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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • Daisy

    We went through a bit of this a few months ago when we finally realized that despite our better efforts, our daughter (turns 4 next month) was giving up and falling asleep around 8:15 every night after repeated stalling/delaying. We adjusted her bedtime to 8:00 and have had a much easier time since then. She just really wasn’t ready to fall asleep and laying in bed quietly trying to get sleepy isn’t in her personality.

  • Roselyne

    So my kid isn’t in the same age range, but is 100% a precocious and VERY verbal almost-3-year-old who has thrown very similar fits. Take advice with a grain of salt and apply for a slightly older kid? 🙂

    I have 100% spoken the words “You don’t have to go to sleep, but you DO have to STAY IN THIS BED and STOP MAKING A FUSS.” And y’know what? She’ll read to herself for half an hour, she’ll sing songs at the ceiling, she’ll play make-believe with her teddies, I don’t CARE (I have wine to drink and a husband to cuddle, yo, I got priorities here), but that mostly seems to help stop the fit. So, basically: yeah, the advice already given, it worked for me.

    I think where you basically have to step in is with her interfering with your son’s sleep (and having him be dragged into/witnessing the entire thing, night after night…). If he actually needs the sleep, it’s so easy to start resenting and acting out against the person not letting you sleep. But even if he doesn’t, it’s easy to set himself up as ‘the good one’ or ‘the reasonable one’ and then be the eye-rolling ‘mature’ kid who can (and yes, I’ve seen this happen) then chose to act out by provoking their sibling into acting out. GREAT dynamic to have, and hard to break once it’s there. Basically, I think that enforcing ‘you don’t need to sleep, but you DO need to respect that you are not the only person in this room with needs and take those into account’ is a great line to draw.

  • KFishy

    I went through the same struggle with my nanny kids: the little one (4) was SO tired by bedtime, but her sister (5) wanted to party all night. They shared a room and it was horrible; bedtime at 7:15, we always just put them in their room for bed and went back downstairs. We didn’t really care if they talked for a while or brought toys into their beds because it generally only took maybe 30 minutes before they were both sound asleep. At some point that harmonious routine stopped and all hell broke loose. 5yo started immediately getting up after they were tucked in and turning on the lights, dragging all their damn toys out, throwing stuff at her sister, kicking the wall, jumping off her bed onto her sister’s to keep her awake so she had someone to play with, etc. because she decided sleep was boring and she was NOT into bedtime. It was AWFUL. Poor 4yo would come out of their room sobbing multiple times a night because she was just so tired and wanted to go to sleep, and we even had to start doing a long afternoon nap for her again because she wasn’t getting enough sleep at night and was falling asleep on the floor at preschool. We tried letting 5yo stay up a little later to have some quiet time on the couch (relaxing music, no tv but a couple books and maybe some snuggles once the dinner dishes were done, etc.), diffusing so much lavender essential oil in their room before bed that I felt drowsy just walking down the hallway towards their room, yoga before bed, reward system, etc. NOTHING worked. So eventually, their parents and I decided that if she wanted to wreak havoc in her room all night, fine, but she’d do it in the dark, and alone. 4yo got to start her night sleeping in mommy and daddy’s bed, all toys were removed from their room, lock on the closet door so she couldn’t get in their and throw all their clothes all over the place (another favorite stalling tactic) and we flipped the breaker switch to the bedrooms as soon as the door was closed for the night, so she could flip that stupid switch all she wanted but the light wasn’t coming back on. It took a couple weeks (maybe 3?) of her still attempting to keep the whole family awake all night by running in circles in the middle of the room yelling at the top of her lungs, kicking the wall, jumping on the bed, whatever, before she realized that nobody was coming in to pay her any attention, all the crap she was doing was actually not all that fun, and she was kind of lonely without her sister in there. Eventually she kind of gave up on raising such a ruckus and other than writhing around in bed whining for a bit after lights out, she fell asleep pretty quickly and peacefully. We moved 5yo’s bedtime to 7:45, put 4yo to bed in their room at 7:15 like normal so she’d be asleep by the time her sister came in, and we let 5yo know very clearly that if she woke 4yo up even once, 4yo would get to go be in mommy and daddy’s bed while 5yo had to stay in her room all alone. She wasn’t scared of being alone, but she was jealous that 4yo would get to be in mommy and daddy’s bed because it was kind of a special treat. So, not punishing 5yo for being disruptive, necessarily, but rather rewarding 4yo for NOT being disruptive (weird sort of backwards positive reinforcement?)

    Wow, that was long winded. All this to say, for the time being it might be necessary to have your son start the night off sleeping somewhere else (your bed, the couch, whatever), remove all distractions from their room, lock the door (or get a baby gate she can’t open or climb over) to keep her in, and leave her to her own devices. Eventually she’ll probably figure out that it’s pretty boring to be in there all alone with nothing to do and nobody paying attention to her and decide to just go to sleep instead of waking the whole neighborhood.

  • Monica

    Take this with a grain of salt because I don’t have kids… but I gave my parents fits as a kid because I was just NOT SLEEPY until much later than whatever my bedtime was. They finally gave up and just let me read in bed until I was sleepy enough to fall asleep. To this day I am very much a night person (although stupid life has interfered with my preferred bedtime…). Just watch as she gets older (and better able to ignore tiredness) for what I tended to do, which was read until 2-3 AM and then have a truly awful next day.

    On the plus side, to this day I am a voracious reader and my biggest escape/wind down strategy is to cuddle up in my bed with a book and ignore the world.

  • D

    Yeah I’d go with a later bedtime. My two year old won’t sleep until 8 at the earliest, 8:30 latest with a half an hour of bath and two stories. So an in your room at 8, sleep when you want/At 9 thing seems the smartest.

  • Myriam

    A little tip for both kids: what about bed tents? That would give you son privacy and a little bit of isolation from her antics/night light, and may help create a “safe space” for your daughter, where she can do as she please, as long it doesn’t disturb people outside the tent.

    • Alpha Mom (TM)

      I love this! Maybe also a headlamp!

  • Similar “just don’t engage” tactic here… We went on a three month “falling asleep in your bed/bedroom” hiatus when we had a new baby coming and our daughter couldn’t accept her dad putting her to bed (and it took 60-90 minutes for me to do; they were just happy ones).

    We just stopped acting like it was a thing that might happen. Instead we put her in her stroller and her dad took the dog for a walk, which put her out every night. Once she had sort of forgotten the endless bedtimes of misery and woe, she was perfectly happy to read three books and fall asleep like a reasonable human. If she falls asleep in the car or somewhere and it’s at least faster and less miserable, try that for a little while, even if it’s not sustainable.

  • Jasmin

    Wow! I’m loving the advice from everyone on this forum thus far!
    Here’s a thing that worked for us — and of course grain of salt — but my daughter (6 years) semi-recently has left temporal lobe issues which, lo and behold, affect her ability to go to sleep. She’s also an “accelerator,” or one of those kids who will work herself up to greater and greater agitation, so calming down naturally isn’t her forte, especially at bed time. Routines are essential but we had to add help as lack of sleep has a severe negative impact to function and recovery. Melatonin works to getting her to sleep BUT has some craptastic side effects so that was out. Now we use Magnisium and it works like a charm!
    We’ve used it almost a year now and are amazed. We’ve used a small amount of magnesium powder in her diet at night (like mixed in with a spoonful of applesauce) and as magnesium butter or lotion on her feet at night with socks. It is natural and has no negative side effects. It doesn’t force you to sleep but is a necessary element our bodies need to allow us to sleep.
    Best of luck!

    • Alpha Mom (TM)

      Thank you for sharing your experience. Others who may want to try this, I would definitely speak to a pediatrician or your family doctor before introducing any supplements as a sleep aid.

  • Lily

    Great advice, Amy! I also agree with the commenters that she just doesn’t seem to need as much sleep, so maybe move bedtime back. And talk to your pediatrician! Our pediatrician has been amazingly helpful and always has wonderful suggestions for any sleep or behavioral problems we’ve had.

  • Christine

    We do exactly what Amy suggested with our five year old daughter, and started it when she was 3 – a huge stack of books with a little camping lantern. We do a 7pm bedtime (no nap) and sometimes she falls asleep after two minutes, most days after ten, and some days she’s reading for an hour or more. I go in after she’s asleep and turn off the little lantern. We tell her she can get out of bed if she wants more books (tho she usually yells for me to do that – about once a week – and I just go quickly, get a bunch more and add them to her bed and leave). Gooooood luck!!! That does sound nightmarish and exhausting and I really hope you figure something out!

  • bookworm81

    Physical activity like that is a terrible idea right before bedtime as it’s very alerting to the brain (especially the up and down of a trampoline; that’s actually a technique used to help kids stay alert and focused). By all means encourage more activity earlier in the day but things should be calm for at least an hour before bedtime. Swinging for about 15 min is very calming but may not be practical depending on your location (my son has sensory processing issues so we have an indoor swing that we used to use every night before bed).

    Someone else mentioned magnesium and another way to get that is an epsom salt bath. My kids always got hyped up in the bath but maybe she’d relax in the water while you read her a story? Add a little lavender essential oil and you’ve got a trifecta of relaxation.

  • Kelly Vallejo

    We’re going through the same thing with our two year old. I’m honestly shocked we haven’t had the cops called on us because her tantrums are so sticking bad. She’s hits her head and falls down dramatically to the floor.

    Two things appear to be helping. 1. We pushed her bed one waaaaay back. She sometimes naps so I aim for about 5-6 hours after she wakes up for starting bedtime. She at least accepts that. 2. Small light she can turn on and off. They’re little cat lights that they sell at Ikea.

    But her dad is still stuck outside her door where she can see him for right now. So please come back and update if you find something else?

  • Amy Renee

    My 9 year old and just turned 5 year old share a room, and the 5 year old will fight bedtime *so hard* if he hasn’t been physically worn out that day. So I agree with the “get her exercise but make it earlier in the day” idea. Perhaps jumping on a trampoline while dinner is being prepared? Or find an afternoon program where she can run around if you are at home with her or she is with a babysitter – perhaps a gymnastics class or just a local gym or YMCA where she can run in circles?

    The other thing, in addition to attention that my 5 year old wants is to not be “a-lonely” – aka, the biggest punishment for him is taking away his attention and big brother, and he also hates having the lights turned off.

    Since big brother is such a good sleeper, could you let him sleep elsewhere at bedtime for a while? On the floor or mattress in your room, a mattress in a closet, etc? Then tell the 5 year old she doesn’t have to sleep, but she has to *stay in her room* after 7:30 pm. Perhaps use an “OK to wake” clock in reverse – when the clock is one color, that means it is time to be in her room, and she can come out when it changes? Or just take advantage of the fact that the older son is sleeping elsewhere and that she can’t tell time and try a suuuuuuper early bedtime?

    If you let her sleep on the weekend, will she sleep in late, or is she up at 6 am regardless? If she will sleep in for more than an hour, I’d say she is sleep deprived and the bedtime antics are her way to fight the exhaustion and give herself a second (or third, or fourth) wind.

  • Rose

    Nothing worked for me with my 3 year old. Nothing mentioned here or below. We spiraled out of control with sleep deprivation, which only created a self-defeating cycle of over-exhaustion and lack of control (for all of us). I called my pediatrician distraught, reporting that I was having thoughts akin to post-partum depression (“I’m not a good enough mother for him. He needs more from me than I can give”) I told he everything we had tried. Her suggestion? Give him a 0.5 mg dose of melatonin before bed and see if it helps. It does. It does does does. I don’t know what side effects other kids might have experienced (one commenter said it wasn’t workable) – but there are no downsides for us so far. It’s worth a try for anyone in a desperate situation, whether to just try and reset things for a while and establish a new routine, or long term if that’s what’s needed. Now my son gets sleepy at bedtime and falls asleep without a fight. He WANTS to get in to bed. He’s not a perfect sleeper – never has been – but our sanity is restored and we can at least have a little bit of predictability in our routine.

    • Alpha Mom (TM)

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience and insight. Others who may want to try this, I would definitely speak to a pediatrician or your family doctor, like Rose did, before introducing any supplements as a sleep aid.

  • Caroline

    I say put her or your son into your room for a while because it’s incredibly difficult to do what needs doing with another innocent party there. Your daughter has learnt how to get what she wants and part of the problem is that her brother is an unwilling participant.

    So, split them up for a while, I’d put him in your room at bed time, then… just decide on what IS going to happen, and stick to it like glue, regardless. As little engagement as possible, just force her back into her room / bed every.single.time. If she bangs her head, too bad, so sad. Don’t do it again. There. Now go to sleep. No. Not even slightly interested. And repeat. You might do a bit of high-energy play time before winding down, you might tweak other things slightly, but at 4.5, she is totally old enough for you to sit down, explain that she IS going to go to bed, the tantrums will stop and this is it. Of course she’ll push initially, they all do, but be united, stick to your guns and until it’s solved, let your boy have a peaceful, uninterrupted bed time. Once all is well and has been for a long time, move him back in and that will be that.

    I am all for locking her in *until she is asleep, obviously, not all night*. I am all for extremely tough love. Give an inch and you are sunk. Good luck!

  • Lee

    Just want to offer sympathy and a hug to the parents who wrote in. This is so tough, but you’re not the only ones, and you’re doing your best. <3

    My 8-y-o STILL has difficulty at bedtime. We've gotten her in a routine, at least, and she falls asleep pretty easily, but she piddles around and stalls and just won't GET INTO BED without a lot of prodding from us. She's a night owl. It's been a hard road some nights and I just feel for these parents.