Bedtime Battles

Bed time battles with Livi suck. We have been having them, to some degree, for months. These last few weeks seem to be particularly difficult. We don’t know what to do with her, for her, or even too her. She can have the attitude and stubbornness of a PMSing, bi-polar, 14 year old… and I’m NOT exaggerating. She will throw herself to the ground and ignore us. She will come up with every excuse in the book to get us responding to her some how. She will kick the walls to make noise. She will toss books in to Sofie’s crib to “give her something to read”, but te books sometimes hit Sofie in the head. She will give us attitude… Not just 3 year old attitude, but the kind of attitude you get from a 16 year old who knows she is almost an adult and testing the limits. She will mimic what we say in a sassy voice. She will yell. She will do the exact opposite from what we tell her to do and then give us a look “daring” us to do something about it. SERIOUSLY!?! And all this is within the half hour we are trying to get her to be quiet in bed trying sleep! It really makes for some bad parenting some nights.

Is this normal 3 year old behavior? Are other parents experiencing bed time battles like this? She can have attitude during the day but not like this. Generally, she is a pretty awesome kid! Just not when going to bed.

What do we try after we have already attempted reasoning, giving extra attention, bribing, ignoring, allowing natural consequences, and giving consequences? What comes next after we have given a time out, talked and reasoned with her, threatened consequences, acted on those consequences by taking away her Elmo, fuzzy, pillow, her cartoons or privileges for the next morning and, I’m ashamed to say, even flicked her? We’ve exhausted all of our parenting strategies. (We will not spank our children. We think it is wrong and damaging. I know flicking her on occasion is hypocritical of us and a form of corporal punishment, which is why I am ashamed of trying that method of parenting. We were at our wits’ end.)

I know many people might suggest cutting her nap out all together but I’m not entirely sure that is the answer either. Livi has always been a good sleeper and been on the higher end of the scale for hours of sleep need than many of her peers. I’m the same way. While many people only need 7-8 hours of sleep, I am never fully rested unless I’ve had a good 9 hours. Livi is fully operational on 12-13 hours of sleep. (11 at night and a 1-2 hour nap.) I think cutting her naps out might disrupt her cycle to much and result in being over tired. She is yawning by 1:20pm most days. When we lay down for a nap she is almost always asleep within 10 minutes and then sleeps for 1-2 hours.

I am starting to try something different. I gave her the option of napping. She naps with me in my bed because naps don’t work for either girl if they are together and Sofie NEEDS her naps. I brought some puzzles and books in to my room and lay them on the floor beside the bed. I read her a book as usual and told her that I wanted her to lay down for 10 minutes for some quiet time. If she didn’t want to sleep she could quietly read the books or do the puzzles while Mommy slept. Well, she has fallen asleep each time and slept for over an hour each time.

For bed time, I told her that because she was a big girl, she gets to stay awake later than Sofie. After Sofie was in bed I cuddled with her in my bed, read her a book, got her to get in her pj’s and go to the bathroom then one more short book before I put her to bed in her own room. We still had a battle that was just as intense as usual but it is much shorter. We only “fought” with her for 15 minutes instead of the usual 45 minutes. I hope that things keep getting better and that this really does work. I honestly don’t know what else to do if this doesn’t work.

2 thoughts on “Bedtime Battles

  1. Jaclyn_Rose says:

    “What do we try after we have already attempted reasoning, giving extra attention, bribing, ignoring, allowing natural consequences, and giving consequences?”

    Wow that is EXACTLY what I have been thinking with my 3 year old this week! But it's not night time issues, it's day… ALL DAY! He will NOT stop saying “poo” “pee” “boobie”… it's seriously so infuriating.. and I try all of those above things and it doesn't seem to make any difference.

    I once read a blogger say that toddlers aren't defiant, that they honestly don't have to attention span to remember that something is wrong… I say BS to that! haha… they are so defiant!

    So yeah, that wasn't any advice at all, but know you aren't alone! haha


  2. Bri (like the cheese) says:

    I have a 4.5 year old daughter who is brimming over with sass and independence and a 19 month old who is in the throws of the 'terrible two' phase. I hesitate to give advice because I know that I do not have all the answers. But from what I read here, our parenting styles are fairly different, and perhaps sharing what I do in my family might give you at least another approach to consider.
    I believe that disobedience comes from toddlers/young children as a way to test their boundaries; and that they need to know that their boundaries are there, and that they are firm. It gives them security. They also have to have the impression that they can't shake you. When you are at your wit's end, they know it. They can tell. And it fuels them!! I know you said that you don't feel comfortable with 'spanking' but will still 'flick' them when nothing else works. This is exactly the use of 'corporal punishment' that is ineffective and damaging. The problem with a lot of 'spanking' research is that they don't differentiate between true spanking as discipline and physical lashing out of parents due to frustration and anger (aka hitting or beating).
    I am not saying that you need to spank in order to be an effective parent, but I would encourage you to let go of the idea that all corporal punishment is 'bad' or 'damaging' and realize that permitting disobedient behavior can be equally if not more damaging in the long run.
    With regards to specific bedtime battles, all I can offer is the tried-and-true 'develop a routine and stick to it' method. Allow for 'wind down' time, much like you describe at nap time, before bed. Kids like to know what to expect and if you condition her to be sleepy after pajamas, teeth brushing, a story and a song, she might be less likely to put up a fight.
    The other advice is, if you are doing the routine thing and it isn't working, stick to your guns and don't allow her tantrums and excuses to delay bedtime. Do your routine, put her to bed, and leave – regardless of her reaction. The first few times will be TORTURE, but she will learn that no amount of begging, complaining, crying, or tantruming will get you back to her room. I discovered after a few rough nights that my son (the younger of the two) does not like to be 'comforted' to sleep. If he is so tired that he is not compliant with bed time, he needs to be left to his own devices to settle himself. Any attempt to soothe him would only stoke the fire and keep him going that much longer (we're talking hours). Whereas, if we leave him, he has a royal fit, but it never lasts more than 10 minutes and then he is asleep.

    I hope you find something that works for your whole family. Sleep struggles are the worst because they come when the parents are tired and cranky too!!! A book that a friend shared with me that literally changed my family's life was 'Shepherding a Child's Heart.' I don't know the author's name off the top of my head.


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