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Toddler trying it on. Mother tempted to give in!

(59 Posts)
tigermoth Sun 14-Apr-02 08:44:53

Our younger son, 2.5 years, has never been a great sleeper, but we've lived with it OK. He has grown out of waking up at nights pretty much, and now sleeps through for 9 or 10 hours. So what's the problem?

Well, his sleep doesn't begin till 10.00 pm at night. He's always loved his bedtime routine, bath, milk, story etc and still asks for it round about 7.30-ish. Up until a month ago, he fell asleep like clockwork when he was put down in his bed.

Now all hell has broken loose. He refuses to stay in his bed, or any other bed, and wanders downstairs the minute he is left. Not just 10 times - we're talking 30 times or more. I cannot spend two hours wearing holes in our stair carpet, because I have 7 year old son to put to bed, read with, etc etc.

However, if my toddler is allowed to stay downstairs, he is angelic. He sits still, watches TV with us or plays quietly with a toy or two. He is really no trouble. The stress comes when we try to force him to stay in his bedroom.
If I allow him to set his own sleeping time - he tells us when he wants to go to bed - he gets under the covers and is asleep in 5 minutes. But this is past 10.00 pm!

Any comments - and yes, we have cut out the day naps.

SueDonim Sun 14-Apr-02 12:53:56

Have you tried making life downstairs extremely boring? Sit him on the floor in the middle of the room, not cuddled up to you. No TV, books or toys for him, whilst you make clear that you are going to read your book (or whatever) and you are not to be interrupted and won't be entering into any conversations with him, except for when he asks to go back to bed. Explain beforehand that these new rules come into play whenever he gets up after he's been put to bed. If he doesn't already have them, maybe a few favourite books and toys on his bed would help it seem more attractive. Failing that - how about a stairgate across his door?? Good luck!

pupuce Sun 14-Apr-02 14:56:35

I have the exact same problem - and it's a brand new one as well. DS use to sleep for 1130 but for the past few days keep leaving his bedroom,....
We have put the stairgate at his door so we usually hear him cry for 45 minutes (no big horrible cry but one of "I don't want to go to sleep"... but ones where we keep hearing him yawn as well) and we find him asleep on the floor next to the gate !
I have no solution to this either - I am hoping it is a short lived phase.

emsiewill Sun 14-Apr-02 15:59:57

Tigermoth, for both my girls I found the stairgate option (and still do with younger dd) the best way. I tried the "return them to their room every time until they get the message" method, but like you, got fed up with doing it 30 times a night (it sounds like you'd be doing it until 10, at which time he'd want to go to sleep anyway!). They both went through phases of falling asleep on the floor in front of the gate, but both realised after a few days that bed is comfier! (is that spelt right?).

Twink Sun 14-Apr-02 18:27:15

I've no direct experience but a close friend had similar problems at around the same age. She wanted to resolve it quickly as her second baby was due around 2 months later and she found the stairgate method the only thing that worked. She found it distressing when her DD fell asleep on the floor but it was quickly sorted and she's back to a 7-7 pattern now. Yes, her daughter was a model 'Gina' child until it happened and is now back with her original routine so don't despair Pupuce !

ChanelNo5 Sun 14-Apr-02 20:26:32

Tigermoth - As horrible as it is to hear them upset (even if you know it's more anger than actual genuine distress) I'd go along with the stairgate idea. I think the longer you go letting him stay up till 10pm, the more he will get into the habit and then you will be making a rod for your own back. As much as I love my 3, the one thing that I am quite strict on is bedtimes. When you are with them all day giving them all your attention and energy, I think it is very important that you have some time in the evening just to be your own person. Having just said that, my eldest has just come downstairs to tell me that our neighbours are still outside gardening, so you see it doesn't always work!! Seriously, I think a couple of days of him protesting in his room at being put into bed at a more reasonable time (and that's probably all it will take because they soon get bored when they realise mummy is having none of it) will benefit everyone in the long-run. Good luck and let us know how you get on!

pupuce Sun 14-Apr-02 20:38:54

DS fell asleep in front of the gate again tonight but he didn't cry - so pregress.

jodee Sun 14-Apr-02 22:03:49

Tigermoth & Pupuce, I don't have the book now and I can't remember all the details exactly but I think Christopher Green in his Toddler Taming book advocated tying the door closed with rope! Not sure how successful that was and I don't think it's something I'd personally go for ... good luck though, hopefully it *is* just a phase, but very tiring for you both.

SueDonim Sun 14-Apr-02 22:26:28

A friend tried the rope trick and it worked in two nights. Her PIL's were staying and thought she and her DH were the most evil parents around when they explained what they were going to do. But they were converted when everyone had an unbroken night's sleep, LOL!

serena Mon 15-Apr-02 00:54:35

Tigermoth, Why don't you let your son stay downstairs when he is happy, and don't for pity's sake,tie his door shut. "The Rope Trick" confirms everything I have ever thought about this slob Christopher Green and his misanthropic cruelties, however "humorously" presented. I can't deprecate his assumptions that "the little so-and-so's are just trying it on" enough, and as I've said before, I hope and believe the day will come when this kind of stuff will be rearded with the horror that corporal punishment is regarded with nowadays.

If children are lonely at night, they are devastated, and angry, why is it wrong for them to feel anger? Let them get in bed with you, buy a bigger bed instead of toys and let them have closeness instead of emotional isolation. I'm being restrained here.

tigermoth Mon 15-Apr-02 07:21:25

Ah, sensible pro-stairgaters, we have a problem.

My son can scale the heights of his cot bed bars, has been doing so for nearly a year. He can do it so easily, we havn't bothered to take them off. Stairgates are less high, so I am pretty sure he will be able to escape. We havn't got one, but I still need persuading that they would work with a very nimble 2.5 year old. Incidently, he's also good at squeezing under doors too - an expert escape artist in public loo cubicles - so I'd have to use fine judgement if I put the stairgate higher up. Or get two possibly? what do you think?

Anyway, we have tried forceably keeping him in his room. A locked door is the ultimate threat and when he still comes down, we have to carry it out. We have done this twice in the last few weeks. Both times with no success. He cries for 10 - 25 mins. The cries peter out. I unlock the door and discover, yes, he is more sleepy but also unhappily lying in a pool of vomit. This means a change of bedding, and a distressed toddler to comfort.

If I knew success would follow a few nights like this, I'd be heartless and give it a go. But I really don't like the idea of locking him in his room, (of course we unlock the door once he's asleep). However, if others have used this with success, I'd love to know.....

Serena I take your point. I'm sure there must be other, non CG ways of getting toddlers back on track. As far as I can see, the rope trick is the same as locking the door. Is there a difference? Must read Christopher Greeen again to see if this is so.

I think both you and suedonim are right in that he craves the cosy, comforting, company downstairs. So, yes, I should make things very quiet and boring for him here. However, with another child who is still up, this is easier said than done. And we have tried the tactic of no speaking, no stimulus etc. Problem is, the toddler doesn't want to speak to us either! He is happy just to sit quietly and watch us and the TV. He's a great sitter when he wants to be. I suppose we could turn the TV off, and all sit in silent darkness with him till he gets the message that he is missing nothing downstairs, so might as well go to bed. Perhaps this is the answer? anyone tried it?

Going back to your point about him being lonely, serena. Well, I think this is part of it. However, he is free to sleep in his cot or our bed and pops in and out as he wants all night. Our bed is big so there's plenty of room for him. Last night I cuddled him to sleep in our big bed (I fell asleep, too, at 10.00pm, hence my early morning message), then the toddler was put in his cot, climbed out and came back to us later (no problem) then my husband put him back in his cot when we woke at 6.00 am. The toddler often asks to be put in his cot, so it's not as if he feels banned from the big bed. And when he visits us, he is very quiet and still and usually doesn't wake us up. Sorry, serena, but I do think he's trying it on, in the nicest possible way! He's trouble when we try to enforce our bedtime, and no trouble when we let him go his own way. I do think he's sussed what behaviour we like and what we don't like.

Pupuce, please keep me posted. If one of us can crack it, there's hope for the other.

Twink Mon 15-Apr-02 08:44:59

Gosh Tigermoth it does sound extreme, I wish I could say something constructive. I just hope somebody else has some wise words for you. Meanwhile, I've mentally crossed my fingers that it will be a short-lived phase for you all.

pupuce Mon 15-Apr-02 09:18:53

DS doesn't want to stay in our bed- we have tried several times... to him this means he can run wild!!! (Serena :not all children like to sleep in their parents bed ... and our is king size and door is always open)
He is in a regular adult bed (close to the floor) as he was climbing out of his cotbed... so the stairgate does work for a climber - at least in our house.
I haven't read the rope trick... so I cannot comment. I have only read "Babies" by Christopher Green... don't agree with some of his stuff but I wouldn't comment on the rope until I read what he had to say..... it reminds me of the GF debate where loads of people have opinions and particularely those who haven't read the book and feel they have an opinion on the views of the author... sounds like Salman Rushdie's ennemies....

Enid Mon 15-Apr-02 09:40:41

I can't really add anything here as dd (28 months) is still in a cot and doesnt escape. I am not a Christopher Green fan (I don't think I have the same sense of humour as him ), but I would have thought the 'rope trick' is about the same as having a stairgate - i.e child can see out but not get out.

Bugsy2 Mon 15-Apr-02 10:22:09

Tigermoth, don't know whether this will be of any help as you have another child to attend to in the evening. But when we first moved ds (2.5) to his big boy's bed about 6 weeks ago, the novelty of being able to get in and out was clearly very tempting. I simply couldn't face his dear little face peering around the door every two minutes for several hours and also knew that he desperately needed the sleep, so I put a chair outside the door of his bedroom and every time he got out of bed and opened the door, there was horrible old mummy sitting there waiting to put him straight back to bed again. It was tedious beyond belief the first couple of nights, although I had to do it far fewer times than I thought - about 30 mins each night. Since then we have had very few incidents and when they do reoccur, I get the chair out and he knows that his efforts will be futile!
I have also found that pulling all the curtains upstairs and generally making the house look as "night-timish" as possible once he is supposed to be asleep helps too, now that the evenings are so much lighter.
I don't know whether you can try this or maybe get your other half to, given the other pressures on your time, but it may help.
Good luck.

Wells1 Mon 15-Apr-02 10:29:38

Hi
As the mum of a non-sleeping baby I've read all the sleep books and found most of them useless but in Ferber there are several case histories that sound exactly like your situation. He says that parents often have unrealistic ideas of how long their child can sleep which leads to bedtime conflict. He says children's (& adults) sleep cycles can run from any time to any time - eg 10pm - 10am or 2am to 2pm (!) if they sleep 12hours, or, as in your case, from 10pm to 8am (if, as you say, he sleeps 9 or ten hours). So, of course, if he's waking at 8ish he won't be the least bit sleepy until 10pm and it is 'unfair' to expect him to go to bed when he's just not tired and lie there, awake, for two and a half hours in the dark. The solution, according to Ferber (and it made logical sense to me) is to reset his bed time by adjusting the time he gets up. But, if you still want him to sleep at 7.30pm and he sleeps 10 hours, he will wake up at 5.30 - which seems far too early for anyone! As you get up at 6am it would make sense to aim for a 8-8.30pm bedtime and a 6/6.30am wakeup. So you need (according to Ferber) to wake him up 15 mins earlier every morning (so instead of waking at 8am, you get him up at 7.45, then 7.30 etc) then when he seems more tired in the evening, start putting him to bed a bit earlier every night until you reach a bedtime and waking time you can all live with. As he goes to bed so nicely when he's tired, he obviously doesn't have a sleep problem or bad associations with bed, he's just not tired! I hope this helps. Unlike all the controlled crying and locked door stuff it sounded nice and gentle to me as well as perfectly sensible. If you want to find out more, the book is Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber. Good luck - 9 or ten uninterrupted hours at any time sounds like perfect heaven to me!

Wells1 Mon 15-Apr-02 10:34:30

I forgot to say: One of the more sensible things that Ferber said is that it's hard to control what time they go to sleep but easy to control what time they get up, which sounds true. Your son sounds such a lovely little boy - I like the idea of him sitting there quiet as a mouse and then asking nicely to go to bed. It seems such a shame to get him so upset at bedtime and I feel sure that once he is tired earlier he will go to bed earlier.

bloss Mon 15-Apr-02 11:01:35

Message withdrawn

Wells1 Mon 15-Apr-02 11:20:46

Personally, I think it would be a rare and strange toddler who can amuse themselves happily alone for several hours - particularly if they can hear the rest of the family having a nice cosy time downstairs without them. Why not aim for the same bedtime as your other child - around 8pm or whatever? Then you still get some adult time (and believe me, I value mine too) but cut out all the distress and aggro you're currently going through.

tigermoth Mon 15-Apr-02 12:45:26

Wells, thanks for reminding me about Richard Ferber. I did read the book a few years ago, but havn't got a copy to hand. I agree, it's a good idea to adjust his sleeping hours by gradually getting him up earlier in the morning. Waking up time is so much easier to control. However, I have already been doing this in an informal way ( isn't the Ferber book full of detailed time charts? rather frightening if I remember!).

My first reaction to my toddlers sudden love of late nights was to tackle our day time routine: I stopped proper day naps ( but he still has a zizz in the car for the odd half an hour), tried to physically tire him out in the afternoon, and not let him sleep past nine in the morning(school holidays last week, so we could all sleep
late). Ideally I would like him to take his ten or so hours between 8.45 and 6.45. Perhaps I should now be stricter with the morning waking, as you say.

Has anyone here actually followed Ferber's suggestion of gradually making a toddler's morning waking earlier to lead to earlier evening bedtimes? I can see this working with a baby, but what about a toddler, fast growing out of his naps? I have to say, despite my best daytime efforts, my son rarely appears tired in the evening. He now seems to get a second wind round about 6 0'clock.

Bloss and Bugsy, thanks for your suggestions. Bugsy, the chair outside the door idea shows great determinaton on your part Yes, it would be difficult to do this for long with my 7 year old needing his bedtime routine too. I will talk to dh about this. I do think the toddler will get extremely angry with me, however. He has an awesome temper and I think the anger will stop him sleeping. Mind you, I could be wrong.

Bloss, yes, my toddler likes having special toys in his cot. In the past he has stayed there happily playing with them until he falls asleep. He has now moved up a gear unfortunately, and toys in his cot or his room, as you sugggest, is not where it's at for him. The only way of keeping him quietly playing upstairs would be to secure the door or possibly fix a stairgate. And this brings me back to where I started..

Thanks again for all the suggestions. Any more toddler sleep success stories like Bugsy's I wonder? Where you lead, others may blearily follow.

tigermoth Mon 15-Apr-02 12:47:12

Wells, I am also thinking of puttting both sons to bed at the same time. I am going to try it this week now school has resumed for the oldest.

Wells1 Mon 15-Apr-02 12:57:35

Hi Tigermoth

Glad to have reminded you - the book's v convincing on the subject and the case histories sound exactly like your situation. I know my baby goes to sleep almost exactly 12hours after he gets up (for the final time!) - so if I want him to sleep at 7pm and have a big glass of wine, I have to make sure he doesn't sleep too long in the am. I also, conk out completely by 11pm if I get up with him at 7am, but can go longer if I have a lie in with husband looking after baby - so if it works for a 7month old and a knackered 30something, I don't see why it wouldn't work for a two-year old!! The Ferber charts are a bit scary but the sense of it is pretty obvious - just move him on a bit every day, and don't expect him to go to bed any earlier until you've moved his wake up time by at least an hour. He suggests having a period of being very relaxed about bed times and letting the child stay up without any aggro for a while to let you all get used to peaceful bedtimes, and only then bringing bed time forward. I wonder if he'd be thrilled to be going to bed 'officially' at the same time as his big brother? Do let me know if it is a success - I'm sure it's something I will be facing myself in the next couple of years!

Wells1 Mon 15-Apr-02 13:05:21

OOps forgot to say - Ferber says once you are getting the earlier waking established you have to be pretty strict for a while - no lie-ins at weekends etc as some children are much more prone to slipping into a late sleep phase than others. The fact that your son can sleep until after 9am seems to indicate that he's got very firmly into a late sleep phase and really isn't tired at night and so probably isn't trying it on at all, bless him.
I don't think I'll add anything else, as I sound like the sales division for Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, when in fact, I have totally failed to solve mine!

Selja Mon 15-Apr-02 13:41:24

We have a stairgate across ds' doorway (and once the door gets hung the handle will be a little higher up) and although ds could climb Everest he can't quite get a foothold on the stairgate. If he's really determined to get out he just pulls his toy chest or bed over to the doorway and climbs over that way. We have a rule in our house that once he's put to bed thats it and if he isn't tired then he can play quietly for a while until he is tired. This doesn't happen very often but when it does he gets bored after about half and hour and puts himself to bed. He's 2. I think you have to set the rules and stick to them or they do try it on. If you're happy like Serena to have the children downstairs until all hours then go with it and if you're not then you get advice from the likes of us. Personally I need that time at night for myself and dh.

Willow2 Mon 15-Apr-02 14:33:44

Dr Ferber's book has worked for my son and every other kid/frantic parent I know. Definitely worth investing in.

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