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My 2 year old won't go to bed!! Any suggestions??


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So.. for the last week now, my 2 1/2 year old just does NOT want to go to bed. I feel like I have tried everything!! He used to just want to lay down with the tv on- fine. Now that doesn't even work. As soon as I lay him down in his bed he is right back up and running out to the living room.

I have tried telling him once that he needs to go to bed and then every time he gets up to just place him back in bed and walk back out. That goes on for at LEAST an hour... not to mention that he starts crying and screaming, kicking his feet, etc.

Then I have also tried spanking him and telling him that if he keeps coming out that I will do it again.. that doesn't work... plus I don't like doing it anyways.. it makes me feel bad.

I have also tried staying on the outside of the door and holding the door shut, hoping he would see that he can't get out and then just going and laying back down- yea.. hopeful thinking. Instead of doing that he just tries to find things from around the room to throw at the door.

Seeing as how I live in an apartment and the walls are thin as paper.. I don't really like him screaming at the top of his lungs, throwing things at the door, on the floor, etc. I'm sure the downstairs neighbors already think I'm beating him or something the way he was screaming last night!

I just got so tired of it after about an hour and a half I just let him stay up. I know that is bad, but I could just not take it anymore. Plus I didn't want the neighbors to come up and yell at me to have him keep it down. Any suggestions??? I am in desperate need!!
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Is it possible he is afraid of something? You know, like monsters in the closet.

You have tried a lot of things and it doesn't seem like any of them are working. Have you tried laying with him for a little while? Maybe he will sleep if you are with him.
#2  
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I am not a mother so I may be way off here. But have you tried Rewards? Or maybe more Structure? I know its hard to reason with a child under three but maybe if he realized something GOOD would happen if he went to bed when he was told he would do it. It works with my Sister she is 5 now. Anyway you may want to see if there are any books or websites that may be of some help to you. I know that giving him want he wants is only going to cause more problems. anyway hope I was of some help.

my son's 20 months old, and sometimes i have the same problems. here are some of the things i do:

-i dont let him go to sleep in front of the tv, or watch any tv less than 2 hours before bed time, because the light interferes with melatonin production (the sleep hormone)

-we have developed a nightly "bed routine" . At 6.40, he gets to choose 2-3 stories, which we read together- with the curtains drawn and only a small night light on to encourage a sense of calm. then he lies on my lap and drinks his last bottle. we brush his teeth (each of us gets one toothbrush, it takes some time!) ..then i put him down to bed (he still has a camp cot) with a final kiss. if he cries for me, i go back to him and sometimes we lay down on the bed together.

some advice i could offer to you is to not let the room stay fully dark. toddlers are often scared of the dark and this can make him more desperate to get back to you.. a lot of people believe in "sleep training" or letting your cild cry it out, but in my mind those are incorrect approaches. your son wants to get to you because in his mind you are the ultimate source of comfort. as frustrating it is, when sometimes all you want is some peace; to him you are the centre of his world, and when he scared or not tired or feeling lonely or just wanting a cuddle, you are who he will turn to. 

maybe give yourself a few weeks to establish a sleep routine, so that he knows whats coming at night, giving him a sense of order. if he cries for you, go lie with him, and offer him the comfort he craves. when i do that with my son, he's normally asleep withing 10-15 minutes, and watching him fall asleep entwined with me with a sense of peace on his face is one of the most beautiful things.

also, does he sleep during the day? if my son doesnt sleep enough in the day he gets too cranky to sleep at night. is he active? encourage him to wear himself out by running and jumping, going walking in a park etc- the more active we are during the day the quicker he's out at night.

 good luck.

Original Post by changeofheart:

Is it possible he is afraid of something? You know, like monsters in the closet.

You have tried a lot of things and it doesn't seem like any of them are working. Have you tried laying with him for a little while? Maybe he will sleep if you are with him.

I have tried laying down with him too. At first he will act like he is better.. but as soon as I lay down he runs out of the room. I am pretty sure he is not afraid. I think he just wants to stay up. His Dad works 2nd shift and I think sometimes he wants to stay up to see him. But he doesn't get home until about 10:30, and that is pretty late for a 2 year old to be staying up, especially when I have to wake him up at 6:30am to go to the babysitters house. :(

Well, it's been awhile, since my kids are now teens, but here are some ideas:

First, make sure he doesn't have an ear infection or anything like that. If he's also waking up repeatedly during the night, this might be the culprit.

Second, does he nap during the day? Often times, bedtime trouble is all about what happens during the day. Obviously, kids who have long naps during the day may simply not be tired when you want them to go to bed. Not so obviously, kids who still need naps but aren't getting them may end up so overstimulated and tired by nighttime, they have trouble winding down and falling asleep.

So my suggestion is to first play around with his daytime schedule, to see if that solves the problem. If he currently takes a long afternoon nap, either give him a later bedtime, OR start waking him up earlier from the nap. If he currently doesn't nap at all during the day, reconsider adding back in a short nap.

Third, routines are important. Do you have a bedtime routine for him? Something that winds him down. For example, at that age, the routine was: dinner, a t.v. program, bathtime, a book and some snuggling, kiss the teddies goodnight, and use the magic monster-be-gone sprinkle dust before lights out.

Fourth, is he getting enough quality time with you during the day? I don't know your situation, but I have found that my kids often get needy and act out when they hadn't had enough of my full, undivided attention during the day. This could be true even when I was a stay-at-home mom with them all day long, not just when I was a working mom seeing them only a few hours before and after work. It's about whether or not I was "present" when I was with them. We all have those days, when we just aren't present. We're there in body, but that's about it. We go through the motions and don't really connect. Because we're preoccupied with our own thoughts or overly focused on just getting through dinner and bathtime and bedtime so we can then do our own thing and relax.

What I've found to work like a charm - when a SAHM or Working mom - is to set aside at least 30 minutes, preferably one hour, during the day where I am fully, 100% present with my children. When I was a SAHM what worked best was first thing in the morning. When I was a working mom, what worked best was immediately after work, when we got home. That was a struggle because everyone is starving and I would feel compelled to start dinner instead. But it went a long, long way, to just drop everything, sit down on the couch with a book or a game, and snuggle with them for 30 minutes. Really connecting with them and being present. The entire evening - including bedtime - would go soooo much more smoothly when I could make the time to do that.

It's the holidays and maybe you've been nutty running around buying presents, baking cookies, etc... and have slipped recently into a pattern of being less present with him, because your attention is divided and you're exhausted? Maybe he is simply not getting enough of you?

Fifth, consistency, consistency, consistency! He's 2-1/2, that is a rough age. He's testing you, and you are not responding consistently. He's learning quickly that the louder he screams, he gets what he wants. Yes, I understand about the apartment situation. If you have tried everything I listed above (please try those first), and are still having issues, and it comes down to having to put your foot down and let him cry it out, then I would knock on your neighbor's doors and let them know first. So they don't call DSS or anything.

Sixth, what you want to avoid is a pattern, where he wants your attention and he'll take negative attention just as easily as positive attention! So another tactic to try with him is to simply IGNORE the bad behavior, while rewarding the good behavior. Eventually the bad behavior dies out. This is a tough one and it's not a quick fix but it is highly effective. What it would mean in your situation is that you would simply let him stay up as late as he wants. That will cost you your peaceful night free, yes. During this time, you would need to be as BORING as possible. So there is no reward for him staying up. You simply ignore him as best as you can, once it's past the bedtime you want for him.... the key here, however, is that BEFORE his bedtime, you do give him lots of positive attention.

You might also try the "marble jar" approach with him. This worked wonderfully with my kids, but admittedly they were a bit older when I first started it with them. You get two jars - small ones. Fill one with marbles. Tell him that for every night he goes to bed on time (he doesn't need to sleep - he just needs to stay in his bed after light's out), he will get to take a marble and place it in the other jar. When the jar is full, he gets a treat. Because he's so young, make this an easy jar to fill - maybe only 7 marbles so he gets a quick payoff. One very important thing, if you try this: NEVER take away a marble for bad behavior. Never. It defeats the whole purpose of this method.

Good luck!!
Original Post by jespes:

some advice i could offer to you is to not let the room stay fully dark. toddlers are often scared of the dark and this can make him more desperate to get back to you.. a lot of people believe in "sleep training" or letting your child cry it out, but in my mind those are incorrect approaches. your son wants to get to you because in his mind you are the ultimate source of comfort. as frustrating it is, when sometimes all you want is some peace; to him you are the centre of his world, and when he scared or not tired or feeling lonely or just wanting a cuddle, you are who he will turn to. 

maybe give yourself a few weeks to establish a sleep routine, so that he knows whats coming at night, giving him a sense of order. if he cries for you, go lie with him, and offer him the comfort he craves. when i do that with my son, he's normally asleep withing 10-15 minutes, and watching him fall asleep entwined with me with a sense of peace on his face is one of the most beautiful things.

also, does he sleep during the day? if my son doesn't sleep enough in the day he gets too cranky to sleep at night. is he active? encourage him to wear himself out by running and jumping, going walking in a park etc- the more active we are during the day the quicker he's out at night.

 

Thank you for the advice. Maybe I will go shopping today and let him pick out a night light or something. Hopefully that will help a little.

I guess I went wrong when I first started letting him watch a movie to bed. Because if I lay down with him now, he just cries until I put a movie on. I'm not sure how I could get away from that. Maybe I could let it stay on for 10 minutes one night, 6 minutes the next night, etc. until the last day and just not turn it on?

It used to work when I lay beside him, but like I mentioned before, he just wants to be in the living room. I have also tried to read a book to him but he didn't want me to do that either.

He does take a nap during the day. And actually the sitter said they have been longer now, usually about 3 hours, which is probably because he has been staying up so late. It is like vicious cycle!!

I see your DH works until 10:30. That seems to be the real issue here: your child is waiting up because he wants to see his dad.

Can you get creative with this... maybe add into the bedtime routine a call from dad? Do you have a cell phone where your DH could take a photo and send it too?
If he is taking a 3 hour nap during the afternoon, then it probably wouldn't hurt him to stay up until 10:30 to have some time with his dad, who can tuck him in.  His nap may get even longer than 3 hours, if you move to this type of schedule, but it's not going to harm him. I know a lot of kids who are on similar schedules. Having time with both parents is important.

However, maybe that just doesn't work for you, and you need some time to yourself in the evenings. Wouldn't blame you for that either. In which case, then my advice would be to ask the sitter to wake him up earlier and earlier until he's no longer napping or only having a short nap. Hopefully the sitter will agree to this.
#9  
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Soothing warm milk in a sippy cup, with a nice rub down with Johnsons soothing baby lotion with vicks. It will calm him down and throw in some very mello music in the background and maybe a really nice bedtime story.
Because I am so busy at work I didn't read through the answers but I can tell you one thing that worked for me - this came from my father - parent DELUXE!!  :)

Define the parameters of staying up past bed time.  I put three little hard wooden chairs facing the wall and made my kids sit there for a bit - I told them - bed time is this time - if you really want to stay up later than that...this is what you will be doing.  :) One time I put them in chairs around my bed and read and drank tea LOL - I had to do this once...then had three good weeks, then I had to reinforce it about 2 more times and the curse was over!!  ;)  It's all about making the punishment fit the crime!!  Good luck!!
When my kids were that age, routine was the best thing. I love the idea of no tv a few hours before bedtime. I would read to my kids (but that never put them to sleep) and then I would lay down with them quietly. It would usually take about 20 minutes for them to drop off to sleep. I think it's best to have dinner, take a walk, have a bath, do the reading and make it clear it's all part of the plan toward bedtime. It's heaps of work, but if you do the same thing over and over the kid should get the message. I acknowledge that this could be a difficult path to follow if you already had a full day and are tired... At that age it seems to be pretty common for the kids to want to call the shots... Many times I did the "giving in" thing and let my kids stay up quite late, but in hindsight that was poor parenting. The key is that you are in control, not the kid. So if you have a set schedule and stick to it, you should have the upper hand.

My kids were never good at taking naps :)

Original Post by jenmcc:

Do you have a bedtime routine for him?

Is he getting enough quality time with you during the day?

You might also try the "marble jar" approach with him. This worked wonderfully with my kids, but admittedly they were a bit older when I first started it with them. You get two jars - small ones. Fill one with marbles. Tell him that for every night he goes to bed on time (he doesn't need to sleep - he just needs to stay in his bed after light's out), he will get to take a marble and place it in the other jar. When the jar is full, he gets a treat. Because he's so young, make this an easy jar to fill - maybe only 7 marbles so he gets a quick payoff. One very important thing, if you try this: NEVER take away a marble for bad behavior. Never. It defeats the whole purpose of this method.

He probably could use a little more time with me. I could try coloring.. or reading with him more. I will try the half an hour of my time thing and see if that helps. I know he wants more attention from me... but sometimes I just don't know what to do with him.

The only bedtime routine I really have for him is brushing his teeth (and have actually been slacking on that sometimes) and then putting him to bed. Like I mentioned before, I tried reading to him before bedtime but he didn't want that. He is a very active child and doesn't like to sit still much. Even when watching a movie he is playing or running around, moving to different chairs, etc. So that is another idea I should think about is some things he might enjoy to do with me before bedtime... other than a movie. :)

I guess I don't necessarily mind him staying up until 10:30pm. I just thought as a 2 year old he should be getting more sleep than that. But I guess if he takes a long nap at the sitters, that does make up for the lack of sleep he gets at night.

I like that marble idea.. but I think he may be too young to actually understand the concept of it. I think he may actually just want to play with the marble instead. :)

I also like the chair idea and actually thought about doing something like that yesterday too. Although I know he would scream while he's sitting in the chair too, so I don't know if that's a good idea to be doing that at 9:30pm at night either. Also, I live with my brother, and he tries to go to bed around that time as well. I know he was bothering him yesterday because he came out of his room and tried to put him to bed as well, but I told him that I had to do it myself or else he would never learn to go to bed for ME.

But thank you for all of the ideas! I will be tagging this forum and going to it very often I am sure!!

Original Post by jenmcc:

Can you get creative with this... maybe add into the bedtime routine a call from dad? Do you have a cell phone where your DH could take a photo and send it too?

This may be a dumb question.. but what is DH?

Also, he really wouldn't be able to call him. He doesn't have a cell phone at work. and even if he did.. it's a factory job- so no free time except for two breaks of 15 minutes, and he usually tries to eat something. That is a good idea though...

I will probably be going home tonight and brainstorming some kind of schedule to stick to from now on. I sure know that I don't want many more of these kind of nights! I probably also owe my neighbors an apology! Undecided

When I started having this issue when my oldest was 2, we did the following:

* Started phasing out his afternoon nap by 15 minutes a day until eventually he didn't get one anymore.  Granted, hubby didn't have that time in the middle of the day to himself anymore, but the time he gained at night made up for it.

*  Implemented a routine.  If on already, TV goes off.  Put on clean pull up (at the time) Put on pajamas. Snack. Brush teeth.  15 minutes with mom or dad in room before saying good night. (During that 15 minutes it can be story time, music time, play with toys quietly time, but it's 15 minutes max.)

After a while this worked, but then he started coming out of his room a lot again.  It turns out that he is a very energetic boy, so efforts to make sure he got in a lot of physical activity during the day helped tired him out.  And, sometimes, the boy just wants to stay up, and he can get bored.  After putting a toy box in his room and letting him listen to music (rule: quiet soft music), he was more interested in staying in his room.  When he got older we could trust him with crayons and pencils so he could color or do puzzles.

As for before bed activities:  If your boy doesn't like books, you might try singing kids' songs together, playing a simple kid's game that doesn't take very long (candyland, don't break the ice, etc.), maybe do a puzzle together.  Before bed stretching and breathing is something that my 7 year old has taken to and now absolutely loves (great way to calm him down as well).  He's also into those Webkinz things, and he likes to spend about 10 minutes on the Webkinz world web site to "take care" of his pets.  I don't know if your 2 year old is interested in the computer, but there are a lot of kids websites with activities, puzzles, and games you could do together.

Hope this helps!

Shaye, DH stands for "Dear Husband."

If you try the "little more time with you" thing, I'd suggest for now you make it earlier in the evening - my fear is that he'll start thinking he's won, that if he whines and refuses to go to bed, it's playtime with mom.

So try this instead, try having a 30 minute one-on-one session when you arrive home from the sitters, before you get started on dinner or housework or sorting the mail or anything like that. Tell him when you pick him up that this is going to be the new routine, special mommy time! If he's hungry, give him a small snack in the car. Or make the snack a part of your new routine. Then color with him - maybe the two of you could make a game of each drawing a picture to illustrate your day, then talk about it together? Save all the pictures into a book..

Or read with him, or if he is as active as you say, play an active game with him. The trick here is you have to be present for the game... you can't just take him to a playground and sit on a bench while he plays. You need to be involved IN the game itself, with him.

And hey... I can totally relate to not knowing what to do with a 2-1/2 year old!! LOL!  I've never been great with kids that age. they're absolutely adorable, that's true... but I like it better when they get about school age. My girlfriend has a toddler and she keeps asking me to babysit for her, and I feel like such a chump for saying no... but I am thoroughly bored around kids this age. :-(
Shaye, it's not a dumb question. I didn't know what they meant when they said DH either, I actually started a thread to ask a while ago.

Okay first off ask the babysitter how long he is napping. My now 17 year old went to a babysitter and I couldn't get hit to sleep at night. SO, I asked her to not let him sleep more than 2 hours and not to sleep after 3 p.m. That worked like a charm. She wasn't thrilled I am sure but I worked and needed to get to bed.

Maybe go somewhere and play in the evenings so he can run around and wear himself out.

My 2 year old goes to bed anywhere from 9-10:30 and sleeps about 2.5-3.0 hours a day. I also try to get her out and about like at the mall play center.

Those little boogers have alot of energy..........now can we talk tantrum fits? LOL

My kids (10 and 6) and I have a ritual where we all lay in my bed for a half hour or more before bedtime and read books.  Then at 9:00, they go to bed and are asleep very quickly.  The kids sleep together on a fouton, with the dog, in an open gameroom area of our house, right outside of my bedroom.  Sometimes they even turn the TV on, my daughter likes it, then I turn it off in a few minutes when she is out.  They both have great rooms, they just don't want to sleep there.  We used to try to bribe them to sleep in their own rooms, but I decided not to fight it, they will grow out of it and want privacy and space soon enough.  When I only had my son, he would fall asleep in bed with us and I would move him to his bed.  With my daughter, she falls asleep with my son on the fouton.  I think I am the only one in the family who prefers to sleep alone!

May not be storybook perfect, but here's the kicker - both my kids get at least 9.5 hours of sleep a night and we don't fight about it.  Bedtime isn't stressful.

I think sometimes we, as parents, get hung up on this storybook way we think things are supposed to work.  I remember doing the whole 'put the kid in the bedroom and hold the door shut till he exhausted himself enough to fall asleep' method that the experts often recommend, and my husband and I were just as traumatized as my son.  So, we started letting my son fall asleep in bed with us then we moved him to his bed, and he stayed there all night.  It worked for us, even though the "experts" would have been appauled.

The trick is finding something that works and making a routine.

I just wanted to thank everyone for the advice that I received. Like I said before, I will be referencing this thread often!!

So far for the past week I have been pretty much letting him stay up until he falls asleep on his own, in the living room. It has been at a reasonable time or even before his bedtime though.

Then yesterday I tried putting him to bed and it didn't work- he just kept coming back out, so since his Dad was home he went in there and put him to bed. He came out once and then stayed in bed after that.

For Christmas I got him his own Disney Cars bed so I thought that would help. At first he loved it and wanted to sit in it and lay in it, but when I said it was time to go to bed he didn't want to have anything to do with it.

Then this morning.. I don't even know what time.. probably 2 or 3am he woke up and crawled into bed with me. So we're still working on it...    :)

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