7 Year Old Boy Refusing to Sleep

Updated on June 08, 2012
K.M. asks from Albany, CA
10 answers

has any 1got any advice or have you gone through anything and come out the other side. i have a 7 year old son who has always been difficult to get to sleep but iam now at my wits end.his behaviour is pretty good during the day and he is willing to do most of what iask him but when it comes to bed time it ends in a disaster every single night. he point blank refuses screams kicks slaps shout and then usual trashes his bedroom and sits kickin the door or just sits on the stairs tell us we are mean and he hates us. it hs got to the stage where i have tried everything from taking his toys banning tv and video games and not allowing him out and he seems sorry UNTIL bedtime when its starts all over. i also have a 1 year old who he wakes most nights by callin him and telling him were goin to see nanny which in turn ends in me or my partner losing or cool and shouting on really bad times even slapping him which just makes me feel guilty and him alot worse. iam totally lost and dont know what else to do. so any advise or even a shared experince so i dont feel like iam doing someting sooo bad would be a god send.

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answers from Honolulu on

This is proven & true. Before dinner take them to the park and allow them to run around for awhile. Kids have all this energy to exert. Any physical exercise, biking, running, swimming will help bring the energy level down. If after dinner, they still have a lot of energy, put them on the treadmill or any exercise machine. It works wonders.

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answers from Santa Fe on

I would stop battling him. I'd let his bedtime be about 9pm. After his bedtime routine, just don't fight about it. Give him responsibility. Set his alarm clock for the time he has to be up. Tell him he can read till he is sleepy and then put himself to bed. Then tell him goodnight and leave the room. After 3 nights of staying up way too late he will be very tired. Then when you put him to bed tell him you don't want him to read past 9:30...lights out at that time. Set a little timer if you need to but leave the responsibility up to him. Our 8 year old never liked going to bed, but giving him responsibility for himself has really helped. He stays up a bit later but he now realizes he is going to be way too tired if he stays up longer. He went through a period of time where it was a novelty to stay up till midnight or later...but then I talked to him the next day about why he felt so horrible. After his bath or shower at about 7:30pm he has to go into his room and do quiet things. We might play legos together or read together. Then we tell him goodnight around 8:30. He has to get into bed with a book. I tell him he can read for 10 more minutes and I leave. I think he usually goes to bed around 9pm. Sometimes his dad will check on him and say go to sleep. He does not fight us about it anymore.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Have you asked him why it is so hard for him to go to bed at night? Maybe he is afraid of something or there is some other stressor around bedtime. I used to have a paralyzing fear of the dark when I was a child, making bedtime a real torture for me.

Try talking with your son to find out why he can't/won't go to sleep. Stick to a regular bedtime and routine and, yes, give him the final decision of either going to sleep or staying up late. Eventually sleep will win. It always does.

Good luck!



answers from Provo on

Is he getting a lot of physical activity? My 8 yr old has a very hard time falling asleep if he has any screen time in the evening, or if he has just been sitting too long in the day. Let your son play vigorously a couple hours before bedtime. Tree climbing, running laps around your house or up and down the block. Is there a man in his life who likes to wrestle? My kids love to wrestle their dad, uncles, or even our next door neighbor who will wrestle his kids and any neighborhood kids who join the dogpile right out on the lawn. I do believe that your son's uncontrolled temper is an indication that there is a more serious issue going on. However, while you try to figure out what that is, physical exertion-- not right before bed, but a couple hours before-- will help him not only to tire out but to work out his frustrations. Good luck. I know this is a hard thing. Remember that he is only 7 and needs help working out his feelings. Sit down at a quiet time and ask him questions to find out how he feels about all kinds of things in his life. There will be some things that you can't change, but other things you will realize you can do something to help him be happier and more at peace.


answers from Grand Forks on

I agree with what DVMMOM said. What is his bed time? Maybe it is too early for him? You could try making it a little bit later. Routine is really important as well. Also, put less focus on the punishment and more on positive reinforcement.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Have you talked to him about this? Why does he think it is difficult and what suggestions does he have? I would not punish him for having difficulty going to bed - I suspect that will only make him dislike bedtime more.

I would either drop the tv and video games from his routine altogether (not as punishment) or at the very least move them to the morning. There is good evidence that watching screens (for adults too) interferes with normal sleep.

How much physical activity is he getting? My 6-1/2 year old is pretty much worn out by bedtime. If he is not getting at least a good hour a day of active outside play, I would work on that.

What time is bedtime? My son's bedtime is approximately 8 pm (that's when we start pajamas/tooth brushing/stories). If we tried any earlier, he just wouldn't be ready yet. Plus it's still light outside.

Do you have a fun and calming bedtime routine? We still help my son put on his pajamas (or are there with him) and are with him while he brushes his teeth. If you are having him get ready for bed himself and then just tucking him in - he may view bedtime as time to be separated from you rather than time to be close with you.

Best of luck :)



answers from Dallas on

Well, like others, I wonder what time bed time is. What does he say is the issue? (He is not tired? Does he not like having control? Is he scared of something and embarrassed to tell you?). Is he eating well and getting exercise? Is there a routine? If he seems remorseful until bedtime it tells me something else is going on. And letting him frustrate you to the point of slapping him isn't working either.

I know with my six year old giving him a heads up always makes the transition to bedtime easier "Ok in 30 minutes we are going to get ready for bed." "Twenty more minutes until bedtime." Etc. It gives him an opportunity to wrap up what he's doing.

I am not a fan of sitting with kids, rocking them, staying in their room, etc. I know some women love that, I don't. But every kid has an off day. My daughter goes through spells where she is nervous in her room, or just wants some cuddles. Have you tried an approach like this? Lay down with him to read (DON"T mention bed time, just to read). And help him relax and get ready for bed? Maybe help him make that transition to bed a little easier?

Have you considered a completely different approach? It's summer, which means no school. Have you considered just ending the battle? My neighbor had a similar issue. She simply took away bedtime for her 8 year old. She had rules...no food without permission, no waking anyone up unless it's an emergency, she locked channels so her daughters could only watch kid friendly tv, And the first time she was late to swim lessons (they have to leave the house by 8:45), a bedtime gets reinstalled. She said her daughter stayed up until the wee hours the first two nights. But since my neighbor didn't let her nap, she was asking to go to bed at 10 after that. Which is admittedly still late, but it was better than being up all night and there is no more battle.



answers from Detroit on

Have you ever had a routine in place that gets him settled down for bed? i.e. bath, pajamas, stories, etc.? Is he getting tired out enough during the day that he should be sleepy at bedtime? Does he have a hard time with transitions in general - like having to stop doing what he's enjoying to go do something else? Is he watching TV or playing video games right before bedtime, which would get him more riled up rather than helping him relax?

Personally, I would look at what you can do and what you can avoid to help feel tired enough at bedtime that he is not so apt to act up. But at 7 years old, he is plenty old enough to understand what is expected of him and what will happen if he does not cooperate, if you are consistent about it. I would start with telling him flat out that bedtime is when it is, and then setting up a consistent reward/punishment system for how he chooses to behave. Get a marble jar and a bunch of marbles, and for each night that he is okay going to bed, one marble goes in the jar - once the jar is filled, he gets a special reward or treat. If he does not cooperate or he chooses to act up, he loses TV/computer/video game use the next day for the entire day. And if he trashes his room, he needs to clean it up himself. If you are getting frustrated to the point that there is yelling and spanking, maybe consider consulting with a professional. He won't ever learn to relax and go to sleep on his own if he gets even more worked up and upset by how it's being handled now. Some of it (like him yelling and kicking the wall) may improve if you just ignore it and he does not get any attention (positive or negative) for it. But if he actually causes damage to the wall, then he will need to "work off" the cost of fixing it by doing extra chores around the house.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Sounds like he needs you to go to love and logic parenting classes. Taking away stuff for this is not going to work, how is not having a toy to play with during the day going to be a natural consequence of not going to bed. The 2 have nothing to do with each other.

He needs to go to his room and if he chooses to not go to bed that's his choice, but he has to stay in his room, he is not allowed to come in the rest of the house, except the bathroom. Then the next morning when he is wanting to sleep to noon he has to be up, going to the Y, going swimming, playing outside, riding his bike, going to a movie, having a blast.

Then when it's bedtime he has to go to his room, he can choose to go to bed or not, he has to stay in his room, etc.....then he gets up normal time in the morning, does the same stuff again so that he does not have any time to sit down and sleep or rest.

The next night he goes to his room at bedtime, and soon after his is asleep on the floor laying all over the toys he was playing with and snoring loudly.

He gets up off the floor the next morning when it's time to get up, does a very busy day again, then that night when the goes to bed he goes to bed, lays down, and goes to sleep.

This will be an ongoing chore on your part but enforcing the staying in his room will be difficult. If he has a TV in his room or a computer then they need to come out. Only toys and clothes, no electronics. They can keep me up for 24 hours if I let them.

Doing this the way I wrote will give him natural consequences. He gets to choose to stay awake, he gets to chose when he goes to bed, he still has to get up and function the next day, eventually he learns to go to bed when he is tired.

You tell him when it's bedtime....

"Honey, we decided that you can decide when to go to sleep. WE decided that we are going to bed now so you may not come out of your room. You can play until you are tired then go to bed, we love you and trust you to make a good decision. Good night, see you in the morning". He will come out and do whatever to get attention. Perhaps telling him he will have to go to sleep if he comes out again will influence him to stay in his room.

We made the house pitch black outside of his room when we did this. We covered every window with newspaper for a few days, drew the curtains, took out all nightlights, turned off all the lights in all parts of the house, even my own room. I could use my phone to play words with friends while laying there but it was pitch black.

We also took out the full light bulbs in his room, I think hubby put in 40watt ones. That way it is darker, not as much light and the melatonin starts taking effect sooner.

He was so scared to come out of his room that he only ventured to the bathroom a couple of times, then he made sure to go before going in his bedroom for the night. If it's quiet and no one else is up he will not want to come out.

If he is still staying up all hours of the night and is functioning fully during the day after a week of staying up during the night then he needs to be evaluated by the pediatrician or a psychologist for ADHD. Kids bodies should shut down at night time so they can recharge, if his body is not doing this then he may have something biological going on. Our bodies sleep when they are growing and fighting off illness, germs, life in general. If we are not growing or needing new cells we don't need as much sleep.

One scientist believes that as we age our cells stop dividing therefore we don't need sleep as much. That's why as we get older we need less sleep. I think this theory is correct about that aspect of sleep. Babies sleep 18-20 hours of the day because they are constantly growing and developing, a 10 year old sleeps 8-9 hours a day because that's all they need, an adult is lucky if they get 8 hours due to work, kids, responsibilities. So Hayflick is correct about how much sleep is needed relating to our age and what out cells are doing, if you are interested in this fact here's a link.


Here's a link about melatonin, it is what makes us sleepy at night. Lighting and other things influence when it starts to put us to sleep.


I think in this case, if I felt it was safe for my child and the pediatrician said okay that I might dose this child with melatonin in the early evening so that when they went to their room they found themselves in a darker room and fell asleep more quickly.

There are a lot of things to consider. He may be going to bed way too early for his biorhythm, he may not be tired, only you can figure it out by letting him learn to make choices.


answers from Kansas City on

It sounds like you have little authority even in the day time with him if he's 'willing to do most of what I ask him'. The part that bothers me is the 'most'. It sounds to me like there are issues there for him and maybe the partner situation could be a big part of it with slapping and losing it. If he's saying he's going to see nanny to the baby it sounds like he is wanting to see nanny and not be where he is. I think you need to get counseling and soon. The other advice you've gotten sounds good as far as a set bedtime not too early, letting him be responsible for getting ready with teeth brushed and things picked up, etc. I would also suggest a time for him and with him alone to read to him and I always prayed with our kids then and said goodnight and that was it. I think it sounds like he needs more of you and your time with him that is meaningful to him. That doesn't mean I think his behavior is acceptable either but you need to do your part too. Kids need to obey parents but also you as a parent need to find out what is making him feel so very upset as to behave this way, which is not normal for a 7 year old who is happy and adjusted.
I hope you'll get good help soon and find someone to talk about with him and you together. Also please try giving him you time and attention at bedtime to talk, read and get ready for bed after he's ready for bed.

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