problem. Then last month, she very suddenly started having huge sleep issues -- doesn't want to be alone at bedtime, wakes up panicky in the night, wakes up earlier in the morning. In the course of a few weeks her average sleep went from 11+ hours to about 9.

The problems seemed to begin right around an illness -- she would spike a fever in the middle of the night and wake up sort of delirious and panicky. Since she was sick, I started letting her sleep in our bed (and later on the floor of our room).

Now she's been well for at least 3 weeks, but she never went back to sleeping "normally," and the panic and anxiety seems to be her new normal. No matter what i try, I can't figure out how to get back our good sleeper! She is unable/unwilling to tell me her fears -- just that she doesn't want to be alone. I know she is genuinely afraid, but I find myself so resentful, feeling like she's trying to manipulate me to stay with her (she is!), hating leaving her in her bed so miserable, but I simply can't afford to stay in her room until she's asleep -- it takes far too long and I have too much I need to get done after bedtime.

I have some new ideas to try from reading threads tonight. But the suddenness of our situation seems different from many others who have posted. Just wanted to join in the sleep-deprived conversation!
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