Questions in the Parenting Forum are being answered by doctors from MindWorks. Topics include: Behavioral Issues - Discipline, Emotional Development, Family Issues, Recreation, School Issues, Social Development
Hello I have written before about my son's bedtime. We have a strict routine every night. He was doing well sleeping w/o me in the room for a few nights, but now he will do anything to postpone bedtime. We start at 7pm, and I read 3 books, tell 2 stories, sing 2 songs to him then lights out. He will tell me 4-5 times that he has to pee, poop, has something in his eye, can't open his eyes, needs a drink, is tired, I try to put music on for him, and he says I don't want that song I want a different one. I get very frustrated. The night before he wok up with a bad dream about a bug tryin to get him in a pool, so he said he did not want to close his eyes, and wanted me to stay so that I could be there if it happened again. I have tried bedtime reward charts, 3 elastics and after the 3rd one I can't go in there anymore, night lights, hallway light on, music, giving him a few books to read until he falls asleep, but he calss and calls for me. Then when I don't come he starts to cry and does not stop, then he wants a kleenex. I really don't know what else to try. He has 2 houses joint custody with my xhusband. So suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
this bedroom situation has really taken on a life of its own! Your son is trying every which way he can to keep you in the room providing direct support for him, and it sounds like he is very good at it. Kids who go back and forth between mother and father's households often have difficulties with transitions and separations, and they do tend to have more irrational fears and anxieties. The good news is that these are often phases to get through. Many periods of increased separation anxiety are signs of changes in cognitive development--such as being able to imagine new things or contemplate new ideas. Hang in there.
You are doing the things that are most highly recommended for getting kids to sleep independently, so the question is what else is going on? My guess from reading between the lines is that as the bedtime routine expands, your son is getting more and more anxious, not less. For most children, as the bedtime routine proceeds, they start to get calm and sleepy, not more agitated. I wonder if perhaps YOUR frustration is making him want to cling to you more? It would be hard for any parent to be patient and calm through that extensive routine and all of the worry about his crying at the end of it. The two of you may be escalating each other's stress levels.
Your son needs to find ways to soothe himself to sleep with less and less support--thats the goal. It might be worth sitting down with him to do some problem solving. Wait for a time when you both feel calm and ready to listen, turn off the TV, and ask him what he thinks would help him feel ready to sleep at night. Make a list as he talks, and write down all ideas without comment. Then you can write down 1-2 ideas too. Run through the list together and cross off things you cannot agree to. Identify a 1/2 hours worth of things you will do to get him ready for bed. Post the list readily available in his room for bedtime. Remind him several times that you are going to do the new routine, and then implement the new routine that he helped create. (the book How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk has a great guide for joint problem solving).
Before you implement the new routine, practice some self-soothing techniques with him that he can use once you leave the room. I recommend deep belly breathing (in through the nose, out through the mouth), singing a sweet song to himself, or even reciting soothing little prayers if you are religious. Emphasize to him that he can calm himself down, and he can relax on his own. As he cries, you can help redirect him towards these modes of self-soothing. If he starts bringing up ideas about monsters or anthing scary, emphasize firmly that those are just pretend and that becasue they are pretend, HE can tell them to go away.
I wish I had easy answers for you on this one, but it will take time. The goal is to help him develop and use those self-soothing strategies without needing your physical presence. Your goal is to be empathic, supportive, and firm. I would not recommend any strategy that involves leaving him to cry alone--I know those approaches are popular, but this is a great opportunity to teach your son valuable skills that sobbing alone in a room certainly will not do.
Oh my gosh! Thank you for your ideas. I finally got something different! So lettinghim cry is not a good idea? Does is cause emotional damage? That is that last thing I want to do since he has alot goingon in his life. I just don't want him to depend on me every night to rub his back or stay in his room because he will be doing the same thing until hes 12! Thank you gain. Jess
my personal beliefs about letting children 'cry it out' is that no human being deserves to be left alone to cry, no matter what age. Now that said, your goal is not to protect your child from crying--thats not realistic. We all need to learn to manage sad, angry and frustrated feelings. I see those times when a child is upset as opportunities to teach skills and foster connection. I believe in taking an 'emotion coaching' approach, which means literally coaching your child through the rough spots. When a child is struggling, you can teach them a lot by labeling their feelings, encouraging them to describe their experience, and offering ideas for how to cope. The more you teach him skills and get him to practice them in the moment, the faster you can start to fade your level of direct support.
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