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Really really need some help here. Issues with my son.

(25 Posts)
QueenofDreams Mon 28-Jan-13 13:22:19

My DS is four years old. I love him dearly. he's bright and funny and articulate. He is wonderful.

However, over the past year he has developed a real problem with going to bed and I'm at the end of my tether. I think we've just got locked into a confrontational cycle and I don't know how to break it. He flat refuses to go to bed even when he's completely knackered. He just shouts at me that he's not tired, or that he's hungry. He comes up with loads of different excuses. Once he gives in he goes to sleep really quickly,. but getting him to give in is the hard part. I'm so tired of it. I do this every single night. DP doesn't deal with it, but it stresses him out listening to the crying and tantrumming, and even more so when I lose it and shout. I know I shouldn't shout and I try to stay calm but I'm so exhausted and stressed out by it all that I frequently lose my cool and shout.

I don't want this for us. How do I stay calm? How do I get my DS to stop arguing and go to sleep? Nothing I've tried has worked. I'm so fed up and miserable now. I feel like a total failure. I feel so alone and life is just constant hard work and I just don't know how to turn this around. Any tips for how to deal with this calmly and get him to go to bed without the tantrums would be much appreciated.

QueenofDreams Mon 28-Jan-13 13:33:03


bigmouthstrikesagain Mon 28-Jan-13 13:33:56

I have sympathy Queen - it is hard when they are like this especially when so clearly tired - over the years various of my children have kicked off over going to bed but it is one thing I have always been very firm about.

All three go up at 7pm - (older one has freedom to stay up until 8.30pm in his room and comes down for occasional chats). They are read a story and the 4 and 6 yo stay in bed then (apart from loo trips and the like). When there has been an issue I always kept to a script - you cannot argue with yourself so don't get drawn in to an arguement with a 4 yo. I say 'time for bed', kiss, tuck in and leave. If they get out of bed put them back gently but firmly, 'time for bed' ... leave. Do not engage in any conversation. Ignore shouting, stay near their room, (I got very good at playing patience on my phone on evenings like this), get comfy, have partner bring you a cuppa etc. just replace child when they leave the bed without comment or eye contact if possible. With a 4 yo this will take a week or so but if you are prepared to be committed to securing a good nights rest (for you both) then it will pass and you can get there.

This has worked for me - obviously I cannot say it will for you op but it is an approach to consider - good luck.

QueenofDreams Mon 28-Jan-13 13:39:16

I have tried it, but he just screamed and screamed and screamed. partner got quite cross so I gave up on it. I can't cope with getting aggro from child and partner at the same time. I could maybe try again, but I'd have to discuss with partner first and agree it beforehand I think.

Thanks for the response though.

bigmouthstrikesagain Mon 28-Jan-13 13:42:38

Oh dear - you do need a supportive partner in this - it is not just your issue your son belongs to you both. I hope you find a way to work together op. Have a brew in the meantime.

FlatsInDagenham Mon 28-Jan-13 13:45:57

Sounds like you need your partner to be way more supportive hmm then at least you won't feel so alone.

Have you tried a reward chart? Is there something your DS really wants that he can save up for using a chart?

QueenofDreams Mon 28-Jan-13 14:05:01

I haven't tried a reward chart. I can't think of anything DS wants that he hasn't just got for Christmas. I could maybe do it that I'll take him out for a meal or to the movies maybe.

tootiredtothinkofanickname Mon 28-Jan-13 14:45:08

Sympathies, Queen! I have no experience of 4 year old, but DS is 2 and has slept in his cotbed for a few months. Last month he realised he can get out of bed and tried to, but I put him back without fuss. It was a big game to him, he was laughing his head off when he was seeing me coming to put him back, but in the end he stayed in his bed. It took hundreds of times, though, before he "got" it, hours of putting him back, but "just" 3 or 4 days. You need your DP to be on the same page, though, DH and I took turns so DS realised we both mean it.

As for staying calm, I know it's very very hard, easier said than done, but just repeat to yourself that it's not personal, don't look at it in terms of winning or giving in. It's not an emergency, and it might help if you tell yourself that your DS needs your help to sleep in his bed, he just doesn't know how to show it. Good luck!

Ghostsgowoooh Mon 28-Jan-13 16:21:31

I have total sympathy Queen. I'm having exactly the same problem with myfive year old dd2 at the moment.

I dont know how to deal with this, although a reward chard is something to consider and I may try this with dd2. Its so draining isnt it.

My dd3 is also a nightmare!

I dont have a dp so life is even more stressful

MrsB74 Mon 28-Jan-13 16:48:24

I totally agree with the above strategy, but it can take a few nights and lots of screaming from the little one(s). I have to be quite strict about bed time as I have 3 year old twins who share a room, it can very quickly descend into chaos if I let them mess me about!!! Explain the strategy to your dp so that he understands that all the pain of the putting back of bed should pay off if you are both consistent and patient! Good luck x

kazzy77 Mon 28-Jan-13 16:54:28

hi huge sympathy for u here but i agree with the perseverance and persistence here. my ds is still very young so not up to this part with him yet but after watching tons of episodes of supernanny she always used the method of putting them to bed first time with kisses story etc and tellin them its bedtime. then leave the room. if they get out of bed then go in and put them back to bed and just say the word "bedtime". if they further get out of bed then just go into his room and put them back to bed without sayin anything at all. do not engage! now i have seen episodes where the parents are doing this ALL night!! and supernanny makes them continue putting them to bed until they eventually get the message- which your son will eventually once he knows u mean business. it may take a few days or even a few weeks but perhaps count how many times u put him to bed the first night then the second night and so on so you can see his progress. I am definitly going to try this when my son is of this age if we have this problem. try looking for supernanny episodes on you tube or maybe u can get on dvd (good time to get from hmv in the sale). she gives lots of brill advice which always work!

with regards the reward chart if he already has what u consider everything then one option would be to confiscate say a certain toy or reduce tv hours or reduce treats like choc or sweets. u could have a jar full of sweets and an empty jar and each time he doesnt go to bed or each time u have to put him back to bed a sweet will be taken from his full jar and placed in the confiscated jar. tell him this is what you will be doing before his bedtime tho so you are not engaging in conversation with him during the mission at hand.

tootiredtothinkofanickname Tue 29-Jan-13 08:39:50

Sorry OP, I didn't mean to sound dismissive by saying it's not an emergency. It's just what I tell myself when I feel I am getting annoyed and angry at DS. I read this somewhere and it seems to work for me, somehow telling myself it is not an emergency diminishes the problem and helps me calm down again.

QueenofDreams Tue 29-Jan-13 08:50:17

TooTired - that's no problem. I'll take any tips or strategies to handle this right now!

ExasperatedSigh Tue 29-Jan-13 08:57:59

Your partner needs to sort his attitude out. I don't think you would be finding this half as stressful if he wasn't moaning in your ear.

Explain that he can either work with you to resolve the problem or leave the house while the screaming is going on. Giving you a hard time too is only prolonging the issue.

FerrisBueller1972 Tue 29-Jan-13 09:03:34

Can only agree with the standing firm, do not engage in conversation with him and repeat, repeat and repeat.

As for your partner. He won't do anything to help and you have to check with him to make sure it's ok to use a tactic that might elicit crying from the ds and therefore interrupt his peaceful doing sweet FA evenings downstairs?

That you need to address and sharpish!

nilbyname Tue 29-Jan-13 09:15:43

I have a 4 year old DS. We have just come out of the "monsters under my bed" phase.

Reward chart

A tick in the box for going to bed nicely and staying in bed until morning. He gets to put a tick or a sticker in the chart in the morning. 5 ticks in a row he gets to go to the shop and chose a magazine. I think a meal or cinema is too extravagant!

bedtime routine
Dinner is at 5ish. Upstairs for bath is at 6.15ish. In bed and story read by 7.
Dinner, play, then up for bath. Bath, teeth brushed and then a chapter from whatever story we are reading.

Then do as others have said. Keep putting him back to bed, no chatting, do not engage. Just say "it is bedtime, love you, night" Do not stray from this path! Do not say anymore/less. Just be absolutely firm and resolute. I give it 4 nights and he will change.

if your partner will not support you in this, I would be having words until he did. If he really wont, then he needs to butt out, go for a walk and leave you to it.

Viewofthehills Tue 29-Jan-13 09:16:14

I would send your partner out of the house if he won't be helpful. Or give him a night putting DS to bed on his own. Either he will get on great and then it can be his job for the next week or he will have a terrible time and stop having a go at you. At the moment DS has probably figured out that if he makes enough fuss his Dad will make you give in which is really unfair.

The other thing I would wonder is if bed has become such a battleground that he really dreads going to bed. If you think this is the case then try a bed time story, song, brief chat about the day (but don't let it take more than 20mins to half hour tops) Then follow bigmouth's advice above.

Tolly81 Tue 29-Jan-13 21:38:50

Sending lots of sympathy and agree with others - it can be sorted with absolute sticking to repeated returns to bed but he definitely will scream so your partner needs to be on side or leave the house. If your house adjoins a neighbour's it is also worth explaining to them so they don't think something terrible is happening! Good luck, really hope you get it sorted.

Piemother Tue 29-Jan-13 21:48:32

I was about to list some tips but this partner thing is stopping me. What's going on there?

steppemum Tue 29-Jan-13 21:49:05

totally agreewith what others have said.

wonder if it is worth checking whether there is a reason.

Is his room light enough/dark enough??
Is he worried about being left alone - (leave something of yours for him to 'look after' or promise to sit in nearby room so you can hear him til he is asleep)
Has he started having bad dreams so is worried about sleep?

It may be worth moving his room around for fresh start.

And at 4 he can understand an explantion, so tell him what is going to happen and then stick to it.

lots of sympathy, I have run out of patience by bedtime, so find difficult bedtimes horrendous

itsanewday Tue 29-Jan-13 21:54:13

Forgive me if I have missed something, but I don't think it's clear from your post what your routine is - another poster has aluded to the bathing bit, but do you run bathtime into bedtime, or does your ds come downstairs, or "restart activity" after bathtime? In my mind this is crucial. Make the bedtime routine extended and relaxing. So when he is climbing the stairs, he is not going up to bed, but for a bath. Does he like music or storytapes (that's showing my age!) or anything? Let him relax in the bath with those if it's something that makes him feel happy. Talk to him, sit and chat about the day, about people, whatever. Make it a time he looks forward to. Lots of cuddles and more relaxing as you get him out of the bath and ready for bed, and then an automatic progression to bed and story. Do not take him or let him go downstairs again. Do not engage in any sort of activity. It has to be a complete process. Then, as so many others have said, stand firm in your resolve. But you may well find that he is really ready to sleep after the prolonged routine.
But again, you could turn to the music/stories. Have it on in his room, not so loud that it keeps him awake. If he starts messing around, threaten to take it away if he doesn't stay in bed. I find the best ones are Just William and Roald Dahls - they are entrancing and kids of all ages love them. Don't mention "behaviour" until it becomes an issue because he might not have thought about it. Allow your son to think that listening to stories is a pleasurable part of going to bed. And only if he tries to defy you should you say that he will lose that pleasure.
Just try to make bedtime a part of the day he looks forward to!grin

Piemother Tue 29-Jan-13 23:04:31

Itsanewday - I will be saving up story tapes in my kind for if I ever have problems with dd - genius! They send her to sleep in the car already grin

And maybe I'm old too but story cd sounds wrong!

itsanewday Wed 30-Jan-13 10:00:32

Another quick comment, just because I have looked back over some of the othre posts. Your problem seems to be with your ds going to bed, not staying in bed, and I think there's a difference, because the battle has begun before you've even got there. You can't put him back in bed or make him stay in bed if you can't even get him there in the first place. I agree totally with all these tactics of making him stay there - not speaking to him as you put him back and so on, but I think you have a big step to take before you get to that stage, which is getting him to bed without the fighting. I'm thinking of you, you just don't need this at the end of the day. Let us know how you get

kazzy77 Wed 30-Jan-13 11:44:47

OP - cant even get him there in the first place? whose calling the shots here?

QueenofDreams Wed 30-Jan-13 13:12:15

newday you are right, it's getting him to go to bed in the first place that's the problem. I can do the bath, go upstairs, read story etc and the moment it's time to get into bed the fight starts.

kazzy at the moment he is absolutely calling the shots! The problem started when he had a terrible bout of croup nearly a year ago. After that he slept in our room for a good 2-3 months because he became too scared to go to bed. Even after we got him to sleep in his own room, he needed either me or dp to stay in the room with him. I think somewhere along the line, we crossed over from being patient with his understandable reaction to such a scary event to being too soft.

We have done changing his room about - my Mum got him a new set of bedding for Christmas, so I did all that right after Christmas, hoping it would help with his problem.

I have actually spoken to the HV now. I just think we've got locked in a confrontational cycle. We are being referred for some counselling. I'm hoping that will help me find a new way of interacting with him and managing him without it becoming a standoff.

DP has also been helping the last couple of nights which has taken the pressure off me a little.

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