A few months ago I published an article about The Five-Minute Drill, a technique to deal with young children who cry at bedtime and won't go to sleep. Do you go in and soothe them ... only to be right back in the same boat when you leave again? Do you stay out and endure the pain of their protracted crying? The Five-Minute Drill offers an effective third alternative.
A few moms have written to me since then, asking for clarification of how to apply this technique in their specific situations. The following is one such email conversation (with the names removed), which shows how one issue can sometimes hide another.
I tried the 5-minute Drill with my two-year-old and it hasn't worked! I need help! What IS working actually makes me feel really bad.
Two weeks ago my psychiatrist made a suggestion on what I should do: "Hold the Door Shut." I talked it over with my husband and he wasn't okay with it either. After a couple hours of struggling with her I ended up trying his suggestion, and well it worked, kind of. My daughter screamed and banged on the door until she fell asleep on the floor in front of her door. When my husband went to check in on her after her room was quiet for awhile, he woke her up because he couldn't open the door! By this time we were EXTREMELY tired and gave into the evil, sleeping with Mom and Dad. The next night we resorted to holding her door shut again (after trying the 5-minute drill for a couple hours). This time she fell asleep under her bed. We left her there, and around 3 am she woke up and didn't know where she was and freaked out.
I've tried sleeping on her floor until she falls asleep, which I really don't want to make a habit of! I've tried letting her leave her light on and read books. I could go on and on.
Signed, Tired Mom
Sorry to hear of your troubles. I would be uncomfortable with holding the door too.
Let me ask you this. How would you handle it if she threw a fit over something she wanted you to buy her in a store? Or over not eating her food? Or over not wanting to wear the clothes you bought her?
Have you done the same thing here? She is throwing a fit over something she doesn't want to do. In those other cases, I bet she would find out in no uncertain terms how upset you were with her behavior and how it is completely unacceptable. Has your feedback conveyed this message in this case? Try using the same approach you would over any other situation where she acts in a way you find unacceptable. Make sure she knows you won't stand for it. Different people use different methods; do what you feel comfortable with.
All the best,
Thank you. It is seriously going to take a very strong front!
She is extreme about everything. If you put her in clothes she doesn't want to wear, she strips the clothes off. If you feed her something she doesn't want to eat, she throws it. Her tantrums in the store...well, that's the reason I refuse to shop without my husband!
She is the sweetest most well-mannered child ON HER TERMS! We'll have to keep working at it...with LOTS of patience!!
Signed, Tired Mom
Aha! (Hey, that's fun to say :o) The pattern becomes more clear. She is not just throwing tantrums over bedtime, but about lots of things in life. This is a struggle for control between the two of you. It's possible you are actually showing too much patience in those situations. When you tolerate her tantrums, this can make her feel insecure. Kids need to know that someone is looking after them, that they are NOT in control, because they are incapable of looking after themselves and the world is a scary place if Mom and Dad aren't in control. You need to set firm boundaries on what you consider to be acceptable behavior and take control. You can use whatever strategy you want for giving the message of intolerance (e.g. timeouts, removing both of you from the situation, ignoring the undesirable behavior, whatever you choose) but it must be applied consistently. Every. Single. Time. You must be large and in charge. She needs it, and you definitely need it.
I suspect if you can get on top of this more general issue, the nighttime issue will go away along with it.
All the best,
Not many people have answered this week's Ask the Faithful Readers question. I'd love to hear about the special friends with whom you always re-connect instantly regardless of how long you've been apart.