Thursday, July 17, 2014

Toddler Sleep Habits, Volume Umpteen.

A few weeks before turning 3, Mia became a total rebel. 2 was a super fun age for us, and while she threw her fair share of tantrums, she wouldn't push her boundaries the way she does now. During the day, she'll be incredibly opinionated, mostly in demanding yet charming ways. Her opinions are strongest when it comes to food choices, cutlery choices (BIG FORK!), plate color, and clothing. It's not been completely easy to deal with, but as long as you give her a semblance of a choice, things go over relatively well (Mia, would you like to wear a skirt or shorts today?).

But at bedtime, the charm is gone. It became most apparent to us when my parents were around, and she would scream (oh yes, SCREAM) requests at us from the door of her room (blocked by a baby gate). "I NEED ANOTHER BOOK!" or "I NEED SOME WATER!" or "I NEED ANOTHER [STUFFED] ANIMAL!". Nothing earth shattering, but certainly a great delay tactic. At this point in the day, B and I just wants some G-D peace and quiet, so whatever she was requesting, within reason, she would get. My parents pointed out that during their visit last year (at this exact time of year), she went to bed with absolutely no complaints, and they were always so impressed with that. Not too many circumstances have changed in her bedtime routine -- she had free reign of the room though she was sleeping in a toddler bed, she got the same nighttime routine of bath, toothbrush, and book. She's still napping at daycare, but rarely does on the weekends, but that doesn't affect her nighttime transformation into a tazmanian devil.

Reenter sleep training. While she was a baby/toddler still in her crib, we used a simple method recommended to us by her pediatrician. Put her to bed, leave. If she cried, go back to her immediately, soothe, and exit. If she didn't calm down, return 10 minutes later, soothe, exit. If she didn't calm down then, return 20 minutes later, soothe, exit. So on and on with 10 minute increments added on. This worked for us, and by 2 she was going to bed without protest or delay.

This time, things are a bit different since she's not actually crying, and I assume, doesn't need the reassurance from us any more. She just doesn't want to go to bed yet. On Monday, we started the method recommended by AlphaMom, of walking her silently and without emotion  back to bed every time she gets up, without acknowledging any requests and with 100% consistency. We've done three nights, and while I'll admit the time between initially putting her to bed and her actually falling asleep (or at least, no longer protesting) has shortened considerably, her reaction to us following this method has taken us entirely by surprise.

My sweet girl turns into a bit of a devilish monster when her parents do not acknowledge her. The first night, she screamed. Not scream-cried, but screamed in anger. But, we did as we were instructed. No emotions, no acknowledgment. We are permitted to repeat a single phrase of our choosing (We went with "Stay in your bed"), and that is the only thing we'll say to hear when bringing her back to her bed.  She screamed, demanded a book, demanded water, kicked her blankets off. I mean, she was seriously awful and I was so glad nobody else was in the house to see this transformation. We must have gone up a total of 8 times and returned her to bed, and things were finally quiet upstairs about an hour after initial bedtime.

The second night, she got angry before we even said goodnight for the first time. She lost her story privileges, and was seriously mad about it right away. She hit me, several times. Nothing painful or violent, but clearly testing limits. The AlphaMom article didn't address what to do in this kind of situation, but I powered through and simply told her to stay in her bed. This time, we went up about 5 times, but it only took about 20 minutes for her to settle down. The next morning, she was seriously cheerful when she woke up, and I was secretly doing a victory dance -- I could at least tell myself that we were doing the right thing by forcing her to sleep, despite her obviously hating us for it.

Last night, night 3, she got mad, Mad, MAD as soon as I pulled out her pajamas. So, I figured we should stop showing emotion right away, and go to "Stay in your bed". She demanded another pair of pajamas, she demanded a different overnight pull up design, and she hit me again. Repeatedly. At first, without any kind of violence, but then, she hit me in the face, SO HARD that my glasses actually flew off my face. I nearly lost my ever loving mind. I grabbed her by the shoulders, put her in bed, told her she was NOT a sweet girl, and left. [PARENT FAIL] It was a seriously heartbreaking scene, and I think I will remember this night for a long time. She was so irrationally angry, and I was so angry and shaken up by her violent reaction that I didn't know what to do. She screamed, kicked her blankets off, continued demand different pajamas, etc. There was, at least, a small victory. She did not get out of bed. She may have been writhing around in anger, but at least she was doing it in her bed. About 10 minutes later, after I had calmed down, I heard her calm herself down. She had gotten out of bed, but she told us from the door of her room that she was ready to be a sweet girl now. So, I went up, wordlessly walked her back to bed. She repeated that she was sorry, and ready to be a sweet girl. I broke our own rules and told her that I was sorry, gave her a kiss and a hug, and she rolled over and let me tuck her in.

The time frames are certainly shortening, but the training has certainly intensified. If things don't go well tonight, I'm not sure I can keep this up much longer. I've never seen this side of her, it's so raw and disturbing to see your sweet little child flip a switch so drastically. I'm hoping we get things a bit more under control tonight and tomorrow. And if we don't, then I'm going to pull the plug on this method.

1 comment:

  1. We went through a very similar time when my son was 2 1/2. This method works, I promise. It took weeks, though. Similar to the cry it out method, it takes strength and perseverance! After sleeping in our bed while I was gone for a week, we have to retrain him again and last night was awful. The only thing that worked, after silently putting him back in bed four times, was to ignore him. He kept saying, "Daddy, can you listen to me?" It was hard to ignore the pleas, but he finally gave up and went to bed. Stay strong, mama!