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3 year old and going to bed: nightmare, no idea what to do (long)

(17 Posts)
rhetorician Mon 05-Jan-15 20:14:12

DD is just 3, always been a good sleeper. Putting her to bed has become more and more difficult - we moved her into a bed in March, but the last few sees are just torture. She shares with dd1 (6) which makes it harder to address, but more important that we do. This is what happens:

dinner, milk, bath (not every day), pjs, story, teeth, bed. We then tell them each a story in the dark as long as they are lying down, quiet etc. We aim to have all of this done by 7.30 (they have to be up at 6.45)

First issue is that if we leave she kicks up merry hell before we've even got to the door - crying, yelling etc.

Second issue is that if we stay she thrashes about, demands to put on your lap, tries to get out of bed etc etc. Eventually she goes to sleep, but we both work and need a bit of time together. DD1 needs her sleep too. On the rare occasions where DD2 goes to sleep quickly, DD1 goes soon after (around 8/8.15).

Tonight we did all of the above, I told them that I was going to leave, and that everything was fine, and that they just needed to go to sleep. As I leant to give DD2 a hug, she bit me on the arm - I said "ouch" very loudly (it hurt!) and walked out. Cue full-on tantrum. I leave her for 10 minutes. I then get her out of bed, take her next door and hug her and attempt to soothe her - no, she only wants DP. It's all about power and control, but I just don't know how to get her back on track - this is part of an overall pattern of challenging boundaries, naughtiness that we are trying to address, but she just laughs unless you get really angry in which case she goes into meltdown mode - which is obviously not the aim.

Any insights - sorry for essay - other relevant background - sleeps fine once in bed and asleep; in good health (although recent nasty ear infection, now cleared up); goes to nursery 5 days where she is happy, but I suspect somewhat bored. Thanks in advance

StarlightMcKenzee Mon 05-Jan-15 20:16:19

Could it be lack of tiredness. My 2.6yr old goes to bed after me and with DH, and he doesn't even have naps during the day usually.

We tried putting him to bed earlier but he just doesn't need it, even when he started morning nursery.

rhetorician Mon 05-Jan-15 20:21:06

starlight - she SAYS she's not tired alright. But then I struggle to get her awake, let alone up in the mornings. In the holidays she went to sleep usually 8.30/9, but woke up 12 hours later, so I'd say she needs 11.5-12 hours. But she doesn't usually seem that tired, it has to be said. I think I'm going to continue, but if she starts playing up just take her out and sit with her, so that at least dd1 isn't being bothered by it. Eventually she will remember how to go to sleep again - she's got into a routine and we need to change that before things we can be calm again

StarlightMcKenzee Mon 05-Jan-15 20:37:22

Can you put her to sleep in another room then? Yours?

Will she sleep quickly if you get in bed with her in yours? Not the long term plan but might work for a couple of months to shake her out of her screaming routine.

Could you try putting her to bed even earlier so you can be done with all the screaming stuff before your older dd goes up?

VioletandRoger Mon 05-Jan-15 20:41:18

Night time fairies only visit children who go to bed nicely. Give both children a little container and only fill the container of a good sleeper during the night.

VioletandRoger Mon 05-Jan-15 20:42:01

A night time story in the dark just before you leave?

rhetorician Mon 05-Jan-15 20:43:59

might try different room - don't want to chuck dd1 out as she is pretty good about bedtime. I don't thin DD2 would go to bed earlier - it takes AGES so I'd have to start at 6 to give dd1 a chance of a decent bedtime.

rhetorician Mon 05-Jan-15 20:45:07

violet already tell them a story in the dark before I leave; and what do you put in the containers?

TarkaTheOtter Mon 05-Jan-15 20:52:26

It sounds like she gets a lot of attention for kicking off at bedtime (understandably because you need to pacify her quickly for dd's sake). I'd try a sticker chart/reward system for peaceful bedtime and really try to ignore undesirable behaviour as much as possible. We found that the trigger for our dd was always an argument over turning the light out so we gave her a bedtime lamp she can control herself. When she does go to bed calmly give loads of praise next day.

rhetorician Mon 05-Jan-15 20:56:55

tarka - yes, you're completely right there! might try stickers - I'd say she's able to get the idea, and likes stickers!

GrumbelinaPicklebottom Mon 05-Jan-15 20:58:51

No expert by any means, especially with this issue, and apologies if you have tried these ideas already.

Any chance it's separation anxiety?
My son goes through periods of this. Usually leaving his bedroom door slightly ajar makes him feel less lonely/isolated from us. Could you do something similar?

If not separation anxiety, would talking to her during the day about your expectations (for want of a better word) at bedtime be helpful? Helps with my 2y3m son if I explain to him beforehand what's going to happen and what he needs to do, even though we have a consistent routine for pretty much everything. Maybe you could combine that with a reward chart?

Also would it help to make bedtime a bit more interesting (but not too interesting, obviously!)? Let her (and her older sister too) pick out new pyjamas and/or bedding? That could be one of the rewards tied to the reward chart.

Hope it gets better for you soon - I've had two challenging sleepers in the space of 18 months, so I feel your pain. My youngest is only 10 months so plenty more challenges await me, it seems.


SpawningSalmon Mon 05-Jan-15 21:04:18

I feel for you. My 3 year old DD sounds really similar. Most of the time she is delightful, but she has a stubborn streak and if she decides she doesn't want to do something it is very difficult to convince her otherwise. She isn't motivated by rewards like sticker charts or discouraged by threats of naughty step etc, sometimes when she is refusing to cooperate I think 'where the hell do I go from here?!'. Does this sound like your DD?

We had a dreadful few months of bedtimes but fortunately seem to be coming out the other side. I think she just grew out of it to be honest, but here are some suggestions- Sleep fairy- leaves a small present for going to bed nicely (only worked for us on the nights DD felt like being interested!)
Earlier bedtime- makes a huge difference in our house. We started putting her to bed at 6/6:30 instead of 7/7:30 and it really helped. In fact she is really only difficult now if we run late.
After the final goodnight kiss just walk out and don't give in to the requests for one more.... I found the more I responded, the longer she would go on.
Hope things improve for you soon.

SpawningSalmon Mon 05-Jan-15 21:07:36

Oh I just remembered, the one thing that really seemed to have an effect- and one that she didn't get bored of after a night was telling her that I would come back and check on her in 10 mins. Or "I will just have my shower then come and check on you". I got the idea from Mumsnet and it really helped. I would say that that was the turning point.

Kithulu Mon 05-Jan-15 21:15:01

I would just climb into bed next to her and cuddle her until she fell asleep. life's too short for battles over bed time.

rhetorician Mon 05-Jan-15 21:16:10

spawningsalmon - yep, sounds familiar. those are good ideas - I do the popping out and returning thing - after a few minutes she calls out "mummy, I think it's time for you to come back now"!! grumbelina - some of it is undoubtedly separation anxiety (trying to recall whether this all started after a 3 day run of one or both of us being out), and she is exceedingly clingy at the moment. Some of it is definitely age-related (oh, the joy of 3!). Will keep on muddling through and trying not to lose it! January abstinence means that there's no glass of wine at the end, either sad

fufulina Mon 05-Jan-15 21:24:01

I could have written your post OP!
Tonight was carnage with two sheep and monkey confiscated until morning for not staying in bed... She seemed to understand that actually.
I also have an older DD and fear we are falling into the trap of cute toddler who gets away with murder and turns into disastrous small child... I would never have tolerated this with DD1.
I love the sleep fairy idea.
And I will deffo try the check you in 10 minutes idea.

rhetorician Mon 05-Jan-15 21:24:12

kithulu I would do that were it not for the risk of kicking, hair pulling and biting. And laughing in my ear grin

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