To sleep train my three year old

(47 Posts)
wishmynamewasdave Mon 18-Aug-14 05:52:51

I realise this is a contentious issue, I'm genuinely looking for both arguments for older children.

I've always previously gone down the gentle route - fed her to sleep until she was two, cuddled/sung to sleep till now. Still wakes in the night, used to come in our bed a lot (co-slept when she was younger).
Tonight was just ridiculous though. She refused to go to sleep without me next to her singing. Every time I tried to move away she would scream the place down for me.

She won't let my husband settle her.
I also have an right month old that wakes hourly due to a massive sleep regression.

I was all set for the 'wait it out' method. But tonight seems to have been all about control, not comfort. It's making me angry, and she's an absolute terror in the day if she gets no sleep. She needs more sleep.

So... am I being unreasonable?

Mumof3xox Mon 18-Aug-14 05:56:11

I don't think so

But then my children have pretty much always slept in there own beds apart from when poorly or having had nightmares

You need your sleep

She is 3 though and has been in these habits a long time so it probably won't be easy

ithoughtofitfirst Mon 18-Aug-14 06:04:36

Did you watch the three day nanny? I think it was on channel 4 so might still be on 4od.

This single mum had 2 boys that always ended up in her bed and she spent three nights taking them back to their rooms in silence every time they came into her room. Not exactly the same problem as you but it worked.

Do what you've gotta do I say.

Kytti Mon 18-Aug-14 06:10:35

It's painful to do, but I'm a huge advocate. My children sleep happily in their beds, my nine and seven year olds have no 'mental health issues' because Mummy literally locked one of them in their rooms because I just couldn't take any more. I had the neighbours complaining - (I nearly ripped them to bits) but it was so worth it. Didn't take as long as I feared, and social services were never called. ;)

To be a good parent you have to look after yourself too.

purplemurple1 Mon 18-Aug-14 06:11:01

Could she get a reward for staying quite in her room all night and showing you what a big girl she is?

I did sleep train but much younger I think it would be unfair to suddenly change the rules without an explanation at 3 yrs,but you need to do something to stay sane.

CountBapula Mon 18-Aug-14 06:11:38

My DS1 (4 next month) was the same. Fed to sleep until nearly 3, then cuddled. Would scream if left. Had always been v difficult to settle, practically from birth.

One night about a month ago I was struggling with him and the baby and I told him I had to go and do something, but if he lay quietly I'd come back in five minutes. He said okay. Came back five minutes later to find him quietly flipping through a book shock which he never would have done before.

I told him I'd come back again if he lay on his pillow with eyes closed. Came back five mins later and he was asleep shock

Since then he's gone to sleep by himself every night. We've had the odd bit of resistance (especially with the sunny evenings) but we've stood firm.

We thought we'd never get there and that we'd need to go through some sort of awful sleep training but it literally happened overnight with very little encouragement. So if you do decide to wait it out, maybe just keep trying every few weeks. They get the hang of it eventually! Now I just wish he'd sleep through the night.

whyhasmyheadgonenumb Mon 18-Aug-14 06:17:34

Watching with interest as I still cude my 3yo to sleep, have always done it. It's annoying because sometimes it takes 5 minutes and sometimes it takes 2 hours.
My 19mo DS goes to sleep by himself, so much easier!

whyhasmyheadgonenumb Mon 18-Aug-14 06:18:00

Cude? Cuddle!!

CountBapula Mon 18-Aug-14 06:29:13

Just reading that back and it sounds like it was all plain sailing - it wasn't. We had countless, countless nights like you describe, nights where it took hours to settle him and DH and I had to lie on his bed in the dark all evening. So we totally would have sleep trained - we just got lucky and it happened on its own.

Also I was lucky in that DS1 would settle for DH so it wasn't all on my shoulders. Maybe that would be the best place to start? Get her used to DH then work on getting her to fall asleep independently?

BTW my DS1 still regularly wakes in the night, so falling asleep alone hasn't fixed that. But then I've never really believed that there's much of a link between the two. He had longish periods of sleeping through as a young toddler when he was bf to sleep every night.

mumminio Mon 18-Aug-14 06:52:07

Oh no, definitely do something. It's hard to be so sleep deprived for so long. I totally feel your pain. It could be overtiredness, not tired enough, wound up from something before bed, thirsty, etc. Can you make notes about what you notice in your child's behavior, and maybe things will make more sense.

You know your daughter best...there are great books out there (Sears, Ferber) which are not as harsh as their reputation implies.

Some things that have helped us are to have a regular routine, same every night (more or less) but sleep time is almost always 7-8pm for a 3 year old: dinner, bath, teeth, book with daddy, book with mummy, lights off (with a nightlight on - purchased after nearly dropping baby #1 in the pitch black!), CD of calm music goes on, cuddles on the rocking chair, say it's time for bed now, good night, and lay my child down in bed with a favourite teddy bear. When we get to the end of the routine, I close the door and walk away. At first we had to check in after 5/10/15 mins, but only for a week or so. Now it's crying for a minute or so, sometimes up to 10 mins, but not more unless it's teething time (yay!), illness etc.

Those are all fairly standard things I think, if you tried them already all I can offer is thanks and brew.

JellyMould Mon 18-Aug-14 06:57:00

'I did sleep train but much younger I think it would be unfair to suddenly change the rules without an explanation at 3 yrs,but you need to do something to stay sane.'

I disagree with this. Sometimes you have to change the rules. You just say 'we have some new rules. The new rules are...'

Surfsup1 Mon 18-Aug-14 07:09:46

YANBU - 3 year olds are all about control and pushing boundaries (or mine were anyway).
Give her fair warning - tell her in the morning that things are going to be different tonight. It's easier to sound calm and firm when you're not strung out at the end of the day. It might also help to get involved in com in cup with the new rules. Explain what the problem is and what needs to change and then ask if has any suggestions of how you might alter the routine to find a solution. Obviously you don't need to implement all her suggestions, but I think it helps them to feel they were at least heard and treated fairly.

Surfsup1 Mon 18-Aug-14 07:12:19

Oh, and I also found that giving them choices to make at that time can help. For example I downloaded a sort of of relaxations sounds app (ocean waves, wind in trees etc) on my phone and each night they choose what "sleep music" they are going to have that evening. Audio books can also work well.

LokiBear Mon 18-Aug-14 08:04:41

I think you need to establish a routine and stick to it. Alternate with your DH too so that it isn't always you. With my DD (same age) DH and I do exactly the same thing each night. Cuddles downstairs then one parent takes her to bed and we read 2 stories - one that she chooses and a secret story chosen by mum or dad. Then we snuggle her I her quilt and sing three songs that she chooses. She always asks me to sing the 'I love you' song and her dad to sing 'you are my sunshine'. Then night light goes on and we leave the bedroom. Occasionally, she will cry or shout for us to come back but I stay firm and tell her it is bed time, tuck her back in and leave the room. No additional songs or stories no matter how much she insists. Most nights she goes to bed without a fuss. Good luck x

rootypig Mon 18-Aug-14 08:08:41

YABU unreasonable NOT to sleep train. She needs rest, and she needs a routine - it's your job as parent to provide it. No need not to continue to be gentle.

Decide on a routine that you're comfortable with, and stick to it. Every time she gets out of bed, gently but firmly replace her. Yes, this will happen two thousand times. When she is distressed, comfort her, reiterate the rules (it's bedtime so you sleep in your bed, we are right downstairs if you need us) and leave. You'll be like a jack in the box for a week but she'll get it and you'll all be happier.

ChatEnOeuf Mon 18-Aug-14 09:03:16

I've been an advocate of waiting it out too - fed to sleep until about 14m, then cuddled to sleep, then hand holding... DD is almost three and we are JUST at the stage of being able to pop out ("to the toilet") before reading another story. Then popping out (to take her milk cup downstairs...for five minutes) - mostly she will fall asleep alone, sometimes while I'm reading the next story.

In the night she will now go back over with a quick cuddle in her bed, rather than in mine. We talked about it for a week or so, then introduced new rules so that she would be a 'big girl' by the time she's three.

Not sure it will be perfect by then, but it's a vast improvement from where we were! Good luck smile

wishmynamewasdave Mon 18-Aug-14 10:29:52

Going to sleep at bedtime isn't an issue - she has a good bedtime routine and can be asleep by 7.30 most nights - I do sit with her and sing but it works. It's waking up, wanting me to stay with her in the middle of the night that is the issue.
I can wait with her till I think she's asleep but as soon as I start to leave she forces herself awake. I've tried waiting 10-15 minutes but she still manages to wake herself.
She's been through phases of sleeping through and there's a marked difference of how she is in the day.

I've started leaving her at bedtime too - and it has been working. I cuddle her, sing a specific length of time and if she isn't asleep I'll return cuddle go out and keep that up every ten minutes. She doesn't cry - she's happy to be alone going to sleep.
Just not in the night - and I've tried doing the exact same routine that works so well at night.

Surfsup1 Mon 18-Aug-14 11:09:31

Ah night waking is a whole different ball-game. I found bribery to be the most effective tool blush

CountBapula Mon 18-Aug-14 11:14:59

Ohh, I see. I thought you were talking about bedtime.

Can't help, in that case, because DS1 is exactly the same. When he wakes in the night, DH gets into bed with him and sleeps there. Luckily DS2 sleeps pretty well (so far).

We probably should do something about it, but we're too tired and basically in survival mode.

Peppa87 Mon 18-Aug-14 11:18:01

I would definitely try it if I was in your shoes... There is only so much sleep deprivation people can take, it could make your life easier in the long run, so go for it!

DesperateDelilah Mon 18-Aug-14 11:22:45

Ds 4 was bribed. I thought he was unmovable on nighttime waking and that star charts were a waste of tone but we were presented with one and to the surprise of the whole family he loved it. we started off easy for a while to get used to three smiley faces equalling a treat then told him he needed to stay in his room all night. First night it worked and he ran out calling for his sticker in the morning. Now we just have to remember to promise him the smiley face each night - if we don't mention it, he comes out of his room.

redskybynight Mon 18-Aug-14 11:27:07

We sleep trained our 3 year old (after 3 years of no sleep, and a baby, we were desparate). A 3 year old is old enough to understand rules such as "you need to stay in your bed between bedtime and x time the following morning unless you need to go the toilet or are ill or ...".

It took weeks though and was very hard, though we did see results after the 1st week - I get angry at programmes like SuperNanny where she "fixes" bad sleepers in 3 days - these are children that are not bad sleepers, just got into bad habits!! (DS is still a bad sleeper now aged 10)

We were advised to put a stair gate on our bedroom door so that DS couldn't get in. He was allowed to come to the gate once and we would ask what he wanted. If it wasn't a valid excuse for getting up, he was just told to go back to bed. Otherwise, we ignored.

We found taking back to bed (at this age, where they understand the "rules") was counter productive. DS just thought it was a game. If you have a SuperNanny child and your child will respond after 5 or 6 times of being taken back to bed, then great - but it's just not practical to do this over 100 times every night, night after night (yes, I'm being literal here).

Thebodyloveschocolateandwine Mon 18-Aug-14 11:30:37

Hi op, it's bloody tough being
a parent and the singing, rocking times are lovely. However the discipline and the boundaries are harder to maintain as of course we all adore our children and we would all love them to go to sleep with a story and a kiss just like on TV and films. grin

However kids do like to have and excersise control if you let them. You are letting your child rule the roost and deciding who settles her, how and when.

New rules. She had. Bath, story, kids from mum and dAd and then it's sleep.

Start tonight, of course she will kick off, tough, keep calm but it's going up be mummy and daddy's way S you are the adults here and you are in charge. That's your job.

Seriously if she's ruling you now it will get worse and worse.

You know she needs more sleep, you need time together as parents and to see to your other child.

Having a strop and not getting her own way won't do her any harm but on the contrary do her good.

Good luck op, we have all been there. Well I have anyway.

Thebodyloveschocolateandwine Mon 18-Aug-14 11:34:37

redsky we did cc/sleep training with all of ours at around 16 months and it was the magic 3 days with all 4.

I think it works better if you start earlier as the bad habits are less ingrained.

Subhuman Mon 18-Aug-14 11:41:15

Our 3 year old has never had any issues and we basically sleep trained him really early, as soon as he moved into his own cot instead of the crib. In his proper bed, he stayed pretty easy. A few nights of being upset but 99% of the time he sleeps fine. He has a few soft toys and books and a small torch/lamp and he sometimes "reads" stories to his teddies when he says he's not tired and we let him as it makes him feel more grown up - usually 10 minutes later and he's out for the count. On the odd occasion when he wakes up in the night, he usually just wants to use the toilet so shouts for help, then wanders back and gets into bed himself. (Although this makes us dread having a second one as we know it will end up the opposite!)

The sooner and stricter you are about it, the quicker the routine settles into place, but try to make it so they feel special about doing it, rather than feeling like it's a punishment.

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