7 June 2010

Please help with bedtime woes

I'm humbling myself to ask for help from you guys. As you know, Noah is 5 years old. He is incredibly strong willed. We have nightly bedtime hassles with him and I am at my wits' end.

I would dearly love to do his bedtime routine, turn out the light, leave his room and go downstairs to do what I need to do and relax while he stays in bed. It sounds like an impossible dream!

Every single night he comes out of his room repeatedly. We have tried everything that we can think of - and when people say "we've tried everything" it usually means that they haven't tried the techniques for long enough because pretty much any technique will work if you do it consistently for long enough, right? Wrong! We will try something and will do it consistently every night for at least 2 months and it will possibly work while we are doing it but as soon as we stop he is back to the same bad behaviour.

An example would be the Supernanny technique. (First time out of bed you say "It's bedtime, darling" and take them back to bed. Second time is a firm, "It's bedtime" and take them back to bed. After that it's no eye contact or words at all, just take them back to bed repeatedly.) This "works" in that it will take 4-5 times taking him back up the stairs to bed and then he'll stay there. But it doesn't work in that we still have to do the 4-5 times every single night! It's supposed to be a short-term solution that teaches them that there's nothing to come back downstairs for, right? Well then why are we still taking him back up repeatedly after bedtime for literally months?

We have also tried putting him to bed and then sitting on the landing outside his room. He comes out of bed but as soon as he sees Grant or me sitting there he goes back to bed. Works great in that he doesn't actually come out of his room (usually) BUT requires us to be sitting on the landing every single night after bedtime because if we go downstairs he's back to coming down instead of staying in his room. So I feel like I'm in time-out sitting there night after night for at least half an hour.

We've tried barring his door so he can't come out of his room but he just pitches a massive fit and starts throwing things and damaging his walls, door and toys. He gets so worked up he doesn't settle down for hours and it really works me up too. Frankly, it's not an acceptable solution for us because our house is attached to the neighbour's plus we have Daniel who is trying to sleep. Even if he didn't have a single thing in his room to throw (also not possible since we have nowhere else to store everything that's stored in his room) his screaming and stomping would cause a ruckus.

We've tried prolonging his bedtime routing so that he feels a real sense of transition (even though he's had the same bedtime routine pretty much his whole life!) and lying and talking with him to "debrief" him of his day. It doesn't really work because it's not fair on Daniel (because of Grant's shifts I'm often doing bedtime on my own) plus it just prolongs the inevitable because as soon as I leave he starts the usual coming downstairs routine anyway.

We've tried reward charts and buying rewards that he desperately wants but they still don't motivate him enough to stay in his bed. For instance, we currently have a toy steering wheel for him to use in the car - he loves to pretend that he's driving so we bought this steering wheel for him and he desperately wants it. We told him he has to earn 5 stickers on his chart (1 each time he stays in his bed for the night the first time we put him to bed) and then he can get the steering wheel but frankly the last two bedtimes have been a nightmare so that obviously hasn't been enough to motivate him even though he keeps asking for it and desperately wants it.

Sometimes he will stay in his bed if I promise him a small reward for the very next day (e.g. a Matchbox car) but I can't and shouldn't have to do that every single night!

We've tried taking away toys each time he comes out of bed and not giving them back for weeks so it's a real loss, not just for a day or two. He doesn't seem to care.

I've looked into how much sleep he genuinely needs and my expectations aren't unrealistic, especially given how he behaves when he has too little sleep. His bedtime is 7:30 with the expectation that he has to stay on his bed (you can't make a child sleep, after all). He's allowed to have a book or toy on his bed but isn't supposed to get off his bed. He wakes up at around 7:00-7:30am - when he hassles after bedtime and only finally settles after 9pm I have to wake him the next morning and he is grumpy and tired all day. We've experimented with later bedtimes but they make no difference to his bedtime behaviour and he's tired the next day.

I would really, really love to be able to put him to bed and then know that he's down for the night! Is that too much to ask??? What else can I try? Please help, I feel so frustrated and like a failure.

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