After about a month of successful bedtime in Jameson’s new big boy room, we interrupted our regular sleeping schedules with holiday travel and parties.
He couldn’t sleep in the car, and was going to sleep on a few nights as late as 10 and 10:30, wired and overtired. Bedtimes were filled with crying and rocking and crying. Jameson would only put up with the rocking after leaving his room once or twice so he realized that was his only option, and even then, he only successfully fell asleep on me once.
At the beginning of January even after routine was settled again, he began screaming himself to sleep. We felt terrible to hear him screaming like that, but all attempts at quieting him had failed. We tried bribing him with more stories if he’d just stay in bed; we let him do his usual stalling tactics and took him to go potty; I brought out a new small kids mp3 player he got for Christmas on a very low volume and promised him he could use it if only he would STAY IN BED.
Instead, he would get out bed and scream at the door until he eventually passed out. At some point, he would decide to go back and get his blanket and teddy bear and lay out the blanket like it was a pillow on the floor. He was determined!
He fell asleep up against the door on a few nights, and Brian would reach in (after banging Jameson’s head, he was so close!) and move him with his pajamas so we could open the door enough to properly get to him and carry him to bed.
I don’t mind yelling and crying, but the screaming was really getting to us. We brought over Aunt Melissa and he screamed for her; the only person he didn’t scream for and stayed in bed for was grandma! But we couldn’t have grandma over every night.
We tried her tactics: extra books, extra love, lots of extra time and being held, extra songs. It allowed me to successfully get him into the bed, but at a cost of bedtime taking twice as long, and he would still get out of bed when we left.
I finally went to the Internet and immediately felt better: I read a lot of stories of parents whose children were screaming themselves hoarse, or worse, vomiting in distress! Jameson seemed more manageable after that.
I came across an article that talked about toddlers feeling trapped in their cribs. Obviously, Jameson is no longer in a crib, but I wondered if he might feel trapped in his room when I closed the door. I was willing to try anything. That night I changed the game on him and told him I’d leave the door open if he was a good boy and stayed in bed.
It worked, but only that once. Since then, he still refuses to get in bed when we leave. We no longer try to force him in bed, read extra stories, or otherwise try and accommodate to him. Thankfully, leaving the door open has stopped the screaming, but we still get the crying occasionally.
We leave it to him to choose when to climb into bed, and after about another week, he doesn’t sleep on the floor much anymore and uses his bed when he gets tired. There are always exceptions (like last night, he tried to fall asleep in the doorway late, testing his boundaries again), but bedtime is smooth again.
Bath on bath night, 3 or 4 stories, a song and prayers when mom puts him to bed, and a kiss goodnight as he stands by his chair. I tell him the door can stay open if he’s a good boy, and he requests it stay open and repeats good boy after me. I’m assuming at some point we’ll need to modify the method as he continues to test us, but all I care about right now is that he’s not screaming.
The best nights are the ones when I linger upstairs doing laundry or cleaning up and he can watch or hear me pass back and forth, so I know it was right to leave the door open so he can feel more secure.