Can’t get her kids to sleep, she needs help!

[ Received an interesting and distressingly common complaint from a reader about being unable to get her young children to sleep at a rational hour and, with her permission, I am posting our back-and-forth here. If you have any additional comments or ideas, please do leave them and help this poor couple out with their perpetually awake little ones! –DT ] Hi Dave, You have info in your attachment parenting blog about sleep patterns and getting the kids to bed at a reasonable hour. I just read one post about your little guy refusing to go to bed at 10 PM. We are lucky to get our kids down before midnight. It’s often times 1, 2 AM.
That’s brutal. What time do they get up? Do you have pretty quiet dinners and evenings, or are you all pretty wired and moving around? We try, as best we can, to have less than full brightness lights, talk quietly and only allow “mellowâ€? play so we can get things to slooowwww down. Recently we’ve been trying to have 7pm bedtimes and it’s working pretty well, the kids are almost always asleep by 7.45 or so. Thankfully, we haven’t had a 10pm night in long time. The 2yo’s different because she’s either fully ON or OFF, no slowing down with her. But that’s just her age…


I know it’s partly because my husband and I never wind down in the evening — that’s the only time we have to work on our websites, and we’re driven by finances to keep working hard. Our question since early in our parenting journey (and we had embraced attachment parenting, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping since day one), can we ever get our kids to bed earlier without us having to go to bed early too?
You should be able to do so. What if you just spent an hour having bath time and reading books, with the lights almost all off, and every distraction (Tv/computer) turned off? If they could really go to sleep by even 9pm, you’d have a few unencumbered hours, and if your kids are like mine, you’re only at about 10% efficiency when they’re all over the place while you’re trying to work. 🙂
Lately we have finally gotten our oldest, 4, who is rational enough to understand consequences if he doesn’t, to go to bed at more or less a reasonable time. We had to put a TV in his room to get him to fall asleep on his own, though. For months he would only sleep on the living room couch until we did that.
Ah, ugh, I’m not a fan of kids having their own TVs, I have to say. Have you tried one of these spiffo new rainbow changing color nightlights? ($10 at Home Depot) Or get a controller that gives him 30 minutes of TV then powers the device down for the night? My experience is that my kids zombie out but take a LONG time to get to sleep if they’re watching TV. Do you have the TV on in the living room, btw? If so, maybe that needs to be shut off until they’re asleep too (I have a TV in my office but it’s off until everyone’s asleep, partially because I watch lots of action movies inappropriate for little ones!)
The 2 year old is a maniac at night. She shows no signs of tiredness, other than circles under her eyes. No yawning, no falling over trying to stay sitting up. Often she’ll get sleepy in the early evening (7-8 PM), nurse down, and I can leave her in bed and go downstairs, but she wakes up in an hour, and is ready to go, won’t nurse back down.
That’s really tough. Does she nap during the day? What happens if you try to get her to sleep earlier in the evening? When she doesn’t have a nap, our 2yo usually falls asleep around 6.30pm — if we can get her to bed that early – then she’s out until about 6am the next day with precious few middle of the night wakeups.
It’s just a nap, and then she’s really ready for a late night. When we finally cash in and insist on her staying in bed with us instead of bothering her brother, she has a screaming and kicking fit, but will eventually give up and nurse down to sleep.
Ugh, sounds really tough!!
This has been such a problem for us. It’s holding us back with our own health goals, making us crabby toward the kids, and preventing us moving forward the way we want to with our business. Sorry to go on and on, it was nice to have someone to talk to about this.


So how about it, AP parenting readers and parents, any additional suggestions for this exhausted couple on how to get their little ones to a more normal and healthy sleep cycle?

26 comments on “Can’t get her kids to sleep, she needs help!

  1. I think you have given wonderful advice Dave. Especially the bit about winding down and keeping the TV (and any other distracting factors) off is crucial. It definitely pays off to dedicate your evenings for a couple of weeks to establishing a good bedtime pattern. You will get a lot more work done once they get used to going to bed earlier.
    I have to say I have no experience of 2yo’s and that sounds like an incredibly exhausting situation, but how about trying to talk to her? She might be able to explain how she feels about bedtime, and that might give you a few clues on how to change things. Also, kids seem to sense when you’re anxious for them to go to bed. Some Pantley-style analysing your own feelings around the issue might help too.
    Physical exercise and playing outside tires kids up – maybe you could include them in your own exercise routines or go for a walk together?
    It might be an idea to try and postpone the early evening nap gradually (15 mins a time?), and hopefully it would eventually merge into the nighttime sleep.
    Sorry for the long blabber, but just couldn’t stop half-way 🙂
    Laura

  2. My 2nd and 3rd kiddos were done with naps at around age 2 1/2. If they slept even a few minutes during the day, they were up unitl 11PM. It was sometimes a struggle, especially in the car, to keep them from snoozing, but it made bed time SO much easier. And there were stretches of time where one of us would need to lay with a child for a half hour or so to get them to sleep.
    Also, having a calm, relaxed routine helps. We read to the kids, then they can read quietly for a short while before lights out. Playing music really helps my daughter relax and fall asleep. Her favorite sleepy music by far is the Curious George soundtrack.
    I also totally agree that getting some fresh air and outdoor exercise makes a HUGE difference. Not always easy this time of year in Wisconsin, but worth a bit of shivering.
    I wish you the best of luck in figuring out what works for you and yours. Around here our strategy needs to be flexible and the same thing does not work for all the kids, but with a few rare exceptions, all 3 are generally asleep between 8:30 and 9. Try different things for a few days and if they work, add them to your “bag of tricks”.

  3. We found that it was hard to get our kids (2 and 4) to sleep if they nap for too long during the day. The 4 year old doesn’t need a nap at all, but our 2 year old naps for about an hour. When they get out of their usual rhythm (6:15 wake up, 8:15 bedtime), we get them back into it by making sure they get up early, and limiting their naps. It is hard to “make” a kid go to sleep (impossible?), but easy to get them up early (tickling helps).
    The night-time bath-bed-story-lullaby rhythm works well for our 2 yo.
    Good luck!

  4. P.S.
    I don’t know why, but when we let our kids sleep another hour in the morning, they stay awake for an extra two hours at night. I know the math doesn’t work, but that’s what happened with ours. Early mornings worked for us. Maybe it’s something to do with sunlight…

  5. I have more questions than recommendations – what is the children’s daytime like, when do they get up in the morning, are mom and dad working from home during the day or away? What type of foods are the children eating at dinner? The oldest is 4 so the younger is somewhere between 1 and 3 and still nursing which is a definite plus for helping to settle down. In the years I’ve been working with parents (through LLL or my lactation practice) I have seen this kind of situation where afternoon and evening foods are more carbs than proteins, plus hidden sugars and it all adds up to winding up the kids, not settling them down. In addition, children that spend most of the day away from their parents really, really, really want and need the reconnect time – and for this family that may be when mom and dad need to spend quality time working on their business. Not knowing the working situation – I would hazard that spending some dedicated quality time with the kids in a bedtime routine would be a benefit to all – a bath – but not a riot – sometimes we bathe in water that’s lukewarm and that’s more stimulating than relaxing – and then cuddling with nursing or a quietly read book – followed up by cuddling to sleep. I was always very resistant to lying down with my children to sleep – until I learned that if I relaxed, then they would relax and go to sleep quickly. If I lay there thinking of the dishes/laundry/work/book/chores/whatever then the child would inevitably take forever to settle down. So, there’s my two cents worth.

  6. Hmm.. I hear this a lot.. and then get some grief that our kid gets up at 6am.. but is asleep by 7pm.. in bed around 6:30.. one is 4 .. the other is 1.. the 1-year-old naps twice during the day.. the 4-year-old is done napping…
    Our struggle was with believe they “should” go to sleep alone. As the youngest kid of 3, I never went to sleep alone. Our neighbors force their kids into the room and lock the door.. but that makes things way worse (plus they had a fire scare and didn’t even think of the kid!!)
    Anyway.. I’d be happy to share what worked for me/us. .. We read one short book before bed.. then off with the light and I lay next to his (4-year-old) bed while a calming tape plays. I make up one story. Then I hug and kiss him. and lay on my pillow next to his bed. I don’t face him. I lay quietly and don’t answer questions. I breathe deeply for him to hear.. and I just try to go to sleep.
    Now it works great.. he’s asleep in 5 to 10 minutes.. it used to take 45-minutes even an hour before I started to stick to my limits.
    I would find myself getting mad.. at which point I had to swap kids and let my wife sleep next to his bed.. but no talking. and no yelling.. No “one more” story.
    Now, If he is particularly draining during the day, I say.. “you are draining my energy..” that night when he asks for a book.. I say, “I don’t have enough energy to read tonight.”.. which is helping with lots of things during the day!
    If you can’t lay next to your child because of what others would say.. well.. lie to the nosy neighbors and lay next to your kids.
    .. Oh.. the 1-year-old gets Momma laying with her and the ocean waves loud in the background. She used to cry every time we left the room.. the key there was putting the bed on the floor so we wouldn’t worry about her falling off.. and the bed wouldn’t squeek when we got up.. and I didn’t come back for the first cry.. she’d cry when she was asleep.. I’d wait for her awake cry..
    Oh.. wait.. the one thing that struck me while reading your problem.. you said your kid didn’t show signs of being tired.. well.. being a maniac is the number one sign of my boy being tired. If he is acting wired and ready to take on the world, I know he’ll be out like a light once I start the routine.
    Choices helped getting the manic into bed.. do you want to sleep with this pillow or that pillow? Do you want to use the red toothbrush or the blue toothbrush? Do you want to put you left leg or your right leg into your PJs first?
    Good Luck.. it may be a week or two without much website work.. but I now have from 7pm to ?? to stay awake.. so my problem is going to bed in time to be ready for them at 6am.
    Dave

  7. Here’s what’s worked for our 2 and 4 year olds:
    — Same routine every night…dinner, then quiet playing/reading or a bath, then bedtime at about 7:30 with a story. They know what to expect and look forward to, and there are very few tantrums.
    — As much outside play as possible during the day. If we’re stuck inside or have to run errands instead of playing, I can really see the difference. They bounce off the walls! But fresh air and activity helps calm them down/tire them out.
    — My kids are champion nappers, but if their naps run too late (after 4:30 pm) then bedtime is harder.
    — I think falling asleep without too much parental intervention is a skill kids have to develop. So, we have a bedtime rhythm (jammies, teeth brushing, tell a story, etc.) but we don’t do a lot of intense coddling any more. They still talk for a while after lights out, but as long as they’re quiet we don’t intervene.
    — Depending on their age, I agree that you could ask the child directly what they need at bedtime. It could be that they need extra time with you if you’re away all day.
    — For your son who needs the TV, I wonder if soothing music would work. Either one of you playing (lyres are nice) or singing for awhile, or recorded music?? Personally I think the TV is not beneficial before bedtime even if it seems to work; maybe it’s just hard for him to settle down if it’s too dark and quiet?
    — For the 2 year old, I wonder if it’s possible she needs a LONGER nap earlier in the day? I know my 2 year old gets pretty crabby in the evening if she doesn’t have a nap.

  8. These are great comments. Ultimately it’s a parent problem of course. I don’t make the kids play outside enough, I’m too busy working day and night and don’t spend enough time with them. None of us eat very healthfully. It’s a vicious cycle of exhaustion which leads to lack of motivation and no energy to make the necessary changes. But I intend to try. Hopefully my husband will see the importance of putting some extra energy into this too, and the two of us will be happier, healthier, and more loving parents. Thanks everyone.

  9. I hope this doesn’t sound too harsh, because it’s not intended to be, but it sounds like your kids are in charge in your home, and not you, the parents.
    I have 2 children myself, and they are not babies anymore, but I remember when our daughter didn’t want to take her afternoon nap, around the age of 3, and was grumpy all afternoon.
    What I did was set her in her bed for a nap, and asked her not to get off the bed until I came to get her. In the beginning it was a struggle, but eventually she learned to have “quiet time” alone and more often than not, she fell asleep.
    I am a work at home mom as well, and I KNOW it’s hard to balance working and having time with your children. Maybe if you take a couple of hours every evening to spend time as a family, and getting a routine started, your kids will settle into that routine, and give you and your husband that much needed time to work on your business.
    You’ll be a lot more productive, and your kids will be healthier. I hope this helps.
    Adriana

  10. There are some great comments here with good advice.
    When approaching children in the 2 to 4 age range, you need to consider that their normal physiological sleep cycles are different. The 4 year old is pretty much in an adult cycle here they go to sleep by entering non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and in about 60-90 minutes enter REM or dream sleep that may last about 20-30 minutes. The 2 year old cycles more quickly through NREM and spends more time in REM. New borns enter sleep via REM with 80% of their sleep being REM whereas adults spend 20% of sleep time in REM. We all tend to wake easily as we transistion from REM into light NREM. So this is when they wake up after sleeping 60-90 minutes. All that technical stuff to say, the approach has to be different based on age.
    One thing that is very importment is to have a consistent routine for about one hour before bedtime and a very consistent sleep location. We have all experienced this. Where do you sleep best, your own bed or in a hotel room? (If you answer hotel room then you need some other type of help.)
    Letting a child watch TV or read in bed runs the risk of creating what is called situational insomnia. In the subconscious the body is being told that the bed is not a place to sleep. If a child cannot go to sleep within 20 minutes of going to bed but can go set in a chair or lie down on a couch and goes to sleep in 20 minutes, then they have this problem.
    Something you can try is helping your child plan their dream. Prior to puberty, child are lucid dreamers, meaning they can plan and control their dreams. BTW, if you work with them on this they can maintain the ability even into adulthood. Anyway, doing this can help them want to go to sleep and have the dream.
    When you are first teaching a child to sleep alone, it is important for them to learn how to put themselves back to sleep when they wake. If you go pick them up because they are crying then your comforting becomes their mechanism to initiate sleep. You have to let them cry. If you do this at the appropriate age of 3-5 months then it is taken care of within a week. Unfortunately, not too many pediatricians tell parents about this.
    Sometimes when children or adults get into the mode of going to bed at 2 or 3 in the morning, it is almost impossible to set the time back. That is, you go to bed at midnight but just lie there wishing you could go to sleep. The technique to change this is called walking toward the sunset. Every other night you step the sleep start time forward (toward sunset) by 1-2 hours. In other words, if you are going to bed at 2:00am, then for 2 nights go to bed at 4:00am, then step to 6:00am etc. Obviously, you will be sleeping during the day for about a week. When you get to the time you want to be going to bed, then stop.
    Well, that was all a little random but I hope it helps.

  11. As a parent of two girls,22 months apart I can certainly relate. What we found is that children tend do emulate their parents routine. The winding down comment is sound advice. We are all creatures of habit,including our kids. We had to change our habits(going to bed earlier,quite time in the evenings,Exact bed times) Routine starts our internal clocks,Things go smoother with daily routine. Younger parents will soon learn this. By the way what a great blog!
    If your children are more difficult than you can handle you might also want to check this out: http://orgoman.mserv.hop.clickbank.net

  12. Hi there, I just stumbled on this site by googline “attachment parenting 9 yr old child can’t fall asleep alone.” That is my problem in a nutshell. We have always put her to bed, co-slept till about age 5, and now she has to have one of us w/ her in her bed till she falls asleep. Besides this, she is happy, very secure and not afraid to be on her own. I really never thought this would happen—believed it was better not to let her cry, etc. But now I am wondering if I made a mistake and how to help her at this point be able to have a kiss and a story, then lights out and we leave. I am not an experienced blogger, so I didnt’ know where to put this question–hopefully someone will see it who can help.

  13. I have a very different situation, and can’t seem to find another one to match. We allowed all of our children to co- sleep. It wasn’t what we planned. They were all planned to sleep in their own rooms. All 4 of them. The first one stopped breathing at 3 weeks, which caused the co-sleeping from then on, but transitioned to his own bed at age two. The second one was ill with severe food allergies and was sick alot until age six, so there was no sleep to have unless he slept with us. Our third son had the food allergies and autism, there was no winning that battle. The fears of the autistic child are enough to cause them to harm themselves. He now sleeps on his own at agen 5, as long a an older brother is in the room with him standing gaurd. Our baby girl was a sole sleeper until 4 1/2 months. Didn’t like to be touched when she was trying to sleep as an infant. We went on a trip when she was 4 months old and that all changed. Leaving her to cry it out in her crib when we returned really was devastating, and looked like a person that had a nervous breakdown by the end of the night. She stayed up all night crying. None of the two or three hours that you read about. Going in and consoling ect. Not our little one.
    Now she is 3 1/2, and I made up my mind to work with her until she slept in her own room. She tantrumed, was extremely angry, would choose hours of time out on the bottom stair to going to bed. Even curled up on the stair and went to sleep, but would not stay in her own bed. Finally after two and a half weeks, (And I remained calm and she was not spanked or anything) she got a wonderful routine, which has been the same; songs, stories, prayers hugs, cuddles all of it.. she has a beautiful room, but she really fought the bed. Once she was sleeping alone, she still woke up at 1 am and 3 am and wouldn’t get into a deep uninterrupted sleep until is was close to 5 am then she sleeps great until about 8. Of course, I am up at 5:30am. I am severely worn down. She does nap at 2 pm each day. When I took her nap away, the nighttimes were worse, not more restful. So.. she gets juice in her room each night, her older brother has diagnosed hypoglycemia, and she shows alot of the same signs and gets very hungry in the night. She has juice so she doesn’t need to wake anyone for a drink or food. Now she has returned to the tantruming, waking and not happily going back to sleep. It seems worse than it was before, now she is refusing T. O. and that is making for some really big all night problems. I am willing to wait her out, but my husband has had it on the patience scale. Tonight after her one am wake up and tantrum, she said that she just doesn’t like to sleep in her room, it “hurts me”. (I don’t understand but just for the sake of argument, I let her sleep on the couch.) She covered up and went right off to sleep, no problem. NO TV, I won’t allow it. Just being on the couch. Now I am not able to sleep, the LR is downstairs and I an not feeling that she is safe there with all of the family upstairs. But sleeping peacefully she is.Any thoughts? I wonder if I am not dealing with another child with Autism, that is manifesting differently. She is very ritualistic, but so outgoing and social.
    Help!

  14. OK everyone! I have the solution to your problems! It is called melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone released by the brain to help us fall asleep naturally. It doesn’t work as well in our artificially lit environments, so now, people like me, have to take it manually to fall asleep when I WANT to fall asleep. I have been taking it as needed for years. It is available in the supplements section of the pharmacy, it’s cheap, and it works. I used to give 1/4 to 1/2 pill to my son when he was little and couldn’t fall asleep. It helped him develop a pattern. He stopped taking it, and has been putting himself to bed everynight at 8:30 p.m. since he was 5 years old. It basically helped him to develop the pattern and hasn’t needed it since. Now I have my 2 year old daughter. She will go to bed at 1am or 2am if I didn’t give her melatonin. With melatonin, she falls asleep within 20 minutes and sleeps peacefully for a full 8 hours. The 1/2 pill tastes gross, but she just chews it up. This is the miracle you’ve been looking for. Good Luck!

  15. Can you give melatonin to children, who just cannot seem to wind down at night, and are still lying awake at one in the morning wanting to color or draw or play?

  16. Jay, you could, I suppose, but I wonder if it isn’t some sort of food allergies that you’re seeing with your child if they are really running non-stop 24 hours/day. Can you try altering his/her diet for a week and see if bedtime is any easier? Also, a pre-bedtime bath is often helpful (though not with my kids!)

  17. I am appreciating all of the comments I’ve read so far. As with an earlier post, I am working with an almost six year old who has become used to sleeping with either me or her dad for her whole life. While I don’t regret the co-sleeping decision AT ALL, I do want to see my daughter learn to go to sleep without so much comforting from me. I find that I try to start my go-to-sleep routine with her at around 7pm and she is not asleep, some nights, until 11pm. This summer has been much harder than the school year, when she was more tired out with the regular get up early, kindergarten routine. Does anybody have any good books they’ve read on how to transition away from co-sleeping? I want to stick with attachment parenting as I help my child to sleep solo. I don’t want to upset the positive relationship I have with my child by shifting away from this co-sleeping arrangement we have…

  18. Wow what a read! I have a 3.5yr old girl and a 11month old boy. We have a small house with a loft – no separate rooms – so co-sleeping has been the reality, although my daughter has her own mattress on the floor. I used to always have to lie beside her for her to fall asleep and we’d some nights go through a very drawn out routine of bath, pjs, warm milk with cinnamon, brush teeth, storytime and lullabies. It would generally take 2 hours or more to wind down after getting into bed and countles “more stories” or “one more lullaby” or “I need water”. Finally with some suggestions from Jo Frost’s Supper Nanny book my husband decided to try a new bedtime routine – still the same as before but after the story (and now we read only one story instead of 3) he then put our daughter in bed gently saying “goodnight sweetie” – she tried to get up and ask for me (I’ve generally put her to bed since she was born due to habit from nursing days) – my husband gently put her back into bed saying ” bedtime” – she cried for me – but every time she tried to get out of bed, she was gently put back – and after the second time, my husband said nothing. She asked why he wasn’t talking. He decided to answer this question simply “because talking makes it hard to fall asleep” – she accepted this for a few minutes – then very suddenly asked something that she really wanted to know. He considered this questions and before he answered it – he said “I will answer your question, but this is the last time I will speak tonight ….” after that she turned over and fell asleep with him sitting at the foot of the bed.
    He did all this in less then 30 minutes – which for me was magical! SO the next night I tried his approach to reducing engagement but still being present. It was harder for me, becasue we had much more history of a different way. She screamed hysterically when I stopped speaking – it was like an animal knowing it was loosing control! It took me still about 1.5 hours for her to finally fall asleep and it was hard that first night. I brought the laundry into the bedroom, so that I could be folding beside her, instead of lying down on the matress with her. For the next week we alternated bed time duty – my husband’s second go was not as easy but by the end of the week bedtime frustration had greatly reduced and on average it took 30 – 45 minutes for sleep to come on.
    Now two months later I really see the benefit. Bedtime is generally peaceful – we still are able to be flexible about the time – but try not to vary too much the routine. And the biggest key is the not talking – even if she needs to go pee – I will bring her to the bathroom and bring her back without any words and no eye contact. The added bonus is that this same strategy works with nap time!
    Hope this helps!

  19. Tegan-
    Thanks. I feel like this transitional period is utter hell. My daughter (age almost six) stayed up until after 12pm last night (morning,really) and then had a fitful night’s sleep. She and I had enjoyed such a lovely, calm evening and as soon as the lights go out she literally worked herself into a crappy, hysterical space…Ug. I woke her up early, hoping that the sheer force of fatigue might break this dreadful pattern we are in…
    I appreciate any support folks have to give. I am receptive at this point, although I want to stay within the attachment parenting frame…
    Helen

  20. When it comes to bedtime I keep remembering something when I was doing some fieldwork in Polynesia. Bedtime’s a big huge struggle for us, but Tahitian kids would all conk right out an hour or two after dinner of their own accord. Here’s my completely amateur analysis of the situation:
    -People get up reeaal early in Tahiti (5-6 am)
    -Kids spent all afternoon running around outside after school
    -After dinner the family washes up and then just hangs out in the living room talking and watching TV. No anxieties about separation or missing out on the action?
    Obviously you have to work around this timetable- they have the kids shower before dinner, changing into PJs is no big deal because they’d just be changing from clean shorts and t-shirts into clean shorts and t-shirts, and maybe they just have them brush their teeth before they can hang out with the family after dinner.
    Really the biggest thing to it is probably the physical activity during the day. That can be hard to get in a lot of places because of safety and supervision issues, but they all pointed it out as key to the little guys not being wired at night.
    (That’s the nice thing about living on a teeny little island. Say somebody takes your kid… where they gonna go with ’em?)

  21. Right, forgot to mention- during the nightly family hangout time the kids just fall asleep in the living room. Half the kids would have the living room be their designated sleeping zone anyway b/c the houses were smaller, and the older ones snuck off to their rooms on their own accord.

  22. I end up putting the kids to sleep by myself because my husband falls asleep first. They stay up and make a mess of the house and get into fights that I have to break up. I’m tired and need a break in the evening. What do I do?

  23. Cecilia
    Lot’s of good advice above: a dinner, bath, stories, bedtime routine is our start point. Running the kids ragged after school/kindy helps.
    Tegan’s (July 23, 2007) system is a good one, it worked for me, my sister (who told me about it) and I saw it used on the Nanny show. Repeatedly putting back in bed, no anger, no interaction, repeat it a hundred times or more at first, they get so bored, eventually they give up.
    My kids can put on spectacular performance tantrums occasionally, just checking out the boundaries, but I stick to the routine above when we need to use it. It’s a variation of the controlled crying approach without leaving kids crying. You’re letting them know you love them, but not their behaviour, you run the show, but that you’re not mean, angry, etc, it is just BEDTIME. Say this to them at the start. My oldest understood.
    “Catch them being good” is a technique I wish I used more. Great for shifting focus from unwanted to wanted behaviour. Just praise the hell out of them every time they do the right thing.
    Can you get your husband on the team? We make a joke of it, two bodies, one mind. Be the Borg on all aspects of parenting. Also, take turns standing outside the door to catch them and take them back to bed. It’s hard to keep a straight face sometimes.
    Steve Biddoulf (?) Raising Boys (and other books on parenting) and the Parentline information from KidsHelpLine Brisbane Australia. Also Triple P programs are handy. I have used stuff from all these sources. They all have websites.
    All the best.

  24. Hi. My husband and I are in a difficult situation and these posts have been interesting and possibly helpful. Here’s the thing though…Our son was born and had collic till about 9 months old. We had to hold him alot, nurse him, rock him, drive him and so on to get him to sleep at night and even nap in the day. It was exhausting…but at about 9months old he was sleeping better…as long as it was in our bed with us. We thought who cares, we all need the sleep we haven’t been getting so we let it happen and were happy to get the sleep. Then my husband and I seperated and he only had one bedroom. On the days I had our son he slept in bed with me. It was what we had both become used to and it was comforting to us both. Same with my husband on his days with our son. It was fine at that time but then time moves foward and things change. My husband and I were able to reconcile and are happily back together. Our son is 2 and a half now and he is still in our bed at night. It takes one of us to lay down with him for nap and for bed at night. Problem with that is we usually end up falling asleep too. There is much work to be done when our son is asleep during the day and at night so falling asleep because you are laying down for an hour in the dark not moving is becoming a huge issue. Another problem is that my husband works from home and gets little done with our boy being rather clingy and throwing fits when he’s not given atention. Not to mention that I work nights 3 days or more a week and I am on a totally different sleeping schedule than I want to be. We are finding ourselves, tired, cranky, impatient, and behind in work. We want our son to sleep in his own bed and fall asleep on his own. We find though that if we put him to bed at 9pm he’s up at 6am ready to start the day and that is fine for the rest of the world but I am just getting home from work at 3am and like our son to sleep till 10am. So you can see we have this huge catch 22 thing happening and it has truely taken it’s toll. How can we get our son to sleep in his own bed and fall asleep on his own? And how do we configure our routine to give us all a healthy day and night? FYI, meals, fresh air, and activities are a non issue. Thanks in advance to anyone reading this and has a helpful hint to our specific situation.

  25. Hi everyone, wonderful discussion here,
    I wonder if anyone could give me some advice re. getting my 6mo to sleep better at night. Attachment parenting feels really right but I am worried that my baby will not grow out of his current sleeping patterns (sleeping on the breast, waking about 3 times a night to feed, not being able to go to sleep alone etc.) Will I be spoiling him if I let him fall asleep on the breast up to, say, 1yo?
    He slept in my arms for the first 3 months (more for my own peace of mind) and we both slept well, fed easily etc. Now he’s a lot bigger (10 kilos) and when he wriggles/kicks in his sleep he keeps me awake and even hurts me sometimes! So I put him on a camp bed or bassinet beside my bed, but getting him back into it is hard after a night feed, he often wakes up (perhaps because it’s colder than in my bed). I’ve tried giving him gluten-free porridge in the evenings to fill him up but it doesn’t seem to be doing anything – could this be giving him too much energy last thing at night?
    I don’t mind waking up once or twice a night (I read once that ‘wake therapy’ is an excellent cure for depression!) but I am more irritable with my husband and could do with a proper rest. However, I am loathe to live my life by a strict timetable and can’t work out what would be an appropriate timetable anyway.
    The comments about the Tahitian kids are very interesting. Could it be that we humans are just not wired for sleeping alone, that close social proximity is our historic norm and we should just go with it? Is this the reason my baby wakes up at night – because he wants reassurance that I’m still there?
    Thanks so much for any feedback.
    Medina

  26. My wife and I need help. We have a 3.5 year old girl and a 1.5 year old boy. Our night time routine is usually dinner, family time with play and tv, then bath time, story time, and sleep time. My wife rocks the 1.5 year old to sleep and I entertain my daughter by reading books or sometimes lying down in the driveway to see the stars. Once the boy is asleep (usually around 30 minutes of tossing and turning in Mom’s lap) she puts him in the crib and then puts our daughter down. She’s usually asleep within 15 minutes.
    Our bath is around 7:30PM. Sleep is around 8PM. They get up around 7AM. The boy gets up once around 3AM for a bottle, and falls right back asleep. He takes a 1 hour nap around 1 PM and our 3.5 year old daughter gave up naps about a year ago.
    I’ve been assigned on an out of town project for 8 months and my wife works full time. I’m only home on weekends. We have a daytime care taker who takes them to the park almost every day that it is somewhat nice outside. My wife cannot get a bedtime routine down when I’m not there. She’s going completely nuts and is drained. She’s had it. She ends up putting the kids in the car and driving them around for 1/2 hour till they fall asleep. The trouble is that she can’t put one down and leave the other unattended without them freaking out. She can’t put them down at the same time in the same bed because all they want to do is play with each other.
    We tried the cry it out thing, but the boy throws up every time he’s allowed to cry hysterically for more than a few minutes. The problem is a little less extreme when the kids play hard all day, but the weather is changing with the season and they spend a lot more time inside.
    Again, she’s had it and is at the END of her patience. She’s in tears over this and I can’t help from where I am. Any advice? We really need some help. This routine is not sustainable and I think my wonderful wife is going to lose it. She can’t maintain a calm attitude and is completely aggravated and exhausted.

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