Bedtime Battleground

So the Munchkin turned three today! I can’t quite believe it. I look at him every once and a while and I am just astonished by how tall he is, how well he communicates, how confident he is physically (he just recently started going up and down stairs/steps without holding onto anything) and just how grown up he can be. But bedtime comes around and I get a sharp reminder that he is a typical three year old and not the little adult he sometimes seems to be.

He is a real challenge a lot of the time; he is stubborn and fickle (yes, he can be both at the same time!), has a tendency to just completely blank us when he doesn’t want to do what we say, has complete meltdowns at the tiniest upset and is a bottomless pit to feed. But he is also bright, cheerful, gentle, loving and hilarious!

Bedtimes have become a battleground, much to my dismay. Bedtime now largely consists of the Munchkin refusing to stop playing in order to have his bath or go to his room for stories, refusing to take his clothes off, insisting things get done in a certain order and then changing his mind half way through, complete meltdowns followed by laughter-inducing games of chase around the house. I try to go with the flow, we are child-led in so many areas so it makes sense to me to be at least a little bit child-led at bedtime too, rather than mummy and daddy turning into these dictatorial monsters. I don’t want to fight with him. If he’s not ready to stop playing yet, then why not let him have another half an hour? If he wants 15 stories, then so be it. IF, and it’s a big if, at the end of it he will go to sleep a little more easily.

The problem is that’s not how it works. He gets overtired and even more prone to upset the later we leave bedtime. We have also learned from experience that that old adage “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile” is actually true. For example, one cup of juice every once in a while had turned into complete refusal of water and tantrums if he didn’t get juice ALL of the time. We are working our way back from that particular situation and today he had lots of water without complaint. It helps if we don’t ask him if he wants a drink and just get him some water and put it where he can get to it himself when he’s thirsty.

I think there must be some middle ground somewhere with bedtime. The balance I try to go for, though I don’t always succeed as I’m often tired and trying to see to the Bean at the same time, is to compromise. “You can have one more go around the track with your train and then we’ll take your clothes off.” I also try to make things fun and not get cross with him for running around and making it a game. I’d rather he be laughing than crying.

The problem with this is that hubby is NOT on the same page at all. He wants the Munchkin in bed, asleep, by 7.30pm, as opposed to the 8.30pm that the Munchkin finally fell asleep tonight, so that he can have some time to chill out. I get that, I want that too, we’re both the kind of people that need some child-free time in order to recharge our batteries. But I am also realistic. We did have a really good routine a few months ago and what with the support of my parents, we had quite a lot of child-free time. But we have a two month old baby now. My availability for the Munchkin is dramatically reduced because I’m the only one with the boobs to feed the baby. Then there’s the massive emotional upheaval that the arrival of the Bean must be for the Munchkin.

Don’t get me wrong, on the surface, the Munchkin appears to be absolutely fine with the Bean, he is very gentle and loving with him and he comes home from Montessori or a day with my parents really excited to see his little brother. But it is noticeable that the Munchkin’s behaviour has become more challenging since the Bean’s birth, he also wakes in the night again now, when he had been sleeping through for months. When he does wake he is really upset, more than once he has told me he can’t sleep as he’s too sad. He can’t articulate what is upsetting him, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that he misses being the only child and the centre of our world.

We made a big fuss over his birthday. He had a big party at the weekend, with all of his friends at a local farm park and today we went out with my family for a nice afternoon in the glorious sunshine. We’re trying hard to stick to our post-Christmas promise to minimise the presents and make the occasion about being together and enjoying new experiences, though it is very hard to convey the importance of this to others.

The clocks also went forward last weekend, so the evenings are suddenly much lighter and I am certain this has something to do with the Munchkin insisting that “It’s not bedtime yet!” He is also getting older and as children get older their body clock does naturally shift. I think he’s probably a little young for a 9pm bedtime just yet, but I accept that all of these factors are going to be having an impact right now. Hubby doesn’t. He gets so stressed and angry with the Munchkin that I find myself hoping that the Bean won’t need feeding during the Munchkin’s bedtime so that I can put him to bed instead of hubby doing it. But the reality is that by the end of the day I can be just as stressed out and short tempered as he is. Last night I had to walk away from the Munchkin as I got so upset with his refusal to cooperate.

I’m far from perfect, but I understand the Munchkin’s behaviour and I want to be flexible on this, I don’t want our household to be an angry one, not even for one hour a day, not when it’s every day like it is at the moment. So I am about to embark on a reading spree! I have a booklist, some of which I already own, others are on my Amazon Wish list (family – take note!)

  • Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
  • Screamfree Parenting by Hal Edward Runkel
  • Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph
  • Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort

It’s not that I believe in blindly following the advice in parenting books, far from it. I’m all for instinctive parenting; tuning in to our own gut feelings about the needs of our children. But sometimes you hit a blank wall and a few ideas to help you move forward are a good idea. And sometimes you are at loggerheads with your partner and need some proof that what you’re saying makes sense and has occurred to other people too.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kathryn K
    Mar 28, 2012 @ 22:40:17

    You can lead a child to bed, but you can’t make them sleep. That’s what I learned the hard way with DD#1. I was SURE that when I was a kid I was in bed by 7pm, but my own kids have just never been tired enough for that. And different kids have different sleep styles (just like adults). My eldest fights sleep, but once finally asleep is out for the count until a very early start. My youngest sleeps easily and long, but always wakes during the night.

    They find a way eventually. I think your choice of reading is a good one. You staying calm and providing the calm environment is a big part of it. How would your partner feel about being told to go to bed an hour before his usual time?

    And of course, nothing lasts long when raising children. A year from now your challenges will be different ones. Pick your battles!

    Reply

  2. Susan Merrick
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 14:24:41

    Holly
    You have just described a mixture of the last 15 months of my life.
    My son has just turned 3 and is displaying all of the above. Bedtime starts a little earlier for us but he now stretched it out with as many things as he can. Can I have a drink? Can I have another cuddle? Can you lie with me? Can you tuck teddy in again?…. And this is after my OH or I have played with him and had fun bathtime and then a quiet story… Its just clearly not as much fun to go to bed. To be honest recently what is mostly a lovely bedtime ends up with one of us getting cross.

    the wakeful nights are happening too – with big screams and shouts – I’m wondering if nightmares.

    When my daughter was born 15 months ago we had similar issues with presents and attention and just found it ao tough to get the balance… Still do. I look at my friends with only one and sometimes feel envious of the relationships they have with their toddler that I have perhaps lost a bit of … But then I spend some tine playing with both my children, getting cuddled from every direction and watching them kiss each other and I know that I’m very lucky.

    Is always good to know that others are having similar experiences, and please please, if you or anyone else find a good technique for minimising my shrieking- please share! I’ve tries singing instead of shouting, worked the first couple of times… But then it becomes a game so he still carries on. You yet to allow them to grow and they strangle you! Hey hum x

    Reply

    • Holly
      Apr 02, 2012 @ 15:07:42

      Ah the delay tactics, yes, I’m familiar with all of the above. Munchkin’s favourite is “No, not one more story, just another then another then another then another then one more. That’s five.” I think he thinks if he wows me with his maths I will give in lol!

      Reply

  3. Susan Merrick
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 14:26:42

    Oh and happy birthday munchkin! X

    Reply

  4. Claire
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 16:02:54

    we’ve had the exact same with Ruby since Scarlett’s birth. i’ve tried to be more relaxed about bedtime but there’s always a million reasons why she can’t go to sleep yet. the favourite is waiting for me to get downstairs (and feeding S) and then shouting that she needs to the toilet again. And then doesn’t actually go. i try and wait for daddy to get home but sometimes she’s too tired and he gets frustrated with her anyway. She also wakes in the night again, saying things are in her room, such as a Gruffalo??! We’ve tried asking her if she just wants more cuddles when she’s saying about the toilet etc but she says she doesn’t. we’ve had to have 4 in a bed a number of times!

    Reply

    • Holly
      Apr 05, 2012 @ 16:24:26

      We’ve tried 4 in the bed too! Interesting times. We had me in the middle, the boys either side of me and hubby along the bottom. The Munchkin now thinks that’s a great idea and he likes to “make a bed” at random times during the day and that’s the sleeping configuration he orders us all into lol! Fingers crossed both our little’uns move past this soon xxx

      Reply

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