Unhappy five year old holding my sleep ransom

(5 Posts)
HJBeans Wed 20-Feb-19 05:34:56

Short problem, if anyone has advice, is that my 5 year old, who is coping with some friendship / confidence issues at school and also feelings of competition with his little brother, has been waking up in the night and calling for us to come through. He does not seem distressed or to have had a real nightmare, and it seems clear he wants the attention. He'll go back to sleep again easily and doesn't seem tired in the day, but I can't get back to sleep and am really suffering. His brother often has painful gas or other night issues so often ends up in our bed as well.

I've tried earlier bedtime routine, special time with me and without his brother, speaking about issues at school - with him and his teachers - and it feels as if we've made no progress. He's clearly unhappy in some way, but he's also being really disruptive and lack of sleep is making me and my DH short-tempered and unhappy. I'm torn between being more strict and being more indulgent, and would really welcome any advice.

Additional background: My boy is a lovely, bright little guy who is kind and gentle, with a tendency towards shyness and worry. He went to nursery full time from when he was a baby, and was confident in that environment, but did need quiet time to warm up in the mornings and enjoyed spending time with the staff rather than the other kids at these times. We were concerned about him starting school, given that he wouldn't know anyone there and was shy, but he started in August and did extremely well settling in, joining clubs and trying new things. He's in breakfast and afterschool club because we both work, and he prefers afterschool club where, again, he enjoys good relationships with the staff. He is fine as far as teachers and afterschool club can see, but with us he is often whining and kicking off in a self-pitying or over-dramatic self-deprecating way : 'fine, i'll never do what i want to again!' 'I'm the worst boy in the world!' etc.

OP’s posts: |
JiltedJohnsJulie Wed 20-Feb-19 21:15:59

I think he just wants more time with you OP. If you can't fit more in, could you deal with you not getting back to sleep?

HJBeans Thu 21-Feb-19 05:23:31

Can't manage not getting back to sleep - it's rotten for my health and there is far less quality time to be had as a family when everyone is tired and cranky. We've tried extra 1:1 time within the constraints of the work day, and I am in the process of changing hours to get even more time with him - but the sleep disruption doesn't seem to scale with how much time I spend.

The only thing that really seems to make a difference is promising him a sweet if he sleeps through, and then 80% of the time we have an uninterrupted night. (He usually never remembers to ask for the sweet!) Which is what makes me think we're maybe being too indulgent.

OP’s posts: |
Kleinzeit Thu 21-Feb-19 11:11:42

The only thing that really seems to make a difference is promising him a sweet if he sleeps through, and then 80% of the time we have an uninterrupted night. (He usually never remembers to ask for the sweet!) Which is what makes me think we're maybe being too indulgent.

Blimey, if a sweet works then why wouldn't you do it? smile The parenting books call it a "concrete reward" and that's a valuable part of the toolkit. Often, over time, concrete rewards can be replaced by praise. It's nice (and effective) that you remember to give him the sweet because it means that he's already getting praise along with the sweet. Once he is sleeping through most nights you could start to stretch it out, give him tokens to earn a pack of sweets after a week or something? And praise with each token.

You will know that the concrete reward isn't working if you have to increase the reward to get the same behaviour. If you have to start offering two sweets to get him to sleep through, or if he starts to wake most nights despite the reward, then you'll need to rethink. Til then, go for it! flowers

Kleinzeit Thu 21-Feb-19 11:26:41

He is fine as far as teachers and afterschool club can see, but with us he is often whining and kicking off in a self-pitying or over-dramatic self-deprecating way : 'fine, i'll never do what i want to again!' 'I'm the worst boy in the world!' etc.

Sounds very normal. Don't take the dramatics too seriously. Maybe re-word what he says "you're very angry/ sad/ disappointed because you can't do whatever" "you made a mistake" etc. It shows you're listening without going along with the drama. And plenty of praise for all the good and everyday-OK things he does. If he's anxious then he'll probably find that reassuring.

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