My son pulls every trick in the book at bedtime. He’s thirsty. He has to go to the bathroom. He needs another kiss and tuck in… and the list keeps going!!! I know I should just leave him but if I don’t go to him he starts screaming which wakes his brother. Eventually he tires out and goes to bed but sometimes that can take an hour, or on a bad night, TWO hours! I’m at my wits end!!
Ugh, I doubt there is a parent out there that hasn’t witnessed similar antics from their child. We’ve ALL been there and I feel for you! It’s totally normal for a child to push the boundaries to see what they can get away with, so to speak. However, there are some tools I can give you to try and help you through this. Keep in mind, my response will be somewhat generalized as I’m not familiar with your child’s personality, nor am I clear on his age.
Oftentimes, a child will use similar requests every night so it’s best to nip some of these requests in the bud before they go to bed. For instance, give him a glass of water before bed so that this will not be a source of push-back once he’s settled for the night. While he’s drinking his water, be sure to comment on the fact he will not be receiving any more water for the rest of the night. I suggest making a list of his usual requests and see how many of them can be taken care of before bed, within reason of course. Try to incorporate these things into the bedtime routine.
It’s best to really sit down with your son during a time when you are both relaxed and discuss his bedtime behavior. Explain things will be changing and what he can expect from you at night. Such as, I will read you one book before bed, I will sing you two songs and give you a kiss goodnight. Then I will leave the room until morning. Talk through the “what-if” situations that could happen. It’s best to set your son up with clear expectations. As an example, what if he comes out of his room? You explain what your response will be, such as walking him to his room but he will have to tuck himself back in. I would try and talk through these things a couple of times before putting him to bed to make sure he understands what is expected from him and what to expect from you. Be consistent in your response, no negotiating. In fact, I would keep discussions after he’s been put to bed at a minimum, if at all.
Allowing one child to rule the bedtime routine so that he doesn’t wake others is not a long term solution. I understand your concern, but it’s best to keep in mind the ultimate goal: healthy sleep habits for your son. Those first couple of weeks will be challenging as your son protests (most likely with crying) to the changes being made. However, if you can just look forward a month or two and imagine your son going to bed with no arguing. Not only that, the bedtime routine has the potential to be a peaceful process where mom and son are both winding down from the day and enjoying each others company. Keep the end goal in mind as you work through these sleep hurdles today.
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, make sure your son is getting enough sleep. If he’s being put to bed too late, then his body begins producing cortisol so although he’s tired, he’s “wired” and has a hard time settling. If you need more assistance in finding the right bedtime for your son, or you need concrete ideas on the language to use with your son at bedtime, consider setting up a consultation.