Reader Lea is kept busy by three little ones. Her strong-willed middle child, age 5, can be a handful whether it’s out on a shopping trip with mummy or bedtime for him and his siblings. Lea writes:
I have come across your blog at the perfect time, and I think it’s amazing at what you are doing. I have a couple of concerns about my children. I am a mother of 3. A 6 year old, a 5 year old and a 9 month old.
Well, one of my issues is that my 5 year old boy refuses to sleep alone in his own bed, so he always sleeps with his big sister. No matter what I try or do, it’s a tantrum and he goes right back. He used to sleep in his own bed, but when I had to move back home with my mom, he was sharing a room with his sis and my mom. (Limited space.) I have tried putting him in his own room and the baby with the big sister, but he just got right back up and into her bed. In theory I don’t mind them being together (even if him being alone would be the best), but every night they are up till 10 to 11. I have tried looking up on this issue and read through your blogs to try and find some answers or advice, but I seem to have hit a wall and am going nowhere fast.
Another issue I am having with him is tantrums in stores, and I don’t mean little ones – I mean the big outrageous, get on the floor, start hitting and screaming at the top of his lungs ones. I tried to ignore him, telling him no, I don’t want this attitude and it’s going to get you nowhere if you continue, asked him to calm down and we will talk about it, but none of those is working as well as I’d wish it would. It’s to the point where I try to find a baby sitter while I go shopping just to avoid those situations, or not go shopping until my mom gets home so she can keep an eye on them while I’m gone.
Any advice or strategies that could help out both situations would be greatly appreciated and well applied.
Thank you so much for your kind words about the blog. I’m glad you found it!
As I understand from your email, your 5 year old son actually gets straight into bed with his big sister at bedtime, is this correct? If this is the case, I would just continue putting him back in his own bed. Ignore the crying and just keep putting him back if he gets up in the middle of the night whilst everybody is asleep. There is not too much else you can do apart from returning him to his own bed every opportunity you get.
I think it is a good idea for the two of them not to be sleeping in the same room. That way, at least he doesn’t disturb her.
As for the shopping, I would not avoid taking your little boy shopping just because he has a tantrum; there are no lessons to be learnt by this. Find an excuse to go to the shop, even if just to pick up some apples, but take this opportunity (as you know you are not going to be gone long) to take him with you, either on his own or with the others. If he starts to have a tantrum, continue to finish your little shop. Give him one warning; then after that, if he continues, just walk away and leave him screaming. I am sure he is waiting for a response from you. Once he sees he is not getting one, the tantrums might not stop immediately, but I think they will probably start to be less of an issue. Don’t worry about the other people in the shop; pretend it’s just you and your kids. You could try preparing him before you go into the shop, explaining that there will be consequences for his bad behaviour. Do not, however, promise a reward for good behaviour. If he is good, though, you should make a big deal of it and tell him how proud you are of him for being such a big boy. Maybe you can give your two older ones some separate little jobs to do in the supermarket, to keep them busy.
Even though by the time you get home you are probably all friends again, make sure that if you have had to warn him with a punishment you follow it through. If you say “time out when you get home”, then that is exactly what you do; if you say “no special treats for the rest of the day”, then that is what you do.
From what I can see, Lea, you have all had some big changes in your lives and it sometimes it takes kids a little longer to adapt – but they do. However, this is a reason, not an excuse, for naughty behaviour. You will have to be strong and just take control – you are Mummy and you are the boss!
Hi, I have a 14 month old baby girl and recently she has started to not want to fall asleep in her cot. From when she was born, I and my mum didn’t have a stable home and my daughter was always sleeping in the bed with me from the time she grew out of her Moses basket. But now we have been settled in our own house and she now has her own room.
When we first got the cot she loved sleeping in her cot; during the day and nighttime she would sleep right through without a peep from her! But recently when I go to put her to bed, before I even reach her bedroom door she starts stiffening up and crying hysterically. I’ve tried putting her in bed and giving her a bottle, soothing her by stroking her head, singing, giving her nighttime baths and even taking her swimming at nights to tire her out. But as soon as I go to leave she bounces straight up and cries for ages. I don’t like to let her cry for too long; she would cry all night as she never gives in! Hope you can help me! Thanks x
As I have mentioned before in other posts, around this age childrens’ sleep routines can start to change. They are more aware of their surroundings, more active, and have more anxieties and fears. You must also take into account that if she is not napping, she will become overtired at bedtime, which can cause her to have trouble sleeping at night. In addition, while I think physical exercise during the day is helpful for this purpose, if done too close to bedtime it can be counterproductive. Your daughter needs to be calm in order to be ready for bed; if she is overstimulated in the evening, it will make it harder for her to settle and self-soothe.
Although it sounds as if you’ve already tried some good methods, have you applied them consistently? If you’ve only tried them once or twice and she still cries, and you’ve given in and tried something else instead, then you are sending mixed signals to your daughter. I would advise you to pick one routine and try to stick to it. If you don’t like to leave her to cry out, then we need to find a routine that can work for the both of you, but you will have to stick to it. For the first couple of days – maybe even up to a week – your daughter might still cry in the beginning, but with a bit of luck and persistence it will become less and less.
The first step, I think, is to encourage your daughter to become more accustomed to spending time in the bedroom and to think of it as a happy and relaxed place; at least that way you can get her into the room without a scene. You can probably manage that by making the bedroom a play area and spending some time playing and reading there during the day. At the same time, refrain from using the actual cot except for her sleeping (not as a playpen or for “time out”, for example).
Try to keep to the same bedtime every night. Start your routine with a bath, all the time preparing her for bed and interacting with her by saying things like “Shall we go have a bath and get ready for bed? Which pyjamas do you want to put on? Shall we brush your teeth before we go to bed?” Then take her to her room and sit on the floor and play with her for about 15 minutes. Before you get her to help you tidy the toys away “because it is bedtime”, have her choose a book, which is the last step before bed. During storytime turn the lights down low, and talk in a very low voice. Finally, give her a little kiss and put her in bed. Don’t hang around the bedroom if she stands and starts to cry, just walk out of the room. I am almost certain that at least for the first week she will cry; you don’t have to let her cry out, but I do advise controlled crying in this situation. Check out my post “Getting Baby’s Bedtime Back on Track“, which explains how this works.
If you do manage to stick to the routine, obviously you can change a few things here and there as you know your child best. But most importantly, make it a routine; children at any age respond better to consistency.
A recent family holiday set off a change in the bedtime behaviour of reader Helen’s 9 month old son – formerly a good sleeper – and getting him back on track is proving to be a challenge. Helen writes:
I have a 9 month old boy who was good at going to bed and sleeping through (most of the time) until we went on holiday and he slept in a travel cot, which he hated and cried for hours each night the entire week we were away.
Now at home we are experiencing the same behaviour each evening and it is getting really difficult, as he is now waking our 22 month old daughter.
We are currently trying controlled crying, but he is crying for up to 2 hours and gets in such a state he’s made himself sick. We go in and try to settle him, but the only way to calm him down is to pick him up and cuddle him, then when we put him back down and leave the room he’s screaming.
Please can you suggest any ideas? Before controlled crying we tried holding him until he went to sleep, also tried to put him down awake but nothing works.
Thanks, any advice would be appreciated.
I can imagine this is very tiring for everyone.
I’m not sure how long you’ve been leaving your baby to cry uninterrupted, but bear in mind that the point of controlled crying isn’t really to leave them to cry for long periods of time – it’s to help your baby learn to self-soothe. It doesn’t sound as though your little boy has a problem self-soothing, as you mentioned he used to go to bed quite well. It’s also quite typical for children’s sleep patterns to change at this age, as they are more alert and mobile. Also, around this age they can start to develop separation anxieties.
Leaving the baby to cry, as I’m sure you have experienced, just makes them become hot, anxious and overtired – and sometimes even results, as you mentioned, in vomiting. Once this has happened, there is no hope of them settling. Even if they do eventually fall asleep, it is usually broken naps. Also, they may start to get distressed about bedtime approaching.
At night, Helen, when you put your baby to bed, try to make sure that he is really calm. Perhaps give him a bath, or just sit in a low-lit bedroom talking very gently to him. Then, when it is finally bedtime, just give him a kiss, tell him you love him, put him into his cot and walk out of the room. Even if he is crying, just wait five minutes and then go back into the bedroom. Keeping interaction to a minimum, soothe him for a moment by using a gentle but firm voice, say “It’s bedtime now, see you in the morning, love you” and walk out of the room again. Repeat this two or three times, then increase it to 10 minutes and then to 15 minutes, each time using the same procedure. As the intervals get longer, try reducing the amount of interaction each time.
If you notice that there is a pause between his cries, wait a little longer, as he might be starting to fall asleep and by going in you could disturb him again.
This could take a couple of days or several weeks, but it should start getting easier. In the meantime, it is going to take all your resources to stick to it – but if you do, I expect you will all get a better night’s sleep. Feel free to check back in and let me know how you’re both coming along!
Hi, my son is 14 weeks old. He sleeps great at night, only wakes up for one feed, sleeps from 6-6 and usually goes down OK. He has a good bedtime routine. The problem is his daytime naps. I can see when he is tired, put him in his cot and he just screams and screams for a half hour or so. I keep going in there to put the dummy in, reassure him, pat his belly. When he finally drops off he only sleeps for a half hour, then won’t go back to sleep. As the day goes on, he gets more and more miserable as he is so tired. He does this at all 3 nap times. How can I deal with this? Don’t think it’s due to hunger as he feeds really well. Help!
Thanks for writing, Emma. When you can see your son starting to get tired you could try taking him into the bedroom, maybe putting his dummy in, and rocking him just for five minutes (not until he falls asleep) just to soothe him. Then put him into his cot calmly and quietly; try not to talk to him or make eye contact.
If he starts to cry, just leave him for five minutes. Then go into the room, put his dummy back in (again making no eye contact or talking), and walk out of the room. Try this for the first few times, then move it to 10 minutes, then 15 minutes. Although it is important to let your baby self-soothe, if you leave him to cry for too long he will become overtired, hot and irritable, which will result in him being unable to settle.
Just keep repeating this procedure and he should soon fall asleep. Let me know how it goes for you.
A number of readers have told me of their struggles to ensure a good night’s sleep for their children and themselves. Summer writes:
Hello Nanny Godmother! I hope you can help me. My two-year-old son has always been a terrible sleeper. We bedshared from the age of 3 months to twenty months. He was sleeping in his own bed for four months relatively ok – waking up once or twice a night. Around Christmas time he began waking up all night and it is still happening. We’ve moved him to a pallet on the floor next to my side of the bed. He will only fall asleep if I hold his hands. It seems that separation anxiety is in full swing which was never a problem before. How can I make him fall asleep without all this new anxiety he is feeling? If you can tell me how to get him to sleep all night you’d truly be my Nanny Godmother!
Tammy, whose almost two year old boy is having a related problem, writes:
My son was sleeping real well in his toddler bed for about 3 months and then all of a sudden he has started waking up each and every night around 12 or 1 a.m. and crawling into bed with me. How do I get him to stay in his own bed? For now we have to sleep in the same room. Please help.
Ladies, most children go through this phase. It’s normally just attention-seeking behaviour. You need to nip it in the bud before it becomes a bad habit. As soon as you hear your little boy get up, put him straight back to bed. Try not to make too much of a fuss over him; just take his hand, say “Bedtime now, mummy’s right here.” Give a kiss and get back into bed. If you stick to this routine for the first couple of nights, then after that when he wakes just take his hand and put him back to bed; don’t say a word. He just wants to know you are there. Try to avoid anything before bedtime that could overstimulate him, e.g. TV, scary books or lots of noise.
It should only last a couple of weeks if you manage to stick to the routine.
Summer, as for the hand-holding problem, you could try the following technique. First night, just sitting next to his bed until he falls asleep, but no touching; second night, sit with your back to him next to the bed; then as the nights go on, try to move farther and farther away from the bed until the point where you are sitting outside the bedroom door. It might take a little while for him to get used to not holding your hand, but I am confident that if you stick to this method you’ll get some sleep.
Good luck, mums, sleep well!