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The four-year-old is going down the list of sleep excuses...

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eyesroll Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-17-06 10:55 PM
Original message
The four-year-old is going down the list of sleep excuses...
I can't sleep by myself.
I want to sleep in your bed.
Daddy's blowing his nose is too noisy.
The street is too noisy.
I'm afraid of the dark.
It's too light in here.
I miss my mama.*
I'm hungry.
I need to go potty.
The cat is too noisy.
I need to go potty again.
This time, I need to poop.
This bed is too hard.
The neighbors are too quiet.
It's too cold in here.
My jammies are too warm.
I miss my daddy.
I want more stories.
There are nondescript, noncorporeal monsters of indeterminate origin somewhere in my room, and I want them gone.


Anyhow...you get the idea.

Any help for getting a four-year-old to sleep at a reasonable hour, in her own bed, preferrably without 60-90 minutes of stories and someone physically present in her room until she's soundly asleep? (It's not that it's a huge problem in itself to be there as she falls asleep, but often getting up and using the bathroom ends up resetting the whole process...and she has trouble settling herself in the middle of the night alone, too.)

She has a bedtime routine. She has comfort objects.

She naps at preschool during the week, because she is required to, but doesn't nap on weekends, and is actually easier to get to sleep when she doesn't nap. (She has the same issues at her mom's, so we know it's not purely separation anxiety or acting out at dad's or what have you.)

Thanks.

*I am not mama; I am stepmom-equivalent. But kiddo's parents have been separated since she was a year old, and I've been around for two years, so this is nothing new. (Although she does, at times, miss her mama, it's part of a broader laundry list tonight.)
Daddy left the room for 30 seconds to use the bathroom.
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wildeyed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-18-06 08:31 AM
Response to Original message
1. The nap may be part of it.
Mine both quit napping regularly when they turned 3. I notice that when my almost 4 year old falls asleep in the car in the afternoon, he is not as tired at night and we have a longer bedtime routine.

Has your 4 year old always had problems putting herself to sleep? If she doesn't know how to fall asleep by herself, she will have to learn. There are tons of sleep remedy books on the market. One I read about recently recommends moving your chair farther away from the bed each night until you are sitting in the hall and then eventually can just walk out of the room.

In our home, we have made it clear that there are consistent rules and boundaries about sleep. For instance, at bedtime, children may read or play quietly in their room if they are not ready to go to sleep, but they may not leave their room. We don't get 100% compliance, but it works pretty well.

At night, I will get up for illness, nightmares and badly wet beds (moderately wet beds they can deal with themselves by changing their own jammies and putting a towel over the wet spot). I try to be as quiet and unemotional as possible about nighttime waking issues. Too much of my attention and energy during those nighttime forays is a payoff for the kid and tends to reinforce the behavior.

You might try a star chart as well. My daughter was waking us up ungodly early for the longest time. I finally gave her a digital clock and told her she got a star for each morning she let mommy and daddy sleep until seven. She could redeem 10 stars for a modest toy of her choice. Worked like a charm for us. You could try something similar adapted for your situation.

Good luck! Sleep issues are so difficult because they exhaust the entire family.
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eyesroll Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-18-06 08:57 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. We've got the sticker chart, but she's decided she'd rather fuss than get a sticker.
She never really learned to fall asleep by herself, but unfortunately, with her switching between Mom and Dad's, it's hard to get her in a consistent routine. Plus, Mom's by herself, which means if Kiddo won't sleep until 11, then wakes up at 1, and again at 3, Mom doesn't get any sleep if she tries to get her to settle in her own bed (at least here, we can tag team).

We've tried telling her she can read or play by herself, but she'll scream her head off until someone comes in or we let her out. We're not really sure what her outer limit of screaming is -- our patience loses or our concern for our neighbors (we live in a duplex) wins.

Unfortunately, her room is tiny -- 8X8 -- so we can't move a chair away from her bed. (We also can't do what some experts recommend to get children out of the 'family bed' -- put a cot or sleeping bag in the same room -- because our room is only 8X11 itself and there's no space even for a sleeping bag.

Some good things, though: She's woken up between 7 and 8 most days (which, if she's been up until 11, isn't enough sleep for her but it is for us), and she's not wet her bed in months (or our bed at all). And now she's making her own scrambled eggs (with very very close supervision from her dad), so there's that...
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wildeyed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-18-06 01:27 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Sounds tough.
If she doesn't fall asleep by herself, then that is probably where you should start. I know there are "cry" and "no-cry" methods for this. I guess it is a matter of figuring out which will work best for your family.

A good plan might be to research the different sleep programs available, meet with your step-daughter's mother and decide between the three of you which plan will work best, then all pledge to stick to it and be consistent. The first few nights are always the worst, so might be best to start on a weekend.

Good luck! Let us know how it goes.
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eyesroll Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-08-06 11:38 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. It's 11:30 and she's kicking and crying.
This time, it's 100% "I miss my Mama," which I'm inclined to believe (from her tone) but there isn't jack squat we can do about it at 11:30 at night. (A phone call at this hour will only serve to rile kiddo up, and disturb Mama as well.)

We've so far let her cry a bit (she needed the energy release), tag-teamed stories, I've read her "tarts" (my torts text) to try to bore her to sleep (it's worked with contracts)...it's gonna be a long night. Thankfully, I don't have Saturday exams.


She napped in the car on the way here, and she napped at daycare, so this isn't exactly shocking, but still...
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phylny Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-09-06 03:12 PM
Response to Reply #2
5. If she's screaming, and she's getting your (collective) attention,
or she's allowed to leave her bed and delay bedtime, then she's found out that screaming her lungs out works well, eventually.

Here's what I tell parents I work with:

Pick a day, or most likely a few days and tell your neighbors to bear with you, that you're trying to get your child to go to bed and you apologize in advance for the noise. Then tell the child, "Tonight we'll read (whatever number of) stories, we'll kiss and cuddle, and then it's goodnight (or whatever your REASONABLE bedtime routine is. I'd match it to her mother's, if I could). Once we leave, you stay in your bed and go to sleep."

Of course, saying it isn't going to solve the problem, but you need to do exactly what you said. If she screams and yells, ignore her. The screaming and yelling will most likely escalate (because it's always worked in the past) but you ignore her. If she comes out of the room, silently escort her back. Don't communicate, don't negotiate, or she'll be rewarded with attention.

She will learn, eventually and probably after much screaming, yelling, and tantruming, and perhaps after many nights, that bedtime means bedtime.

The escalating screaming and yelling has a name, and it's called an extinction burst. Here's a nice explanation I found on the web http://www.shirleychong.com/keepers/archives/bursts.txt to save me typing time:

"If someone's gained some reward every time for a particular behavior, the
behavior will persist. If suddenly the reward stops coming, it's likely
that the person or animal will not immediately give up the behavior.
Instead, they'll try it again and again, harder, faster, more emphatically.
It's a burst of activity. If the reward still doesn't come, eventually
the behavior will extinguish, or become extinct. So, the burst of behavior
before extinction of the behavior is called an "extinction burst".

Here's the example I give parents:

You're in the checkout line at the store, and your child wants a candy bar. You say okay. Nice, great, she gets it. The next time, it's close to dinner, and you say no. She starts to scream and make a scene, and you give her a candy bar to keep her quiet. SUCCESS! thinks the child. The next time, she asks, you say no, she starts to fuss, you say no, and it turns into a major screaming scene. You continue to say no, and she loses it with a tantrum that makes you cringe, sweat, and turn red. At this point, you give in, because it's really horrible and the child thinks, "Okay, eventually she'll give in."

You can see where I'm going from here. At the time when you decide to stick to your guns, you have to brace yourself for the most ear-aching, mind-numbing, headache-inducing tantrum, but it's only because the child knows what's worked in the past, and doesn't understand why it's not working anymore. The behavior escalates because she thinks that EVENTUALLY it's going to work. It's your job to stay strong through the tantrum, otherwise you're reinforcing (rewarding) the screaming, tantruming behavior.

Good luck :)
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tigereye Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 08:29 PM
Response to Reply #5
7. yup. you nailed it!
that's what works!

I still remember when we had to let our toddler scream it out, it was noisy, and not fun, but he learned to sleep on his own.
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LibertyLover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-11-07 03:30 PM
Response to Original message
6. I agree about the nap
As much as it is killing my husband and I for her not to nap in the afternoon and give us 2 to 3 hours of peace, we do find that our 4 year old daughter is better about going to bed at her normal time. She is unfortunately in the in-between stage, where she still probably needs a nap, but only an hour or so, however, if we put her down, she sleeps for 2 or 3 hours and doesn't want to get up, and then doesn't want to go to bed at night. So, cutting the nap has helped. Now if I could just get her to put her toys away without a 40 minute fight! By the way, the excuses sound exactly like the ones mine uses to avoid going to bed, except it's the dogs that are too noisy/not noisy enough. What I love is when she is sitting on my lap and tells her father that she wants her mama. He reminds her that she is sitting on mama's lap. She thengets annoyed. 4 year olds - they're more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
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Sanctified Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-15-07 02:26 AM
Response to Original message
8. Our 4 year old and 2 year old still sleep with us.
So we basically just lay down with them around 8:00 read a couple of stories and then they are out, wife and I then stay up reading till around 10:00 or so.
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