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What bedtime routine is best for a 2.5 yr old who won't stay in bed? lock in her room, ignore or keep putting back?

(53 Posts)
StreetcarNamedDesire Sun 18-Jan-09 20:04:43


We're going through a difficult behavioural patch with DD1 atm, mainly due to jealousy of DD2 (6m) I think.

Am a total routine freak but now that's failing me and I'm questioning whether I'm being too hard on DD1. Bedtimes are starting to get out of control and they've never been an issue before.

(She is in her own bed btw and has been for 3 months)

WE're now resorting to a haphazard combination of rapid returns, ignoring, locking bedroom door shut (for max of 2mins, after 2 put backs and clear warnings). The locked door is final resort and usually works (makes her cry). All the usual stuff about minimal fuss, no conversation etc. Usually she will go to sleep after 2 put backs & door locked (for max 2 mins - it makes her cry but then she stays in bed)

Her behaviour has been really bad this last week (hitting, destructive) and now nothing we're doing works.

She also gets up at least twice a night (wanders into our room but goes back to sleep without a fuss) and now wakes very early 5:30/6am most days. Being up every 2hrs with baby I am struggling.

She used to go to bed easily at 7pm and sleep till 7am at least, was like this since 8 months and never had sleep problems at all. Night waking and bedtime problems have only begun since we introduced a bed (which we only did because she learnt to climb out of cot)

We have also dropped lunchtime sleep as she was fighting it intently and it affected how long it took to get her down at night.

Sorry, I know poeple must get sick of giving the same old advice to this age old problem, but am essentially looking for the definitive answer so we can be consistent at night time. Have no trouble being a disciplinarian (think I am too strict sometimes)

Thanks so much

ohdearwhatamess Sun 18-Jan-09 20:13:17

What works for us is having a stairgate across the door (door itself stays open) and ignoring all chatter, protests, etc. Ds1 is 2.8, but we've done this ever since he went into a bed at around 18 months. We tried a few weeks of rapid return with no success.

I shut his door once he's asleep.

Niecie Sun 18-Jan-09 20:13:29

I feel for you. It isn't easy at that age - 2.5 yr olds don't respond to reason very well do they? hmm

With DS1 we used a stairgate to stop him getting out of his bedroom at night.

We would put him to bed and just leave him. He couldn't go anywhere so would just stay in bed and go to sleep. We did leave a book or two with him and a night light which helped.

I suppose it has the advantage of being like shutting the door without shutting her off from the world completely.

I would say goodnight to her, tuck her in, give her a kiss and then go. Tell her before hand you won't be back and just leave her. Take away all attention. Hopefully she will give up.

deaconblue Sun 18-Jan-09 20:13:38

rapid return again and again and again is what a wise mumsnetter told me a few months ago. The trick is to be utterly consistent and then it will work much quicker. 1st time, gently take back, "night night" etc. 2nd time more firmly "it's sleep time" thereafter say absolutely nothing at all and just put her back in bed. Ds kept it up for 45 mins the first night, but after that only a couple of days of 5-10 mins and now almost never gets back up again. He's 2.9 btw and is a pita in many other ways
worked for early wakings for us too.
Sounds grim with dd2 getting up every 2 hours, do you want to do anything about that too or are you just going with it for now?

Smee Sun 18-Jan-09 20:14:34

Instead of punishing her, why not try rewarding instead? Maybe do a sticker chart, and if she gets a sticker every day for a week - think of something she really wants - she only gets it if she's good for a week. By that point, logic goes that you've changed the pattern back to a good one. Hitting's a different matter, but bedtime might just need a bit of calm.. hope you get her back to 7-7 soon.. smile

Niecie Sun 18-Jan-09 20:14:34

Oh cross post - 2 votes for the stairgate!

StreetcarNamedDesire Sun 18-Jan-09 20:28:10


I'm sitting here in tears as she wails at the top of stairs (stairgate there but not on room yet!)

DP wants sticker chart but unless it comes with straps to keep her in bed I can't see it working!

We did rapid returns for weeks when she first went into big bed - it ended up being a huge game which lasted a good 40 mins before she eventually buckled - I can't do this with DD2 to sort too.

shoppingbags I am totally out of my depth now, have been doing everything 'right' and been very clear re discipline, consistency, plenty of attention, getting her involved with DD2 etc, but it's not working now and I don't know which way to turn.

I start back at work in a month and am dreading it with nights being like Picadilly Circus!

juuule Sun 18-Jan-09 20:33:57

Why not just let her fall asleep downstairs and then carry her up? Stops all her tears and your frustration and lets you get on with dd2. Tell her to lie down and close her eyes and if she doesn't then she will have to go to bed. Chances are she'll be asleep in no time.

juuule Sun 18-Jan-09 20:35:51

I'd also set up somewhere in your room where she could sleep if she wakes in the night.
Again telling her that if she doesn't settle then she must go back to her own bed.

ohdearwhatamess Sun 18-Jan-09 20:36:21

I feel for you. We did 3 weeks of rapid returns (and were consistent). Ds1 thought it was a wonderful game and it gave him a second wind. He was up 'til past 9pm with that system. I was pg at the time and was exhausted and in tears each evening.

SeymourButz Sun 18-Jan-09 20:37:29

Get magazine.
sit at top of stairs.
say " go back to bed"

a lot

llareggub Sun 18-Jan-09 20:37:32

You have my sympathies....we are in same boat tonight. DS is currently crying at the top of the stairs and I have told him I am not playing the same game he played with DH last night!

SeymourButz Sun 18-Jan-09 20:37:57

shoppingbags - who was the wise mner?

fruitful Sun 18-Jan-09 20:40:11

Everything seems awful when you're not getting enough sleep, doesn't it?

I'd go with the stairgate too, and leave her to it. She'll shout a lot, and probably fall asleep on the floor next to it, but she'll get the message pretty quickly.

As for the early mornings - we have a plug-in nightlight on a timer switch, so the little bear lights up at 7am. They aren't allowed to make a noise till "the bear wakes up". You can start with the timer set to come on 15 minutes after you think she'll wake up, and gradually move it forward. No attention till the set time, and then you come in all smiles and lights on and "oh its morning now".

deaconblue Sun 18-Jan-09 20:40:39

I think it must be such an awful time for a 2 year old when a sibling comes along. I was expecting ds to struggle when dd was born but had no idea how it would manifest itself, expecting him to bash her etc. He's always been lovely with her but started whacking other kids within days of her arrival and has been really hard work for months. The 6 weeks before Christmas we felt we'd finally come out the other side of it all and apart from a week pita stuff after the Xmas break he's been much much better. So although it doesn't seem like it when it lasts for 6 months - it IS a phase and she WILL get better.
Sleep, bedtimes etc are so stressful, I know how you feel. Juule may be right that if you take the attention and battle away from bedtimes and just give her a cuddle til she nods off, you'll all get a break from the "bad" behaviour and have a chance to think of a new way forward.

deaconblue Sun 18-Jan-09 20:42:11

I've a feeling it was custardo iirc. I started a thread saying rapid return didn't work. She said I couldn't be doing it right as it always worked and low and behold she was right (imo) as when I stuck to it rigidly he was sorted in a couple of days

hazeyjane Sun 18-Jan-09 20:42:28

Can I recommend the book The No Cry Sleep Solution. It doesn't have any magical answers, and is very gentle. When dd1 had lots of trouble at bedtime, we tried so much stuff, she would bellow the place down, and we hated it. Dh and I not good with things like controlled crying. Eventually the only way we could get dd to sleep was with dh getting into bed with her, but it would sometimes take hours for her to go to sleep. After reading the book we came up with a different routine, including talking to her about bedtime, using music, and most importantly (for us anyway) starting the whole thing earlier (the more tired she got the more protest she put up). She has been a lot better for the last few months (touch wood!). Although there are still hiccups when she gets ill or is unsettled.

BTW, she is 2.10, and I think she has had unsettled sleep since dd2 came along when she was 14 months, and because we moved house twice.

Good luck.

fruitful Sun 18-Jan-09 20:43:15

Lol at letting them fall asleep downstairs. We had a NYE party and one of our guests brought their 2yo, planning to take her upstairs when she flaked out. Guess who was still partying at midnight? grin

That might have worked for ds1, but dd and ds2 just party on. It would be me falling asleep, not them.

mckenzie Sun 18-Jan-09 20:43:21

you have my symapthies as I have been there too (and dd was about the same age as your dd). What worked for us was for me to sit on the landing (reading, giving myself a manicure, writing a letter, folding the laundry that i'd taken from the tumble drier - I can remember it all). That way though it meant the time she was out of her room was very short and, like has been said before, conversation was kept to the bare minimum to start with and eventually became zero. It did take a few nights and it was frustrating but it worked. good luck.

juuule Sun 18-Jan-09 20:43:45

What about lying on her bed with her until she falls asleep?

StreetcarNamedDesire Sun 18-Jan-09 20:45:32

ohdear did you ditch the rapid returns then? It got ridiculous for us in the end, just one big game.

Juuule when she wakes in the night she goes back to sleep in her bed easily enough (almost like she is sleepwalking) but usually wakes up an hour later. And if it's past 5am she cries to be taken downstairs for breakfast - we always concede because otherwise she gets really upset and wakes the street up screaming!

Seymour like your style, have told DP he will be installing a stairgate tomorrow after work, will try that approach!

I think she's finally given up now. I know it's what loads of families put up with every night. I think I'm just floored because she's never ever had an issue with bedtime until now.

Thanks again.

juuule Sun 18-Jan-09 20:45:57

Lol fruitful. They have unlimited energy once they get going, don't they?

We found that given the choice between lying quietly on the settee and going up to bed ours chose to lie quietly. Once they'd wound down, they usually settled quite quickly.Though of course, there were nights when it took longer.

juuule Sun 18-Jan-09 20:47:56

What if one of you got in with her when she wakes in the night. A bit of a pain, but you'd get your sleep and it doesn't last forever.

SeymourButz Sun 18-Jan-09 20:48:57

It took me three nights of reading grazia to do the bedtime.
Then a few being really cross at 3 am saying "mummy is in bed, daddy is in bed now YOU go to bed"

then reinforce it in the day

MissisBoot Sun 18-Jan-09 20:50:04

You need to choose one thing and stick to it otherwise you'll end up completely exhausted and feeling like you're failing at everything.

We did the stairgate which worked til dd worked out how to undo it herself.

Now we generally go with the 'not bothered' routine. If she gets up we say its mummy's time now she can stay with us until she wants to go to bed but not to expect anything nice- she's normally so bored that she'll loll around and then ask to go to bed.

With dd its like she's looking for something to rebel against and bedtime was the only thing that used to really get me pissed off as I was so tired I wanted to have some time to myself.

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