When David was younger, he didn’t go to bed well. He would scream and fight. He would demand milk and not rest without it. But milk leads to bed wetting. And a little milk would lead to more milk. And it would continue night after night. The other frustration was that David never used our names. He would just scream. Even during the day, he would speak but never use “mommy” or “daddy”. In fact at that age he was only beginning to put two words together, and usually one of the words was “want”, “please” or “more”. And his list of usable nouns was very short. I began making him say “mommy” or “daddy” in order to get our attention at bedtime. I would stand in the hall outside his door, listening to him scream. In my most soothing voice, I would sing out, “Call ‘Mommy’ and I can come in,” or, “David, if you want me, you need to say ‘Mommy.'” It was a long grueling process. I had to stand firm and not cave even minutes would pass. The hard part was that Daniel’s crib was in the same room. I had to discipline David and keep Daniel asleep at the same time. The entire process of putting David to sleep would take 1/2 an hour to an hour at bedtime and another 1/2 hour each time he woke during the night.

This is an excerpt from my log of David’s progress. Written August 16, 2004:

The hardest part through all this is that any change–or any increase in something he likes–leads to him screaming to get more. For instance, he won’t go to sleep. We’ve tried everything, but he keeps screaming. We tell him we won’t listen to screams; he needs to call “Mom” or “Dad”. So he calms down and says, “Mom!” I rush to his side (to show that calling me gets my attention) and ask what he wants. He says, “Want milk.” I say, “You’ve had milk. Do you want water?” He says, “NO!” I respond, “Okay,” and turn to leave. Then he screams. And on and on it goes. The hard part is deciding if his cesation of screaming, and calling mom, and asking for the milk should be rewarded with milk. Or do I stick to my guns and say no more milk. We’ve been trying to stick to the rules, but he screams for so long… And Daniel is sleeping six feet away… Now we’re in the predicament where he knows he has us over a barrel. I finally began watering it down.

Last night bedtime went much more smoothly. Each time I was about to turn to leave, he called out, “Mom!” Then if I actually managed to get to the door without being called, he’d call out, “Mom, wait!” There was only about 30 seconds of screaming at bedtime.Tonight I tried an experiment. I put 3 oz of water in his cup, one scoop of formula, and 2-3 oz of milk. I shook it all up and gave that to him when he asked for milk. He grabbed it, sucked hard, gulped, and then pulled the cup away and coughed. We repeated that scene a few times–all the while making sure he stayed calm and in bed. When all was said and done, there was still some “milk” left in the cup!

It’s hard to believe that three years have passed since then. David is now approaching his 6th birthday. Bedtime is still a bit about rituals. He has to have a drink of water and then the cup has to be put nearby. He has to have his blankets–they’re rather heavy blankets. He now needs his Glow-ee Bear and a few action figures. He comes out every now and again to pest for food or to ask a toy related question. I try to answer and firmly send him back to bed. If he comes out too often or won’t settle down, I’ll tell him very clearly what I expect and tell him he’ll lose his favorite toy if he doesn’t obey. I rarely have to take it. At this point, my biggest problem at bedtime is Daniel. His antics keep everyone awake. He incorporates everyone into his super hero bedtime extravaganza. (And I mean everyone: at this time I have all 4 kids sharing a room.)

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