Not a lot has been going on around here, other than really starting to feel achy and large, so I thought I'd do an update on how things are going with our Mia's previously awful sleep habits.
When I last left off, were were valiantly attempting the ignore-your-childs-delay-tactics method. The basics being: put your child to bed normally, then when they get out of bed, silently return them to bed as many times as it takes until you think you are going to kill yourself. We did this for about a week or two, but found Mia was probably responding to this in the opposite way you would expect. She'd go completely ballistic when we didn't respond to her, it seemed to be doing more harm than good.
Shift to the "completely ignore" method. We spent a couple of weeks allowing her to yell out her requests from the threshold of her room (she was blocked in by a babygate), only to have them fall on completely deaf ears. We made sure she had everything she could possibly need before leaving her: a full cup of water, a potty visit, all the stuffed animals her heart desired, and even the pajamas of her choice. It worked... kind of but completely inconsistently. Some nights, she'd settle herself down after repeatedly getting ignored, either falling asleep on the floor of her room, or back in her bed. Some nights, she'd get herself into such a STATE that she'd still be awake by 10pm, the time B and I usually head up to our room. If she knew we were in our own room, she'd settle down without a peep.
With that method being so inconsistent, we switched things up a bit. I didn't think it was going to benefit anyone to have her continue to either 1) fall asleep on the floor of her room, or 2) stay up so late that she was exhausted the next day. So, I gave it a time limit. If she was still making requests/screaming/whatever she was doing after 30 minutes of us leaving her, then I would go up and give her what she wanted, or declining her request if it was less reasonable, but asking her to get back in her bed and please calm down. This is what seems to have done the trick, at least in our case. It was somewhat inconsistent for a while; some nights, she'd settle down after just one 30 minute visit. Some nights, it could stretch out into 2 or 3 visits over a 60 or 90 minute span. But, as of the past couple of weeks, she's back to settling down without any more visits. She's gotten her story privileges back, she's learned to make her requests quickly, before we leave the room, and reasonably. She'll ask to read a book in her bed, and I'll tell her that she can, as long as she is laying down. If she does get up, we can either talk to her from the bottom of the stairs ("Mama, there's a fly in my room." "That's OK, honey. Flies don't bite.") or, we will go up and calmly put her back in her bed.
While my description is not likely going to give anyone too many helpful tips in dealing with this kind of thing, I can at least say that adapting the methods with some hard and fast rules to your own kid's personality is probably the best way to go, especially if you really aren't seeing any results with the strict rules. I hated getting Mia so worked up by ignoring her, and found that if I put a time limit on that, it made it a lot easier to be patient and calm when I did go to her room. The ignoring-her for periods of time method has only been effective for us because Mia isn't night-time potty trained yet. I haven't even wanted to tackle that monster until her going-to-bed habits were somewhat under control.
I do my best to be completely positive throughout the whole bedtime routine. If she starts to show any negative feeling towards sleeping, I try to change her focus by asking her which story she'd like to read, or which pajamas she'd like to wear, etc. I was finding that I was getting really stressed and unpleasant when she was going through the worst of the bedtime resistance and I've really tried my best not to get stressed in anticipation of her resisting.
I really feel like we've finally pushed through to the other side of this nightmare. Ever since Mia turned 3, I've been lamenting this age as the absolute worst we've had to deal with, but I'm finding that now that we've got sleep under control, all of the other tantrums and difficulties have also fallen off and I really feel like my sweet girl is back from the land of the sleep deprived!