Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bedtime gone wrong

- Bedtime gone wrong: passed out on the couch at 11:00 PM -

I was about to write about what a genius of a parent I am.... but Andy just messed it all up!* Thanks a lot!
We've been having major trouble getting Fischer to go to bed lately (for at least a month). We'll do our routine, kiss him goodnight and then for the next THREE to FOUR hours he'll be in and out of his room for one reason or another OR he'll be talking, singing and playing with his books and toys till his room is completely destroyed AND he is wide awake!
It has been really frustrating, and very very tiring. Not to mention, when he does fall asleep, it is often restless with frequent night wakings and then inevitably, he'll end up sleeping with us. It is getting old.
So, I've tried a myriad of things to help the situation:
I've tried ignoring him and letting him play and play till he falls asleep - but he never falls asleep.
I've tried consequences for getting out of bed or being too noisy - such as: turning his nightlights off, closing his door, taking away toys - all of this just gets him anxious and panicky, and brings on boatloads of tears.
I've tried giving him snacks, reassurance, incentives (like prizes for staying in bed all night) - didn't help.
All we were getting was an over-tired family and a seriously bad habit. The thing that bothered me most was that I'd put him to bed with love, kisses, songs, warm fuzzies, etc. and then end up being angry with him for hours before he finally passed out. Then I'd feel so guilty about it that I'd kind of want to go in and cuddle him, to let him know that I'm not really mad at him (but I didn't because it is not like I'm crazy - after a three to four hour fight I was not about to wake him!).
So, I hope I don't jinx myself by talking about what HAS worked, but here it is:
  • First, let me just say that when you are looking for help with toddler sleep, they always talk about consistency... they mention consistent bedtime and consistent bedtime routines. We've always done that.... forever, we've had the same routine and bedtime for him.... so that is one duck we have in a row.

  • Second, I have eliminated napping to ensure that he is tired at bedtime.

  • Third, I am waking him up at the same time every morning (which totally stinks for me because waking him up is against the very core of my tired being).

  • Fourth, NEW RULE: No toys or books in bed. Instead of helping him to wind down, they get his creative juices flowing till his bed is full of sleeping stuffed animals, there is no room for him and he has completely rearranged his room to have every item of clothing and every toy take up residence on the floor. Then, by the way, he wakes up in the middle of the night mad that his room is messy and wants me to clean it! And I do, because I just want him to be quiet and go to sleep!

  • Fifth, after our bedtime routine, I sound like a broken record. Anytime he wants something or gets out of bed or asks a question, I calmly repeat "go to bed" or "go to sleep". I do not give him any attention after the goodnight kiss. (I know this sounds harsh, but I'm trying to break the habit of him getting out of bed. Obviously if it was an emergency, I'd respond. I do respond calmly and without emotion if he asks about monsters or something scary "We don't have monsters, the dogs would eat them**. Go to sleep".)

  • Finally, I turn off all of the lights that can be seen from his room and make it very quiet, so that it seems that he is not missing out on any grand parties or fun.

I'm also trying very hard to take my own emotion out of the picture. I am ashamed to say it, but I was getting really mad! Then I stepped back and thought, why am I getting mad at a baby? I can be frustrated, I can be consistent, I can deliver consequences, but I don't actually need to feel angry. I think this realization is helping us both.

It has only been a few days, and he isn't "cured" yet.... BUT He is going to sleep much more quickly (within 15-30 minutes), bedtime is much more positive, AND believe it or not, he is sleeping through the night! Yay! Everybody wins!

* So, I said Andy messed it up, because during the critical moments after I've said "Go to sleep" and Fischer has gotten very quiet... Andy walked in to kiss him goodnight! Seriously, this started up the talking and questions and getting out of bed all over again... he added on 15 minutes!

** About monsters, it has worked very well for us and for Fischer to tell him that dogs eat monsters. Therefor you can reason that a monster would never come in our house for fear of being eaten. AND if the monster DID come in, he'd be eaten right away.... so obviously, there is no way we could have a monster in our house. It makes perfect sense to Fischer, although he does like to be reassured of this "fact" periodically. This works MUCH better for him than simply stating "there is no such thing as monsters".

I was talking to a friend recently who suggested that I arm him with something more proactive like having him yell "Go away Monsters", which would give him some control. I thought it was a good idea, so if ever the dogs stop eating the monsters, we'll try that route. Which, incidentally, is a theme we will be needing to address soon with him because he rarely stands up for himself... but that is another story.


Anonymous said...

Missed your blog- glad to see you are back!

One thing about the sleep I forgot to ask you in our latest discussion- what do you do with music at night? I ask because we keep Zev's lullaby CD on repeat so it actually plays all night long. We did that initally to make background noise so he wouldn't hear and wake up when Zoe woke up during the night. But she's been sleeping through the night for some time now, and we actually have her CD on repeat all night too- if you walk in our hallway at night you hear one CD from one room and one from the other.. and the bathroom fan is on to make extra white noise too... pathetic and not energy efficient I know... Anyway, I just wondered what your status was on that.

emily said...

This might seem crazy, but Evan seems to do well when he has a small glass of water before's the strangest thing, but he won't sleep unless he has it...good luck with the sleep time!

Lisa said...

L- Fischer slept with music and a fan or humidifier every night from the day he was born... then one day, months ago, he decided he would no longer permit either thing in his room! Geez he can be so weird! I really wanted those things to drown out the noise of the rest of the house... but suddenly he wouldn't tolerate them. Around that time he also decided that he wanted his door to remain open and he needed nightlights. Prior ro that he liked pitch black in his room. I can see how that could correlate with his new fear of the dark and of monsters... but I don't understand the insistence on no noise. We are going to NEED noise when we have a baby here crying all night!

Em- He does go to bed with a cup of water... and it definitely helps. However, I am going to need to curb the water when he starts sleeping in underwear.... right? How did that work with Evan?

Jessica said...

Glad your back! If none of these things work, show him an episode of Nanny 911 and let him know she will come over if he doesn't shape up!! Ha ha ! I never wanted to go to bed when I was a kid, there is just too much to do!

Jenny said...

Well... I don't think I can be a lot of help. Avery is definitely a good sleeper but I wonder if it's because we never had a huge bedtime routine as sometimes I think a lot of stuff can hype them up more than help them get to bed. We did the cry it out technique when she was 16 months old and only needed to do it for two nights before she figured out that that was it and she was to go to sleep. It sounds mean but it really worked and we're all better off for it.I plan to do the same with Hadleigh. In the last six months Avery knows that she gets two stories read to her from the Curious George book before bedtime and it gets her so excited and then she wants more but at the same time she knows if we read Curious George it means bedtime. Bedtime is so hard for most parents and it seems like you're finding what works for you. In the end don't worry, he won't sleep with you forever, he'll have to stop before college, right? Kind of like potty training for me... you saved me from myself with all the "don't worry, she'll do it in her own time." And finally, she has. Fischer will get the hang of bedtime soon and then in ten years you'll be complaining about how he won't get up in the morning!

Rani and Will said...

I'm glad you posted this, I need all the help I can get. I have to laugh, you sound like me, especially the part where you get so frustrated and mad at him and then feel so bad about it that you just want to cuddle him later... that's me to a T!