Need Serious Help W/ My 4 Year Old and Going to Bed at Night!!!!!! Please!!!

Updated on January 26, 2010
M.F. asks from Fairfield, CA
11 answers

Hello mamas!! i'm in a really horrible situation and have no clue what to do!! please help! my 4 year old son is having trouble going to bed at night!! we just moved to our first house 7 months ago, before then we didn't really have a place of our own! When my son was born we tried putting him in a bassinet and it never really worked so he slept with us until he was 6 moths, then we moved him to his crib! of course he didn't like it, but we tried to be consistant with it, we would have him fall asleep in our bed and then move him to the crib, which worked pretty good! he would wake up in the middle of the night alot when he was younger, like before he was 1, but that was expected! as he got older it was our fault we let him just stay in the bed with us, why? i have no clue!! from about 2 years old to 3 1/2 he slept with us in our bed, mainly because we moved to places that we had to stay in one room together so there wasn't any room for his own bed! =( Anyways, we had our 2nd child last year in feb, june we moved to our own house!!! =) everything seemed fine for a couple of months until he started to have bad dreams and ask us to lay down w/ him until he falls asleep! he started to tell us he didn't like the house and he was scared and wanted to move back to my dad's house, where we were staying in the one bedroom! Now it's come to the point when we say it's bedtime, he starts breaking down crying and say he's sad and doesn't want to go to bed and wants to stay outside w/ mommy and daddy!! i'd love to have him stay w/ us, but it's getting in between my hubby's and my time together!! we don't get enough time as it is w/ him being a cop and all, having that difficult schedule!! He also has said that we don't love him!! how heart breaking is that??? also says, "i'm going to bed sad all day!!" ugh, when does it end?? we spend like an hour w/ him trying to get him to bed, by then, we have no time together and it's really bad!! he cries until he falls asleep and we don't know what to do..our youngest sleeps w/ us now and when my oldest cries and cries he ends up waking the baby then everyone is mad!! we try to not yell at him and try to calm him down and tell him why he can't stay up and if he's scared we tell him he's ok!! we've tried and said everything you can imagine, but he still refuses to go to bed and makes us feel bad!! i just need some advice and some encouragement because i feel bad for him and don't know what else to do...but at the same time i'd like to spend some time w/ my husband!!!! please help me, even if it's just to let me know i'm not alone!! or am i?? lol...thanks so much everyone!!

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answers from Portland on

A quick punch line crossed my mind: your little guy has found a birth control system to prevent any more little interlopers in his family!

But seriously, it's wonderful that you feel for his night fears (very common at his age) and his sadness at being moved out of your bed. This empathy is a wonderful thing. AND it shouldn't keep you from doing what is "most best" for all of you. If this is becoming a chronic situation, you will probably do all of you a favor by finding gentle steps to break the cycle.

You can google around and find a lot on "children, fear of dark" or other phrases that describe your situation. Lots of great tips that work for other parents.

As for dealing with your own sadness, I've discovered that other people don't technically "make me" feel bad, sad, glad…. Those feelings are my own, and can't be manipulated by others so easily once I realize it. When I learn to take care of my own emotions (which means learning that they arise from my own personality, training, etc.), I begin to teach my children that they can do the same.

It sometimes helps with my 4yo grandboy, when he makes a statement like, "If you don't let me do x, then I'll be sad all day," to acknowledge with sympathy that he would like x. Then I go on to explain, gently, why he won't get x (perhaps only for this time). I tell him that I would be sad for a little while, too, but that it's much more fun to be happy, so I would get happy as soon as I could. This coaching can help him begin to notice choices he can make for himself. A wonderful life skill!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Take a step back here. This little guy has you wrapped around his finger and is getting what he wants from you...your attention and security. And it isn't surprising that he wants it! He has a lot going on in his short life...lots of moves, daddy away at odd times, new baby, new house! That's a lot for a little guy to absorb. But it sounds like you all are settled now and he needs to realize that he is safe, that this is home, this is his bed and it is bedtime. And ppssst! You aren't alone either. =) We traveled around in the military, believe me, my kids had big adjustments too! Here is what I suggest...
A. tidy up his room before he goes to bed and "check for monsters"
B. get him a night light
C. read him a story in bed, give him some water to have on his dresser
D. say a prayer. My husband has always put "a force field" of love around the kids.
E. Tell him firmly that you are going now and he has to stay in bed. Shut the door. If he gets up, put him back and LEAVE, rinse repeat.
F. Do this for one week solid, even if your life is hell during that time. If you get into the routine soon he will accept it.
Believe it or not one of the things that kids crave is routine and structure. He is asking you now if what he is seeing is permanent, give him a reason to believe it. =) By the way, having a set bedtime allows him to prepare for it. If bedtime is 8:00 then at 7:00 he should be taking a shower, brushing his teeth and getting in his pjs. Make that part of his routine every night. Be firm, be calm and give it at least a week. =)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Hi M.,

It sounds like your little guy is having a hard time feeling secure in his new surroundings. Here's what I did in a similar situation, and it worked really well.

Put your son to bed and then promise him you'll be back in 3 minutes to check in on him. Then do it. The idea is to keep him from coming to look for you, and to reassure him that you're there. Keep going back every few minutes, but don't interract with him too much (a small back rub with an I love you and good job being such a big boy and staying in your bed). Your visits will help him to realize that you're nearby, and the time in between your visits will help him to realize that he can survive in his bed without you. Slowly lengthen the time between visits until your first visit is 15-20 minutes after you put him to bed. As he starts to feel more secure he'll eventually give up the need for the visits.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

My first suggestion would be to take a breath and remember that this too shall pass. One day these struggles will be over and your children will be grown. They likely will not be dysfunctional either simply because of their troubles with sleeping right now.

Acknowledge to yourself all the good you do as a mother.

Step two, acknowledge what you have learned from the first time around. Take steps to keep the good and change the bad.
Maybe you do want your children in bed with you while they are little. If so, then keep them there but realize there are natural consequences that have to be addressed, like when you finally feel it is time to move them out.

One thing I have done (suggested by one of my friends) to get a child to sleep in his or her own bed is to go in their room with them until they fall asleep.
You can start by laying down with him for a few nights until he falls asleep, then you move to the floor (on a makeshift bed) for some nights until he is asleep. Then come up with your own way to eventually work your way out the door. Perhaps this or something like it could ease your son out of your bed and at least get comfortable in his own bed...first with you there and then alone.
The hardest: be consistent. It is easy to let the little guy back into your bed when he comes in crying at 2 am and the last thing you want to do is get up and go back to his room with him. But your efforts will pay off.
It may take time. Be patient.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on


I have my six year old son still sleep in our room and he comes to our bed any time at night or early morning. Sometimes, he just sleeps in our bed. When he was younger until he started walking, we put his bed next to ours so it was easy for him to crawl in our bed. And, yes, I too lie down with him every night to read him stories (though he can read now) and just talk about our day. My husband and I have our alone time after he falls asleep and we often watch movies on T.V. My son is not bothered by any noises.

Your son is not yet emotionally ready to be by himself in his room and now has a sibling to deal with. He probably has to hear all the time that he a big boy now and your need to tend to the younger one. He may feel abandoned by all the attention going to the younger child and his cozy spot given away to his sibling. He is still young to understand any logical explanations of why. All he knows is his needs and want them fulfilled. He needs slow and gentle transition and a special one to one bedtime routine such as reading stories and going over the day to talk about what good things happened during the day and what he would like to do the next day. You can also brush together or adopt another fun routine such as dancing or listening to music or some other activity together.

I can understand your need to be with your husband and that is important and your son's needs are causing you inconvenience. Perhaps, you can find another time with him or may be both of you can give your son a few minutes of full attention and you all lie down together for a special family time before bed?

Parenting is the hardest job and requires us to make many changes in our life style and thinking. We are not born with parental skills, we got to learn them. When we look for answers, the question to ask is: Is it an inconvienence to me or it is a health or safety issue. Should I follow what my heart says or should I follow popular advice (such as cry it out). What impact my action will have on my child. What will makes my child thrive and happy and healthy. I recommend these books if you can find time to read: Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginot, Smart Love and Addicted to unhappiness by Martha and William Piper, How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk and Sibling Rivalry by Adele Faber.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Madison on

1st of all, you need to get your new little one into a bed of their own, one.. so you don't have the same problem when it gets older and Two, because I'm sure in your little guys eyes it is totally unfair! 1st the baby is taking away all of his attention and now because of the new baby, he is kicked out of your guys room.

2nd.. What i do for my daughter to get her to go to sleep is read her a book, then I tell her I have to go get my pj's on and wash my face, or do something quick before I get too tired (like dishes), but after that I will come back and read her another one (atleast thats what I tell her), usually she is sleeping by the time I get back anyways. She is now 6 years old.... still works like a charm :) Yeah... some times she is awake still but atleast they learn you will always come back. Also maybe try boaring stories, like pick a kid chapter book that doesn't have a lot of pictures...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

These situations are really tough and COMMON. Put the ball in your sons court. Have him figure out ways to make sleeping in his room better for him. Find a time to talk about the sleeping situation. Preferably not at sleep time. Ask him to tell you about how he feels at sleep time. Repeat back to him what you hear so that he feels heard.
"So if I am hearing you correctly, you feel scared at bed time and would like to be with us.... Is that right?"
Then explain your situation.
"We love you vary much and mommy and daddy love spending time with you but we are having a hard time sleeping with a mommy in the bed and a daddy in the bed and a 4 year old in the bed and a baby in the bed. I know you are sad to sleep alone but what would make it better?"
"Nothing" may be the first response but brainstorm with you son. Maybe a night light, books, books on tape, and extra snuggle before bed, a picture of you guys in his room.... See what he comes up with and put all the ideas on a list, even ones you make not be too keen on. When the list is complete go through and find ones that work for both of you. It may take some trial and error to find the bet fit. Stay calm and let your son know that he can be sad when he goes to bed. It is ok. He can even cry if he feels that he needs to but the cry must be a quiet cry. Do not be afraid of your child's feelings of sadness, disappointment and so on. Just help your son find the tools to cope with those feelings.

I would love to hear how it all turns out.
B. Davis
Child And Family Coaching

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

okay you have gotten some great advice so far...but the one question i had while reading your post is, if you have a baby in the bed still, how fair is it to expect your four year old to just go quietly into his own bed and make room for baby in "his" spot? that seems totally unfair! i can tell you're a really sweet loving mother and wanting to make everyone happy - you have to get over that! your focus should be on doing what's best for your children and your family (including your relationship with your husband) i might have missed how old the new baby is, but it seems like you're just making the current impossible situation worse, by adding another body to the bed. i went through this with my three year old not long ago, he was getting over a major illness so it's not like he had spent his whole life in my bed - HOWEVER. it went through three or four really rough nights with him. i chose the supernanny method, of putting him back into bed whenver he got out. period. it's a lot more complicated than that in actuality! like i said it took several nights, which they don't tell you on the tv show. secondly listening to constant screaming and crying for HOURS on end every night will break down anyone eventually. and i had my moments. BUT, if you are consistent eventually he will realize this is the new order of things. of course at the same time you can try to make it a little less awful, get him new sheets, a new stuffed animal, what worked with my son was lots of lights - we got him a night light, and he has this turtle thing that projects stars on the ceiling, AND he has a little hand held flashlight that he loves to take to bed. it helps with the fears i think.

of course be prepared for the "i have to potty", "i need a drink," etc, and take care of those before bedtime. but then in the end, you have two choices - put your foot down and go through some hell to get him to really sleep in his bed, or cave. people will argue which way is best but that really is the simplest way to put it. it's your choice, and it will be your choice with the little one as well. oftentimes people ask for advice on here, when they're not really willing to do the work, just looking for validation that what they're doing is okay. whichever is the case for you i hope you find some peace, and good nights' sleep! parenting is WORK! :)



answers from Modesto on

Your little guy has had the most security ever, since the day he was born :o) He cannot "undo" that feeling of security. You somehow need to keep him secure, while you're trying to teach him to be secure in his own room.

Just FYI, we had my oldest in our bedroom/bed for his first 4 yrs, due to our small living arrangements. This developed his sense of security with us, and that was hard for us to break. was an environment WE created, even though it wasn't by choice, we had to figure it out.

It took us 1 year and new "bedroom makeover" to get our oldest in his own bed, but it finally took :o)

I would lay with him until he falls asleep every night for about 2 weeks. Yes, this is hard when your mind is "racing" on all the things you could be doing, but be patient, because you want to do this right without sacrificing his security and trust in you.

After 2 wks of that, then begin laying there for about 15 minutes.....then "make up" a quick something you have to, 'OOPS, mommy forgot to put the milk away". Go out of the room and come right back in so you keep his trust that you DO always come back. After about a month of that, you've helped him develop a sense of security. That's how you start! After that it's more of "feeling it out", but if you "rush thru" developing his security, then you will have to re-do all that you've accomplished :o) So, try to take it slow.

You and your hubby will have your "time"'s all part of having kids!

My hubby and i now have "dates" after all these years. Thankfully, we're self-employeed, so we can have breakfast dates to make the most of our time together. As a matter of fact, we have a "date" this morning :o)

I hope things go well for your son. It will all work out eventually, this is SOOOOOO normal in my eyes :o)




answers from Knoxville on

First of all, Peg, what a wonderful response!
Second of all, sorry for not actually answering the question up front, but I just didn't want to forget to acknowledge Peg's thoughtful answer and wonderful ideas!
I have a 3 yr old who has gone through the same thing. She's an amazing girl, has wonderful days but really dislikes going to bed - mostly since her sister arrived and she realized that she has to go to bed when the baby gets to 'stay up and cuddle'. She says whatever she thinks will make us respond like "I'm scared" or lonely, sad, sick, thirsty, have to pee, etc... My favorite "Mommy, I have to tell you something" and when you ask what she sits there tapping her lip like she's trying to figure out something important to talk about LOL Sometimes it's just to remind us of the rules.
We took some of her complaints away - like being thirsty by putting a sippy cup - one of those with a straw - in the fridge with chocolate milk and then one of those freezer cups (they're thick plastic with fluid that freezes) in her room with some ice and just enough water for a few sips. The ice melts throughout the night and she always has only a few sips available so she doesn't have to get up and pee 100 times or have an accident.
She's also asked us to go on monster hunts with her so we oblige and check under her bed and dresser and in her closet for example and she has a night light and the bathroom light is left on as well (it's just around the corner so not too bright).
We've tried EVERYTHING we can think of - and even some of the little tips and tricks my nanny friends have suggested and sometimes they still don't work.
We've had to really limit or some days eliminate her daytime nap too and that helps a lot, but the best trick that works is to address all the issues up front - like monsters, water, potty, everything like that and then when she gets up we say goodnight again the first time, but after that we just take her by the hand and put her right back in bed over and over and over again. Sometimes it takes 10 min, sometimes it takes an hour but it usually is the calmest way to get her back to bed.
Oh and the crying and being so sad thing? She tries that too. When we don't respond, she has been seen to peek out her door quietly to see if we're paying attention then she'll let out another good wail to see if we're gonna come running, then gives up on it. It may take awhile, but it does work :) And after a bit it almost becomes comical to see how they're trying to play you - esp when you know that's what it is :)
Good luck!



answers from Sacramento on

First - let go of the emotion. You are the parent and he is the child. Four year olds are still very egocentric and have no idea that their words can hurt others. He is not trying to hurt your feelings, he is reacting in a way that he knows will get a response from you. This is not about emotion, but behavior. It is time for you to decide what the routine will be and then calmly implement it. Your husband has to be on the same page so talk through the new routine with him first so you can support each other.

Next, realize that starting a new routine will be difficult the first few days. Your son is going to cry and scream and push your buttons. Stay calm and realize that if you are consistent every single time, your son will get the idea.

Tel him what the routine is. For us, we have twin girls, we do baths, teeth brushing, read two books and then bed. We tel the girls what the schedule is before we start "bath, teeth, 2 books and then bed". Then we do it. After the second book, we do hugs/kisses and put them in bed. We say good night and we will see them in the morning. (we use a night light). We then turn the lights off and leave. If one comes out, we don't talk to her but walk her back to bed. We say good night and leave. And yes, I have done this up to 15 times in one night. If one starts crying, I will walk in, pat her back and then leave. And yes, it is hard to hear your child crying. Realize that your child is safe and not in pain. Crying oneself to sleep is ok.

You might want to check out on of the books from either Nanny 911 or SuperNanny from the library. They books really work as long as you are calm and consistent. Good luck - you are not alone, but you need to change his nighttime behavior.

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