4 year old driving me mad at bedtime

(4 Posts)
rhetorician Sun 27-Dec-15 21:22:52

She is just 4, but for some time (after visit to grandparents) she wants one of us to stay with us while she falls asleep. We did manage to break this habit but hospital stay and another grandparents trip has undone all of that. So she asks you to stay, the deal is that we stay if she is quiet and trying to go to sleep. But it takes forever - 9.15pm tonight and DP has just taken over from me. She cries even if I tell her I am going to the toilet and will be back in 2 minutes. We both work and are busy and this is breaking us. She also arrives pretty much every night in our bed which I'd like to stop as well. She is a healthy, happy, confident 4 year old who likes to push boundaries.

Bedtime routine is (usually) no TV for at least 30 minutes (not that this makes much difference), PJs and teeth, some playing in her room, story and into bed (she shares her room with big sister)

Any advice, or even reassurance that it will get better, very welcome

FATEdestiny Tue 29-Dec-15 14:59:48

The reason she is staying awake so long and taking such a long time to go to sleep is because of anxiety in relation to what will happen if you aren't there.

She wants you to stay. She knows that when she goes to sleep you will go. So she stays awake as long as she possibly can. This will keep you with her as long as possible. Even when she does go to sleep she will be going to sleep anxious in the knowledge that you will leave and she doesn't want you to.

So the answer is to face the anxiety head on. Teach her that going to sleep alone is nothing to be anxious about.

Once she has learnt that going to sleep alone isn't something to be anxious about, she will have no reason to keep herself awake. Once she is used to you not being there in the room when she goes to sleep, she will have no reason to stay awake so when she goes to bed, she will go to sleep.

So the transition to teach her to go to sleep alone is what will be difficult. But once out the other side when she has accepted things and the anxieties faced, there will be nothing to be scared about or any reason to cause distress.

I would go for Rapid Return. Put her to bed, "Nan night sweetheart. Love you. Sleep time now. Stay in bed and stay quiet please". Kiss, leave without delay and close door (obviously and loudly, not quietly and discretely - she needs to know the door is shut and she is alone)

Then wait. If she cried but stays in bed then give it 5 minutes, return and repeat: Put her to bed, "Nan night sweetheart. Love you. Sleep time now. Stay in bed and stay quiet please". Kiss, leave without delay and close door (obviously and loudly, not quietly and discretely - she needs to know the door is shut and she is alone)

If she leaves the room/bed you have to be rapid - get to her straight away and repeat: Put her to bed, "Nan night sweetheart. Love you. Sleep time now. Stay in bed and stay quiet please". Kiss, leave without delay and close door (obviously and loudly, not quietly and discretely - she needs to know the door is shut and she is alone).

Just keep on repeating over and over every time until she 'gets it' and accepts she has to stay in her bed and stay quiet on her own.

Once she has learnt and accepted that going to sleep alone will be the way it always is, she will no longer be anxious about it.

FATEdestiny Tue 29-Dec-15 15:07:37

Initially establishing Rapid Return is always hardest - it might take a week.

But it is reasonable to expect that you will need to return to Rapid Return periodically at various times. But subsequent times it is needed it should be much easier and quicker to be accepted.

For example whenever my children are poorly I tend to let then come and snuggle with Mum and Dad at night. But only when poorly. Once better, they are back to their own room. As toddlers a child may not accept this and want to stay in the parental bed (seems reasonable, it is lovely and secure and cosy), so they have to accept that while it's nice, Mum and Dads bed is not a permanent arrangement. So it might take two or three episodes of Rapid Return in order to accept that child will be sleeping back in their own bed.

Same goes for sleepovers elsewhere when the arrangements change. It may need a couple of RR re-visits to remind the child of 'the rules'.

rhetorician Tue 29-Dec-15 16:36:12

thank you Fate - that's extremely useful and rapid return was what we used successfully the last time. And you are right, she is doing everything she can to keep us there

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