Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bedtime Battles-- Please deposit your 2 cents here.

I am at a loss.

I have a six year old Pookie that will not go to sleep. He thinks bedtime is a form of punishment. I have explained to him even at length sometimes that everybody needs sleep. It is not a scary thing. Mommy looks forward to sleep. There's always a new day. There will be more time for play and more time for stories. But that if our bodies do not get the sleep we need, they will not work properly. We will be tired and have no strength. We will be cranky and moody. We won't be able to learn as well without the proper sleep.

I have taught him to count sheep. I have taught him to think about the things he wants to dream about. I encourage cuddling a teddy bear and a favorite blanket. He even has one night a week where he can sleep in Mommy and Daddy's bed- Wednesday. This is a night that he can look forward to.

But every other day, and sometimes even Wednesdays, he fights it. We have withdrawn privileges. He has received red chips in his jar. We have even tried to bribe him to go to sleep.

I fully believe, and please help me change my mind if this is just off the wall, that he should be able to go to sleep on his own. I maintain hope that there are children out there that go to sleep willingly and on time. Pleasant children out there with happy mommies and daddies go to sleep because they know it's what they do and they are willing to do it without bribe or punishment. I maintain hope that one day I will learn this neat parenting trick and be able to pass on the wisdom to my kids.

Oh, and the other kids, sadly they eventually fall asleep while listening to the battle every night. Sometimes it is mad chaos with at least three rebelling at the same time; one almost getting to sleep and another waking them up and usually lots of tears on those nights. mine included.

For about the last two weeks, his excuse is, "I can't go to sleep without Daddy cuddling me." I have explained multiple times each night that yes he "can" but he doesn't "want" to. I explained that it is okay to want a cuddle every night. But think about how many cuddles and fun times he can have during the day. Think about going to sleep nicely every night without a fuss and fight. I've asked him, "Do you like being grounded just because of tantrums to not go to sleep every night?" But is any of it sinking in?

Right now, Danny just led Pookie downstairs with an armfull of dirty laundry. Danny told me, "Pookie is going to do chores." Being unable to stop my wicked tongue I said, "Well, they should be heinously hard then." And I'm thinking he should be scrubbing poop out of cloth diaper covers or scrubbing the toilet. That's not going to work tonight though. I scrubbed the toilets yesterday and we haven't even been using cloth diapers at all through this last pregnancy. On the other hand, I don't want him not liking chores. He loves chores. So, maybe I can get a clean house, he gets to stay up and clean until he passes out, and everyone is happy? But when am I going to date my Danny? I look forward to the time when they are all asleep and I can spend time with Danny without hiring a babysitter.

I am not super-mommy. Please help. PLEASE.


Amy said...

Oh Nikki - that is so hard. I know how much I look forward to bed time for my own alone time, let alone finding those rare moments to be alone with your spouse.

unfortunately, I don't have too much advice. Due to personal experience and our personal decisions on the subject, we have never subjected our children to bedtimes. For me, and from others I've talked to with the same issues, it created bad sleep habits and an aversion to sleep. I still can't nap as an adult no matter how tired I am and it takes a long time to get to sleep at night. This is just us though, and I know many, many parents set bedtimes and routines that work wonderfully for all in the family. We all do what works best for our families.

Anyhow, my kids have just fallen into a pattern of predictble sleep at the same time each night, but on the occasion that the day was not stimulating/energy consuming enough or Kami took a nap (which she usually doesn't), then she is up later. And since my quiet time is important, we just let her know that it is bed time, and she doesn't have to sleep but it is not a time that mommy and daddy will engage in play, no cartoons/tv, or toys. She can lay down and watch an educational show (like ANimal planet), read a book (to herself), etc.. So far this has worked for us.
Ever since weaning though, Tim was a big part of the process at the time where he'd lay down with her, so he still often does that since they both enjoy that extra time together after long days without daddy around to connect with. She's young still (as I feel 6 years old is too), and if their need to be with a parent is more for a short phase than being punished, then I'd tend to think they are looking to get a need filled. Could be lots of things. Just wanting to have one on one time with daddy more. Maybe having a bad dream that he's trying to get over. Or, since I don't have any 6 year olds lol, maybe it really is just a phase of them trying to test their own physical boundaries to stay up as long as they can.

I hope you get better advice. LIke I said, my oldest is 4, so I have not been in your shoes yet.

Mrs. Morty said...

Oh the frustration!! What a pain to have to battle with a child every night. We have had a few bedtime issues, nothing nearly as bad as you are going through, but here are some ideas that work for us. They may or may not be the answer for your Pookie. Bedtime here is generally non-negotiable, once everyone is in bed they are to stay there. Mind you this is not always met with happy cheers of "Yippee! We get to go to bed." Sometimes there is much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. They don't have to go to sleep and can even have one toy but they need to be quite and in bed not disturbing anyone else. Morty Jr has been getting up because he is interested in what mommy and daddy are doing. We say at most "Its time for bed" or "get in your bed" (it may not always go a calmly as you are imagining it in your head) and walk or carry him back to bed we don't engage in any conversation or "but I need..." other than ONE potty stop. That is about the ONLY thing we have consistently done since our kids were toddlers and they have been "programed" to comply and that resistance is futile. Just a thought.
I know having your much hoped for quite time so defiled by fighting is enough to make you tear your hair out (I have a few bald spots myself) or cry yourself to sleep. I know I would be beside myself if I were having a battle every night. Its especially aggravating when you feel like you've tried every solution known to man. You are not alone in the battle front:)

OHANA said...

We totally just went through this again. Rykel who used to love to go to sleep, and was the best at bedtime...just started a rebellion for bed. I did the same things, punishment by taking toys away or whatever, bribes by giving kindness coins when she is kind enough NOT to through a tantrum....and then there was yelling..oh the yelling. Sad I am not super-Mommy either, and then came the lots and lots of praying. Well we discussed this night after night of what needs we CAN do. Well I just barely discovered that SHE feels uncomfortable/scared/alone/etc when going to bed. So we took the blanket that grandma gave her and made it into her "special/super" blanket. It has animals on it with hawaiian names, so We made up a story of how each animal protects/loves/cuddles her at night. Now I know that pookie is older and may not succumb so easily to the stories, but it has made a world of difference. She still has problems every now and then, maybe 1 - 2 times a week..but that's better than everynight. And we remind her at night that the animals keep her safe and cuddle her andlove her when WE cannot. I don't know it may or may not help..but it's worth a try.

Leslie said...

Hmmm, don't know what to tell you. It sounds like you are doing some of the same things we've tried but maybe just that your kids have different personalities so those ideas don't work for them. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing, but for us we've never let kids sleep with us (other than briefly as nursing babies - and after nursing they were put back to bed fairly quickly). Seriously, never-ever-ever (in 9 1/2 years of having kids, there have probably been less than a handful of times they've even slept on the floor in our room - that's only been when we've had company or a kid is sick with vomiting and we wanted them close to monitor that). So for our kids at least they have learned that they have one place to sleep and that is their own bed. If they woke up with for some reason, we comforted them, took care of whatever it was and put them back in their beds.

Once in a while we let them cuddle in the mornings with us if it's time to get up and we are just laying in bed 10 minutes longer or something. But no sleeping in our bed or room.

As for putting them to bed, we have a nighttime routine we try and stick to - we let them kids know it's almost bedtime, we all pick up the toys, we read scriptures, bathtime, pray, give hugs, into bed. If they get out of bed or are playing around (this mostly is just Emily now), we put her back in bed, tell her it's bedtime and to not get out of bed, etc. Once in a while we have to do that several times with Emily if it's an off night.

Hmmm, I'm trying to think of any more ideas that help. We have no toys or books in their rooms. We have pull down shades that keep the room even darker than the blinds alone. We stick with pretty much the same bedtime each night (730/800).

Leslie said...

Okay, sorry if that sounded preachy or like we have a perfect routine. I was just trying to give you ideas and hope it didn't come off rude.

Not that this will help with the older kids, but one thing I think helped when they were younger or babies, we really tried to follow the advice our pediatrician and books gave to lay kids down when they are sleepy but still awake and we didn't rock/nurse/sing/cuddle them to get to sleep. We did all those things before but put them down while still awake so that they didn't HAVE to have those things to sleep every night and they learned to go down themselves.

Have you seen SuperNanny? I haven't seen it in a while, but from the episodes I've seen, we also have used similar techniques for how she trains kids to learn to sleep on their own and stay in their room.

jenny said...

my oldest is younger than pookie, so I don't have a lot of ideas. Ben can fall asleep alone, but prefers not to. We used to always lay down with him until he went to sleep, but no we just sit in the room with him until he falls asleep. And we don't even always have to stay in his room. I always think his requests are attempts to procrastinate, but they sometimes do help, like if he asks for the light on (the big one). I guess some nights for one reason or another it seems scarier in bed at night, and so, if he asks I will let him keep the light on and he normally will then have no problem going to sleep. Once he's out I can turn off the light.

Amy said...

I already wrote a book, but I've been thinking about this alot. Mostly because we are about to add another sleeper to our family mix and I wonder how it will affect the other children's sleep habits.

ANyhow... There are SO many things to take into consideration. Just us as adults and how thigns affect our sleep. Somethign we ate that day, something we saw or watched on tv keeping us up because of fear, thining about somethign exciting coming up that busys our minds, etc.. Add all that to a child who can not process as well as us the importance of sleep, and you get one restless child.

Have you talked to him at length why he doesn't want to go to sleep? Sometimes they don't want to talk about fears for the same reasons adults don't... it makes it more real and then you have to face it. Or like you mentioned, maybe he's really just reaching out for some more dad time.

Again, sorry for taking up all your comments space. The extra parental attention is on my mind too because I can tell that Kami has been needing me more lately. She requests me for thigns that she has only ever wanted daddy for, or asking me to play at length and will wait for a long time if I have chores to do just to get that time.

Hope you've made some progress. If anything, progress in your mental state towards your little boy. I think the frustration is something that can be the most overwhelming.

Julie V. said...

Sweetheart...bedtime "battles" have been going on for ages! I have learned some VERY helpful things however from my own experience with raising nine little ones with various sleep problems, and also much experience putting my little grandchildren to bed (especially Beki's Bugs).
The best advice that I can give is for you to be patient and loving, and firm. It's a challenge to not loose your temper, but remember that your ultimate goal is to help Pookie be healthy and happy. I remember that Pookie's Daddy also had trouble staying in bed at night (along with his brothers... and later the girls). Children have separation anxieties and big and little fears about the dark and nightmares, etc. What has always worked best for putting little ones to bed (and I used this method while visiting Pookieville...) - is to be willing to sacrifice some of my evening time to make sure the kids are tucked into bed with stories and prayers - you know, your established routine of "time to get ready for bed!" : pajamas, potty, tooth brushing, prayers, and stories...actually tucking in, hugs and kisses...and then letting the kids know that I will stay close until they are asleep. (But usually not actually in bed with can become a necessity for their sleep pattern!) Sometimes I stay in the room, sometimes in the hall - but close, and it is especially helpful if I sing quiet Primary songs while they go to sleep. They know I'm near, they are not allowed to get out of bed, sometimes I have to shush them and say "put your head on the pillow and close your eyes" about a hundred times, but it's the best method I've come up with. It's not 100% fool-proof, and you have to allow the kids time to adjust and realize you mean business...but threats and anger, frustration, etc. only add to the problems. (See D & C 121:41-43) Changing any kind of routine also takes plenty of time and consistency before it becomes habit and the child will believe that the changes are permanent. It's hard sometimes, but remind yourself that taking 20 minutes or even an hour to get your kids gently off to sleep is worth missing your favorite TV show, or postponing your own chores or bedtime.
I remember when my baby of the family (SusieQ) had big bedtime issues...I tried rocking her to sleep, which worked, but then became an essential part of her going-to-sleep routine and was hard to break!...I eventually found a great music recording called "Baby Go to Sleep" that I played in her room each night to help her get to sleep (it worked quite well, but she still can't go to sleep without quiet music playing in her room!).
Positive rewards are good, threats never work very well though. Kids can earn one late night for example if they go to bed and stay in bed five nights in a row - or something like that.
I did have one night owl child who still does better at night than in the morning. I tried everything - she just couldn't get to sleep. I eventually gave up and allowed her to stay awake and play quietly (Fisher Price Little People was generally her game of choice )- rule was she had to play very quietly so as not to disturb the rest of the family who actually wanted to sleep...when she got tired she climbed into bed on her own. When she started going to public school and couldn't sleep in, things had to change, but she was a little more willing to understand and cooperate by then.
Each child is different and will go through different stages of development. Be calm and patient. Don't punish them or belittle them for their fears, but don't feed the fears either. Some kids are simply having trouble with changes, or sleep patterns, some are actually into power struggles with the adults...but believe in yourself and you can help make bedtime a little smoother. Best wishes to you all...I'll call and we can talk about more ideas!

Mary said...

That night owl in the previous comment would be me...

Anyway, for our own son we have a set bedtime. When we first started that, B was very resistant. There was a weekend of suffering through a couple hours of putting him back in bed, resisting the screams, and only going in at 15 minutes increments (increasing each time by 15 min). It was very tough, but now he usually goes to bed great. Having a routine also helps. Even when he doesn't want to go to bed, he LOVES brushing his teeth - so we just mention that and the rest of the routine will go just fine.

But, as has been mentioned, what works for one kid may not work for another. Good luck with your own battles.


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