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Bedtime battles with a 3 year old... Help!

(4 Posts)
WhatWouldLeoDo Sat 08-Oct-11 21:20:47

DS is 3.3. He's never been a brilliant sleeper - ever since he was a baby bedtime has been a bit of a nightmare. He just hates bedtime and DH and I are now at the end of our tether.

As soon as we put him to bed and come downstairs the tantrums start. Not a little bit of shouting and crying, but full on screaming, feet stomping, bedroom trashing, climbing on the stairgate type tantrums. We've tried everything - bedtime routine, sticker charts to reward good behaviour, removal of toys/treats for bad bedtime behaviour, talking to him about the importance of sleep, getting his nursery involved in promoting good sleep habits. Nothing's worked.

Any other suggestions? He has a sleep at nursery (3 days a week), but doesn't usually have a nap on other days. Nursery/non-nursery days don't make a difference. We don't get home from work/nursery until around 6.30pm so we can't do bedtime before 7.30pm. We've tried getting him to bed as early as 7.30pm or leaving him till later - it doesn't make much difference. Often, the tantrums can last until 10/11 pm. We've tried ignoring him and going up to soothe him - again it makes no difference. We've given him the option of keeping the light on and playing for a while, but that doesn't help.

We're really at a loss about what to do. We have big chats about bedtime and he understands that tantrums aren't great - every day he promises not to have a tantrum that night. He's great during the bedtime routine until we come downstairs.

If anyone can think of anything we haven't tried already I'd be very grateful!

cheekeymonster Sun 09-Oct-11 17:08:36

Oh god, what a nightmare(excuse the pun). Have you tried the gradual withdrawal method?
You stay in his room first night but face away from him (no talking) and gradually move 1 metre away from him each night?
Long winded but it worked for us and took about 2wks but worth it when you consider what it is like when you achieve your goal.
Obviously you also have to reinforce with reward stickers etc.
Good luck

WhatWouldLeoDo Wed 12-Oct-11 22:06:33

Thanks for the reply CheekeyMonster. Yes, it is a bit of a nightmare.

I've not tried the gradual withdrawal method recently - I'm not sure it would work on him now. If we were in his room he would just get up and out of bed and chat and play etc (he has an amazing ability to stay awake when determined to do so). There's also only about a metre between his bed and the door grin How old was your DC when you tried it? We did do that when he was younger and in a cot with some success.

I'm thinking about keeping a sleep diary for a couple of weeks and maybe visiting the HV (although on past form, it would amaze me if she had anything useful to contribute).

We're currently getting to anywhere between 10pm and midnight before he drops off. We still come downstairs and leave him to it, but it's wearing VERY thin now. He usually wakes up in the middle of the night too - he used to sneak into our bed so quietly we wouldn't notice, but now, more often than not, we're subject to killer tantrums that can last about an hour. He's an absolute angel during the day (mostly) - no-one in our family believes us about his night-time behaviour grin

cheekeymonster Thu 13-Oct-11 12:37:24

It was tricky with us as DD had a hernia and we were told not to let her cry until she was old enough to have op so she was about 18 months when we did it.
Any relapse now is dealt with sticker/rewards but this only really works when they understand the concept of bribery (about 3?) blush.
We have actually still got gates up on the stairs to stop her coming downstairs as we know she would if she could.
Has got better since she started school Sept as is more tired and goes to bed strictly at 7 to stop her getting overtired. She winds down in her room and falls asleep somewhere between 8 and 9pm. Not ideal but at least she is upstairs and we can hear her on the monitor. If she starts being too active I go up and put her back into bed and tell her to help get one of her teddies to sleep because they have school in the morning and they are going to be tired.
Yes, I have lost the plot but that's what sleep deprivation does to you.
Good lucksmile

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