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Bedtime Blues: How to Get Our Young Child Back into the Sleep Routine?

Posted by Melissa A

Lately we’ve been caught in the “bedtime blues” with our younger son M. I don’t remember a time when my older son E gave us trouble during bedtime. We had a routine, stuck with it and he knew that when it was time to settle down and go to sleep, that’s what he would do. He even transitioned really well into a toddler bed after being in his crib for 2 ½ years. We’d read a story, say bedtime prayers, and then it was time to go to bed. As he got bigger, he developed a ritual for how he would say goodnight to us. As long as we played by his “rules,” he go to sleep without a problem.

M, on the other hand, used to be good with going to sleep when he was supposed to. We had a similar routine to E’s and he followed it pretty well. He liked a little more cuddle time, but nothing out of the ordinary. Then he turned 2 ½. Suddenly, the bedtime ritual we established was not good enough for him anymore. One story is not enough for him anymore. He also tries to stall by asking for more water or telling us to make up songs and disagreeing with us about when we’re finished with all the songs for the night. He also changes his mind about his blankets and each one has to be placed on him just so or he complains. Then he wants a backrub and we can only end it on his terms.There’s also the “five minutes” of cuddle time that turn into 20 minutes somehow. He requires both of us to cuddle with him (one at a time) and won’t listen to anything we have to say to the contrary. If one of us doesn’t cuddle with him on a given night, he screams and pounds at the door, crying his head off until the requested parent comes back. Then he gives a full on guilt trip. Getting him to go to sleep these days is more tiring than anything else we have to get done. While I love that he actually wants me to cuddle with him at all (he used to be on an “anti-mommy” kick), he takes complete advantage of the fact that I’m lying next to him in his room.

Now that a new baby is coming soon, I’m going to need to give them attention and that might cut into the time that M would require for cuddling or other bedtime rituals. I’ve tried to establish a pattern of who cuddles with him each night, but if he doesn’t get both parents at some point, he has a tantrum and refuses to go to sleep. How do I break M of these bedtime requirements so that he follows a basic routine again and goes to bed as easily as his older brother?


About Melissa A

Melissa A. and her husband have 2 young sons, E and M, and a new baby daughter. Melissa's son E has hearing loss and wears a cochlear implant. Melissa works as an administrative assistant for a non-profit and also runs a bullying prevention group and a book-related fan group, in addition to blogging for Empowering Parents. You can check out Melissa’s personal blog here.

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