Bedtime Difficulties with 4 Year Old

Updated on February 17, 2011
S. asks from Saint Paul, MN
8 answers

I typically lay with my son in his bed to help him fall asleep. Recently he has a lot of trouble settling down, difficulty behaving with set amount of books we read before lights out, getting out of bed to get a toy and lastly missing his dad. He dad has not lived in his home since age 2 1/2- he does not remember him living there. In the last few months he's been having issues at bedtime specifically- almost like clockwork of wanting his dad. He sees him very regularly and is reassured that he loves him and will see him soon etc. I tried to make him a social story about it but it wasn't helpful. The behavior of not cooperating with routine is I think part of testing for his age, but he is also realizing more about his family situation and truly wanting his dad -- and being tired and at bedtime is when its coming out. Its very distracting and prolongs bedtime along with some of the testing behaviors. I feel bad to have him cry over this- though he's running the show here at bedtime and its incredibly frustrating and he's getting to sleep way too late. I bought the book 2 homes which he likes but again no matter what I've tried he wants dad at bedtime. This creates crying and sometimes naughtly behavior as a result of not knowing how to process his feelings. Perhaps more consistency with the 2 homes book and talking about dad before we go up to bed to deal with it would help? Any suggestions welcome. Bedtime is no longer relaxing or pleasant! Thanks.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Hi shelley
is it possable for him to talk to his dad on the phone every night before bed. or maybe dad could tape himself reading a book or two and then play that before bedtime. hopefully you will find something that helps. T.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Waterloo on

is there a way he could call dad at bedtime to tell him goodnight and have your ex tell your son goodnight AND go to bed like a good boy for mom? it'll reassure your son dad is still somewhere and it will show you 2 are on the same page so he won't figure out later he can play you against each other. (like saying "dad lets me stay up!")if your ex has the same bedtime issues he could call you at night too. there's never too many "sleep tight" wishes! good luck and stick to your guns.

S. m



answers from St. Cloud on

In addition to the great suggestions already listed:

Knowing that bed time is getting late because of missing dad, as well as your son testing limits, try starting the bedtime routine earlier. It may be that your spirited boy isn't getting enough rest.



answers from Minneapolis on

It must be the age! After moving recently, my son is really missing our nanny and that comes out every night at bed time! They went to the Build a Bear store and recorded their voices and put it in the bear. So when he is missing her, he sleeps with the bear. We also call when he needs it and we tell stories about her. Just a few ideas.



answers from Lincoln on

IS it possible for him to call his dad at bedtime, to say goodnight.? Maybe it would help having his dad call and tell him goodnight, its time for bed, etc...



answers from Toledo on

I had a difficult time getting my grandchildren to go to bed without throwing tantrums or continuously getting out of bed. As a licensed social worker with a child with ADHD and Bipolar Disorder, I knew the benefits of routines and rewards. With that being said, I developed "The Bedtime Fairy Rocks Box". The box holds everything you need to help you and your child succeed and start a bedtime routine that is fun and less stressful for everyone: book, song, crayons and stickers to help them color and decorate their box making it their own (which makes it more likely for them to use), and bedtime fairy dust. They put all their fears in the box and sprinkle with bedtime fairy dust to help them feel calmer when going to sleep. All you have to do it is be consistent and provide some small token/reward in their box, so that when they wake up they can be rewarded for going to bed like a big kid.




answers from Davenport on

I have been through this EXACT situation Shelley, I totally understand. Clayton's Father & I divorced when he was 3, and it seems like age 4 is when he became most emotional about it. I made the mistake of catering a bit too much for him, which I now understand was mostly from my own guilt - feeling like I had caused it all. Great suggestions all around - but if the nightly phone call from Daddy isn't always possible, maybe a picture in his room would help to bridge the gap? He could say goodnight & kiss Daddy even if he couldn't talk to him. But Mom to Mom, the most important thing is for you to yes reassure him, but keep your routine and be tough when you need to. Like you said, he's running it now, and no matter what the root issue is, catering to it won't help him in the long run. I tell you this from my own mistakes. Children are more resilient than we are, so don't worry too much about him adapting. The saying is really true - all you need is love. If you are structured, consistent & loving, you & he will overcome anything. So yes, validate his feelings, but don't let it carry on & on. One sweet "I know you miss your Daddy, but you'll see him soon and he loves you very much." Now let's....(read this book, kiss him good night, call him, whatever.) Best wishes!



answers from Milwaukee on

I agree with calling his dad every night during bedtime. Do you own a cordless or cell phone that has speaker phone? That way, you and his dad could buy both buy your son's favorite books and his dad could read the books while you and your son follow along each page. Maybe that might help.

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