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sleep training a 7 yr old

(40 Posts)
thatsthewayitgoes Sat 02-Jan-16 20:10:47

My 7 year old refuses to go to sleep unless I sit outside his room. I've decided enough is enough and have left him screaming upstairs. Already had to remove light bulbs from his lights as he refused to turn them off. Wine at the ready.... I can do this....winewineconfused

FATEdestiny Sat 02-Jan-16 21:22:04

Oh goodness, does he have any additional needs? Because this level of separation anxiety at this age would indicate some issues elsewhere. Would it be worth discussing with your doctor?

Please font do things like removing lightbulbs, that will make him even more scared and anxious.

I don't think you can rescue this by leaving him to scream, he's too old for that and it would profoundly disturb him at 7yo. Better to explore the reasons behind these issues and figuring out a gentle, nurturing solution

thatsthewayitgoes Sat 02-Jan-16 21:43:05

No there are no other issues. We've had sleep problems for months now - he was sleeping in our bed every night and we've finally put a stop to that.
His big sister (ages 10) is now allowed to go to bed later than him and that's what's provoked this latest problem. He doesn't want to be upstairs by himself. Me sitting on the bottom of the stairs doesn't work and he just turns his light on and/or comes downstairs. He screams and shouts but it really is just him getting angry that he's not getting his own way. It feels like sleep training a toddler all over again.

He finally stopped screaming about an hour after going to bed and is now fast asleep. So so hard. I hated removing light bulbs but he would have had his light on all night (we've tried nightlights - don't work). He did this last night and then screamed at about 11pm when we then went to bed and wanted the light off so we could sleep (he was still awake). He ended up sleeping in our bed again with my husband whilst I slept in his bed, so he didn't wake his sister up so late. I just need to nip this in the bud. He's been so grumpy all day as much as anything else.

AIN Sat 02-Jan-16 21:45:35

Oh gosh I feel for you. My almost 7 year old still needs me to sit on her bed and she still wakes in the night. She's scared of random things and I think just making her will make things worse. In following this incase you are given any issue suggestions!

Wolfiefan Sat 02-Jan-16 21:45:46

Do you have other issue or is it just the sleep? When did the sleep problems start and how?

amitha Sat 02-Jan-16 22:04:36

My kids 6 and 9 yrs both sleep with a light on, is it a problem? They also listen to an audiobook, worth a try?

TiffanyA10 Sat 02-Jan-16 22:05:29

This makes me feel less alone! Currently sitting on the bed of my 7 yr old who has had a total meltdown when I tried to leave before she was completely asleep. Came on to post for help myself as am at wits end but can't bring myself to just do the leave to scream. I hope it gets easier for you!

mawbroon Sat 02-Jan-16 22:11:40

How well does he sleep when he finally does doze off?

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Jan-16 22:13:45

Why isn't he allowed to sleep with the lights on? Sounds like he wants you outside the door because he is scared of something.

I wouldn't leave him to scream on his own, and I say that as a parent who sleep-trained two babies.

neonrainbow Sat 02-Jan-16 22:15:22

I might be harsh but 7 is way past the age of understanding he needs to go to sleep and is way too old for hysterical screaming. Good for you trying to sort this OP cos it wont do him any favours to let this carry on.

Id explain to him, not at bed time or anywhere near it, that the next night, his only option to go to bed quietly and without fuss. Set out what will happen if he does go to bed, and what will happen if he doesnt and STICK TO IT. No more getting in your bed as he is just learning that if he screams enough he gets what he wants.

Id be looking to stop the screaming first of all. If he doesnt want to sleep he can lie there quietly and read a book but he's just screaming for attention. If after say 3 nights, he is still pissing about, I'd start removing privileges (I'd give him 3 nights to get his head around the changes but you do have to be consistent). If he does go to bed with minimal fuss, then reward. Maybe a sticker chart or something, may be below his age technically but a visible aid to tracking his progress might help him understand. Maybe 5 nights in a row will get him a treat, but one bad night and hes back to square one, kind of like snakes and ladders. These kind of things help us with DS age 9 who didnt scream but did used to get out of bed a lot.

canyou Sat 02-Jan-16 22:15:47

I would personally leave the light on and battle the going to bed first and staying there. When he is asleep turn on a night light and the light off. But I like to choose my battles and only pick the ones I can win DP can do the rest

Artandco Sat 02-Jan-16 22:18:38

I would get him a lamp that he can keep on at night and some low music or something. Read to Him first and Allow him to read until he falls asleep. He might start falling asleep whilst you read
Yes might take longer but at least he will be settling himself with time
Is there a reason he's so scared?

If he's that scared I would just move his mattress into your room for a while and let him sleep with you if he really wants to, what harm is there in letting him do that?

Iwantakitchen Sat 02-Jan-16 22:20:06

I would use the method of 'I am in the next room folding clothes and will come back in three minutes' technique. 'If you are quiet and still in bed you will get another (cuddle, kiss, song)'. Until he falls asleep. Then in the morning it's a special treat if he goes to sleep well on his own. Make the three minutes 5 minutes, then ten minutes. Buy him a night light.

thatsthewayitgoes Sat 02-Jan-16 22:49:43

Thanks all. He doesn't sleep with the light on, that's the problem. At 11pm last night he was still awake but sooo tired and grumpy. Much as I love him, I don't want him in my bed every night and would like my evenings back. We've done sticker charts which work until bedtime and then it all goes wrong. He knows he loses computer access the next day but seems happy to accept this even though he loves the computer.

He was asleep after an hours screaming tonight, so I am hoping that if we persevere it will get easier. He is such a lovely little boy the rest of the day - it just all goes wrong at bedtime. Big hugs and large glasses of winewinewineto the rest of you all struggling. Let's support each other. Be strong. We can do it she says after far too much wine and too many tears.

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Jan-16 23:08:42

Sticker charts? If there is no SN or developmental delay, I don't understand why you are treating your DS as if he is stuck in early childhood.

He is old enough to understand that night time is for sleeping, his bed time is x o'clock, and everyone stays in their beds. End of story.

This is the age when you give them one last chance to behave and if they don't, take away one privilege after another - TV time, iPad time, etc.

Jw35 Sat 02-Jan-16 23:23:25

Wow that sounds extreme for a 7 year old! No idea if you're doing the 'right' thing but I think removing light bulbs is a bit heavy handed. Those fears can be real not just playing up!

thatsthewayitgoes Sat 02-Jan-16 23:37:48

*Sticker charts? If there is no SN or developmental delay, I don't understand why you are treating your DS as if he is stuck in early childhood.

He is old enough to understand that night time is for sleeping, his bed time is x o'clock, and everyone stays in their beds. End of story. *
This is the age when you give them one last chance to behave and if they don't, take away one privilege after another - TV time, iPad time, etc.

He's not "stuck in early childhood" but for everything else apart from sleep, responds well to getting a sticker/a tick etc on a chart and when he's earns a certain number he gets a reward. What would you prefer I gave him?

Yes he is old enough to understand but is protesting and trying to get his own way, as most children do over one thing or another. Except for your children who are obviously perfect in every way.

We are consistent in removing privileges (computer, tv, going for days out etc) but he is still fighting it. Sorry I'm not as perfect a parent as you are. I was only asking for support.

And the light bulbs were removed after a 3 hour battle last night which resulted in him still being awake at 11pm (as he wouldn't turn the light off and can't sleep with it on) which he can't handle, and has been foul all day because of it. After he refused to turn his light off again tonight I threatened to remove them and then had to follow the punishment through. He was asleep an hour later which is definitely progress.

steppemum Sat 02-Jan-16 23:46:00

the trouble with having a light in their bedroom is that light causes them to stay awake, you need a low light level/dark to sleep well.

So a nightlight or the landing light on is OK, but a light in their room is not a good idea.
I am with neonrainbow on this, he is too old for toddler techniques, and he is screaming because he is cross, because you have changed the status quo.

So I would lay out the new rules, and then do bedtime with lots of love and cuddles, and then leave. remove light bulbs if you need to, leave the landing light on if he needs it.

I would be careful with removing privileges though. My ds has a temper and when he was younger we noticed that once he had got really cross/upset about something, he was past changing his behaviour, he was too far gone in his crossness. So you could say if you continue you will lose x and he just couldn't stop himself anymore, so we ended up with lots of punishments for one temper tantrum. It worked much better when we just had one connection, so if you scream then tomorrow there is no tv.

FATEdestiny Sun 03-Jan-16 00:54:20

My DS6 doesn't like being upstairs on his own, so I do know where you are coming from. He goes to bed at the same time as his younger sister so for us, this is easily solved at bedtime. Less simple for you.

I would be coming at the issue in a completely different way to you. Rather than punishing and removing bulbs or whatever - I would be looking for ways to help him feel safer and more secure upstairs on his own.

What about dimmer switches? They are quite cheap from B&Q and easy to fit. That would mean he could have the overhead light on, but dimmed down.

What walkie talkies? So he can stay in touch with you while you are downstairs. You will have the novelty factor of these at first, but it will wear off.

You could also talk to him about what he is worried about, see if he can articulate it. Don't dismiss it, accept his fears as real and develop some 'checks' you do before bed to help him feel secure. When I was little I used to 'see' a witchs face in the shadow cast by the curtains. So the curtains had to be checked before bed - it helped me to understand that what I could 'see' wasn't actually there. Therefore over time I became more secure and could much more easily say to myself 'stop being silly'. I had to reach that point myself though - My Mum saying 'stop being silly' would not only nor have helped, it would have made things a lot worse.

Jw35 Sun 03-Jan-16 08:29:39

How is 7 too old for a sticker chart? confused

CoteDAzur Sun 03-Jan-16 09:20:41

You would use sticker charts for a child who can't yet read, write, or visualize consequences without seeing them on a paper.

CoteDAzur Sun 03-Jan-16 09:30:16

"He's not "stuck in early childhood""

I said you are treating him as if he is stuck in early childhood:
- sitting outside his room until he falls asleep
- him sleeping in your bed with DH while you sleep in his bed
- sticker charts

You need to ask him and understand why he can't/won't sleep without you or your DH in the night. Is he afraid of something? Is there a noise that scares him? Patterns on the wall?

What time does his sister go to bed? When do you put him to bed? Mine are 10 & 6 and they go to bed together at 20:30. You might be putting him to bed too early for his age and sleep needs.

Jw35 Sun 03-Jan-16 09:37:38

Cote sticker charts can be used beyond reading! They're used in primary schools too, they're not just for pre schoolers! I don't think there's an age limit except beyond sense such at secondary age.

Personally I wouldn't want to leave a child screaming their head off at any age tbh

LynetteScavo Sun 03-Jan-16 09:38:51

I bet a 7yo won't be able to verbalise what is scaring him. He'll just know he doesn't want to be alone.

Hmmm. At 7 we were still lying in bed with DS to get him to sleep. When he was 8 he started sharing a room with his brother, and as he was on the top bunk we could really do it any more. I think being in a room with his brother also helped.

If you want your evenings back OP, I think you need to put in place something to comfort your DS which will help him sleep...special nightlight, music, rewards, but don't punish by taking things away. It'll just cause more anxiety and be counter productive.

LynetteScavo Sun 03-Jan-16 09:40:42

I use an app in my phone which is basically a sticker chart for adults. I can read and visualise things perfectly well and am definitely older than 5 with no SN.

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