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Question

I have 2 sons, an 18 month old and a 4 year old. Neither sleep very well. The 4 year old wakes early, runs into my room and then makes loud noises until he wakes his brother and I up (he also does this during the 18 month olds naps - even though he and I are doing something special during that time). I have tried talking to him, explaining that we all need our sleep and that if he wakes early, he should try to go back to sleep so that he can feel rested for the day. I have pointed out days where he has gotten great sleep and how the day is so muhc more wonderful for him than on the days that he is tired. I have told him that waking people up on purpose is not fair. We have created a special morning box with quiet toys and books that he selected -- he has no interest in this and charges in our room immediately when he wakes in the morning. I have brainstormed with him about what he could do if he wakes early and we are still asleep -- while we may come up with ideas, he doesn't implement any of his own ideas. I have explained that he is not listening and that (along with not hurting people or things) is one of the two rules in our house and that if he doesn't listen when I ask him to be quiet the next morning, their will have to be a consequence. Taking a special toy away does not work. Taking a special privilege away has not worked so far. I am exhausted. Any ideas?

Answer

Naomi Drew Replied: Does the 18 month-old sleep in your room? If so, herein lies the crux of the issue. Your 4 year-old feels left out of the mix. Even though you've provided him with wonderful alternatives, he may still want to be with you too. In terms of waking his brother from naps, it sounds like there may be some jealousy happening here. Sometimes an older sibling will do things like you're describing out of resentment. It's normal, and something your older boy will likely grow out of. Have you tried spending exclusive time with him outside of the house? Is there someone who can watch the baby while you and your 4 year old go for a walk or do something fun that's just for him? If so, this may help alleviate the problem. 15 minutes a day of exclusive time with your 4 year-old is ideal. Also, allow him to vent. Ask him to tell you honestly how he feels about having a baby brother. If he says something like, "I wish I didn't have a brother," just nod and paraphrase what he says. Mirroring validates a child's feelings and helps him feel understood. Don't try to talk him out of his feelings. Whatever he expresses is better translated into words than repressed and expressed through aggressive behaviors. Let him know that you understand and love him just the same. As your 18 month old gets older, and they're on more equal footing, their relationship will likely smooth out.
Posted On 2009-09-22 09:45:37
Trish Booth, MA Replied: I think there are two issues, the coming in and waking you up and his loud voice. Regarding his waking you up: Four year olds are still working on self-control. When long explanations and choices don't work, try a simple rule with immediate consequences. It may be easier to refocus this as an issue of when he can leave his room. During his bedtime ritual tell him that he can't leave his room in the morning until a special light comes on. Set up a light on a timer that will turn on about 15 minutes later than he is presently coming into your room. Explain that until the light comes on, he needs to stay in his room and play quietly. You can suggest he play with the toys in the quiet box. Explain that if he comes into your room before the special light comes on, you will take him back to his room. If he resists and makes a lot of noise and wakes up his brother, he loses special time with you when his brother is napping, or some other privilege. Then, the next morning carry through with the plan. Return him to his room if he comes in ahead of the light. Don't spend time trying to win your son over with reasoning. Expect some testing for a few days until he realizes that the new rule will stick. When your son stays in his room until the light comes on, lavishly praise him. You can also consider adding a reward system of stars leading up to a tangible reward like a small toy or special treat at the end of the week. After he has been staying in his room for about a week, you can slowly extend the time he must wait until he wakes you up. Remember, however, that he has his own biorhythm, and young children tend to get up early. As for his loud voice, many energetic and enthusiastic children have loud voices. Getting your son to have a more appropriate volume may take quite a while. If his loudness is a result of his personality and not a hearing loss, aim for establishing a gesture that reminds him he needs to talk more softly. When his voice is too loud, touch him gently on his shoulder to get his attention. Then, in a soft voice tell him to talk more quietly. You can use code words like "use your inside voice." Pair your statement with a hand gesture, such as putting your index finger on your lips. When he lowers his voice, praise him. Over time you will be able to just get his attention and use the gesture. As your son gets older, he will be better able to judge when he is too loud. Until then, you may have to use this gesture many times a day. In addition, you may also want to invest in a white noise machine for your younger son's room. This will help block out the sound of his big brother's voice.
Posted On 2008-01-29 15:43:33
Janet Whalley Replied: Sleep issue questions seem to be common for parents, especially parents of babies and young children. My first suggestion is to find a book or two on sleep. One that seems popular even if it might be a little too structured for you is "Healthy Sleep, Healthy Child" by Marc Weissbluth, MD. Also there are many wonderful books about child development that might help you understand your son's changing feelings and behaviors. Now, here are a few thoughts and ideas that I have learned from experience and others suggested in books about babies and children. 1. Your 4-year old son should be able to control his morning behavior, even if he can't control his sleeping schedule. To help him get enough sleep to keep you both happy, he may need to go to bed earlier. This may seem counter-productive, but it often helps with sleep issues. Another idea is that you may need to go to bed earlier, so you get enough sleep if you are awaken before you are rested. 2. It seems that your older son does not want to play alone in the morning. He may feel that you and his brother are doing something together and he wants to be part of it. In her book on sleep, Elizabeth Pantley suggests once your younger child is past 18-months old that you can put both boys in the same room for sleep. I know it seems scary, but because my boys were close together, I put them together (in two cribs) when the youngest was about 1-year old. It took awhile for them to get use to it, but after a while when one woke up crying, the other one would stay asleep. It might take some creativity to have them go to sleep at different times, but it can be done. 3. You could try some additional things to keep your older son busy and content to stay in his room until the "right" time. If you think he is hungry, you could put a snack (a small bowl of cheerios) and a drink (in a sippy cup) in his room for him to have when he gets up. In addition, you could use an alarm clock that is set for the "right" time to awaken you. It would be helpful if you drew a clock on a piece of paper that would show what time he is waiting for. 4. You could try a rewards system, such as a chart with your sleep rules on it and then put a bright sticker next to the rule each time he follows the rule. The chart may say: In the morning - · Stay in your room until the alarm sounds. · Eat your snack if you are hungry. · Play quietly with your toys and books. · When the alarm goes off, come in to mommy's room for a big kiss. When your brother is sleeping, etc. You could also use the silent treatment (suggested by Weissbluth) to return him to his room each time he awakens you too early. Best wishes with your sleep challenges. I know it will get better with time, but then your boys will grow and change and you'll have new behavior challenges and problems. Speaking as a mother and now a grandmother, parenthood can be challenging, but the memories of the joy and happiness last longer than the memories of the problems. Sincerely, Janet Whalley
Posted On 2008-01-23 20:54:50
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