November 26, 2015


That is the number of bedtimes that there have been since I became a mum.

6 years, 3 months, 25 days

Take off some for the beginning when there were no bedtimes, and those that I have not been home for for whatever reason and that still means that I have put Piran to bed over 2,000 times.

But it is still a bloody nightmare.

Add Kate to the mix (say 1,500 of those bedtimes she is there too) and what you get is utter carnage.

It got so bad in the summer that I started having to leave the house every evening at 7.30 and stay out until they were asleep. And we stuck to it and for a while it worked. We had a strict routine.

I took them upstairs, gave them a bath, put them in pjs and bought them back downstairs.
They could then have a snack and play with me for 15 minutes and then back upstairs for teeth cleaning and a story each. After the story I put them in bed and then said goodnight and went out.
Mr C then sat on the landing – they could have 5 minutes of playing followed by lights out and 10 more minutes of him sitting on the landing then he said goodnight and went downstairs.

It really worked for a few weeks and then they went back to school and it all fell apart. Then Mr C went away with work for a few weeks here and there and Kate was ill and blah de blah de blah.

Tonight bedtime looked like this:

Man came round to talk about the decorating so we couldn’t do their bath at the right time.
Piran decided to put his pjs on, walking round naked while the nice man was trying to discuss a quote.
I reminded him that he should have a bath first. He threw a tantrum.
He carried on putting his pjs on then disappeared back downstairs.
Man left, Kate was removed from watching the TV (which according to the rules should have been switched off 15 minutes ago) – she sulked.
Kate got in the shower.
Piran ate 3 biscuits while playing snap with Mr C.
Kate refused to get out of the shower.
I turned the water off.
Kate got out of the shower but refused to get dry so lay on the landing covered in a towel. This is called being a rock.
Piran and Mr C fell out over alleged Snap cheating.
Finally got Kate’s pjs on even though she lay on the floor pretending to be a rock.
She screamed at me because I tried to towel dry her hair.
She went downstairs.
Piran came upstairs and informed me that he was going to do colouring with Daddy this evening when we is on the landing. I said no. Piran threw an almighty strop, tossed his Yu-Gi-Oh cards in the air and ran crying off into the kitchen.
Kate tried to bring biscuits upstairs and was told off. She moaned.
All upstairs again. Kate agrees to brush teeth. Piran gets super angry and starts throwing stuff around his room and going up and down stairs.
Kate brushes teeth and lets me read her a story.
I say goodnight and try to leave.
Kate cries because I will not do the 15 minutes on the landing with her.
Piran still throwing an anger fit.
Mr C pulls Kate off me and I run out of the door.
I drive to Tesco and buy sweets, chiocolate and two bottles of wine. I know I have to do this solo tomorrow night so I need provisons.
Mr C and I text – I want to know if I am allowed back in the house.
He tells me to sneak in.
He has managed to get Kate to sleep.
Within five minutes Piran is back downstairs, saying he is hungry.
We offer him a brioche roll just to get him to GO TO SLEEP but instead he screams that he wants toast. Then he screams because he wants smoked salmon and there isn’t any.
At this point I start laughing because it is all too ridiculous for words. I have been at college all day and I am too tired to deal. Mr C is having a bad week and he cannot manage it either.
We turn off the programme we were watching, still Michael Portillo and his trains on and just give up.
We all decide to go to bed at 9.15pm.
Piran insists on sleeping in my bed.
I go off, poor another large wine and write a blog post.

I know that we have let things slide but with Kate coming out of her room every 2 minutes and Piran throwing these angry temper tantrums I just do not know what to do. We try and limit screen time, there are no screens after 6.30pm.

You see these TV shows were people spend 3 nights making bedtime magically better. And we have managed that in the past. We really have tried EVERYTHING. But after a couple weeks something happens that mucks it up and we feel like we are back at square one. And we are so much more tired than the last time. I don’t think I have any patience left.

AND they both still wake up at least 3/4 nights a week in the middle of the night.

Advice and/or commiseration gratefully received.

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  • Reply Jen November 27, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    I can not read and run, I really can not. You know that I had years of hell at bedtime with Mini. Maxi has and does go straight to him room and off to sleep at the drop of a hat. Mini is not this child. First off. Ask for help. Go to the GP and ask for some support. I am waiting for some more for Mini. Secondly try things more than once. Children change and so do we. What didn’t work a year ago might now. If bath time is causing an issue drop it. Mine dont bath every night, kids do not get that dirty. Don’t feel you have to do what works for everyone else. Be consistent – it was the only thing that worked for us. Find the carrot of stick that works for each child. I have paid Mini to go to bed and stay in his room in the past! Now he gets one audio book every month and that keeps him in his room. He doesn’t go to sleep straight away, but he is in his room. We have a routine that they get some toast, then a drink to take to bed, tooth brushed and then in to rooms to STAY there. Offer a treat if they comply for a whole week. There is no magic wand, we still have nights where Mini refuses and I can be found sat on the stairs in tears.

    • Reply Kelly December 7, 2015 at 10:13 am

      Thanks Jen, I know you have been here. It has been a little better, and we have switched things around which has helped.

  • Reply sez November 29, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    So wish I could hug you right now! My suggestion is take them back and swap them! Either that or send them to live with your mum because apparently they were ‘angels’ when they had them for a week! There is no solution (you are not allowed to give them alcohol at bed time, shame that!) I know that you have tried everything possible your kids just don’t want to sleep! I can’t promise you that it will get better I wish I could. What I can say is that I am at the end of a phone and if you need me then call me. I am always here for you and willing to listen to any crying/screaming/shouting/moaning or what ever else is needed. I wish there was more I could do to help you. I love you sis chin up and remember it’s not your fault xxxx

  • Reply D December 1, 2015 at 4:32 am

    ok, so…first off – my writing tone is often seen as “blunt” or sometimes “rude” or “judgmental” so from the start I want to say I am not trying to be any of those things and I hope you can read what I’m writing in a friendly, concerned voice. I could try hard to make it better, but I have never hit on what it is that makes my “voice” wrong and what would fix it. I”m sorry about that.

    – have I talked on here about extinction bursts? It’s an operant conditioning principle that can be quite useful to mutter darkly under one’s breath when things go sideways….the loop that matters is cue-behaviour-reward. So, for your kids that looks like: bedtime-refusal-capitulating parents (or at least delayed bedtime). Not said as judgement, just as what is happening. When a behaviour has been rewarding in the past, and suddenly the reward is removed, there is a burst of attempts to cause the reward to occur, especially if the reward has been intermittent (sometimes it works, sometimes there’s not a reward). If in that burst there is a return to a reward, the behaviour is even more reinforced than if the reward was consistent. “After a great deal of -behaviour-, a reward” is the pattern being learned. If the reward can be kept back until after that burst, it is possible to end the behaviour.

    Now, I don’t know if I can offer any advise, because it’s pretty entrenched with your kids that bedtime issues eventually cause them to get what they’ve wanted (or at least they are prepared to battle bedtime) and you’re pretty worn out. The solution is to set firm limits and not to waver thru the extinction burst phase, but it’s bloody hard to do in practice. SO very hard. I do think this is a case for “cry it out” in some ways, which I would never NEVER advise for younger children…but you have to get things sorted so everyone gets to live into their dotage…What follows (and what preceded) is just my take on things, from a faraway land, where those young childhood things are largely in the past, and about a family and a situation I have no first hand knowledge of….so ignore whatever you want, but try to be open to the ideas despite your fatigue and frustration (which I completely understand!) Maybe something from what I tried or learned will be a key to a new process or maybe you’ll just learn more things you don’t want to do. In any case, offered with only the hope of helping (yes, I’m nervous about how it will come across….)

    ……can you pay someone to come and take no nonsense at bedtime while you establish new rules, and then wean them over to you (to get past the extinction burst, especially)? (I’m not surprised that the other commenters kids don’t mess about for others because they are pretty sure there will be no reward, the others aren’t worn out, and kids test boundaries at home, and it was only a week (so not enough time to change habits at home))

    …..can you change the pattern? Change the cue (skip bath, sleep in clothes, put in a nightlight, I have no idea…something that isn’t part of the usual bedtime cues)?

    …can you refuse to provide any reward by putting on headphones or earplugs and just let them scream any time they are out of bed and demanding things, while wordlessly returning them to bed a million times, with no discussion or debate? Do not engage in any interaction after bedtime, other than returning them to bed/room. Tough to do, but very likely to work.

    …can you remove yourself from some of the decisions? (put a timer on the tv plug so it just goes off, no choice. put up a “kitchen closed” sign at 8pm and that’s that. Again, I don’t know what you might think up)

    …does she always sleep with headphones/audio? Having a cue at sleeptime that isn’t there on waking can make it hard for kids to self-soothe if they waken in the night.

    …can you talk to them far far from bedtime and find out from them what bedtime feels like? what they need to go to bed? Make a contract with them? I would hesitate to negotiate with them much, as it seems they currently have the upper hand in the proceedings, but finding out their feelings around bedtime might be useful. It’s totally ok to say “you are really really cross (or whatever) about (bedtime event).” and then carry on regardless, but you’ve acknowledged that bedtime is unpleasant for them, and sometimes just wording their emotions for them can help.

    …why did it work at first? The plan of attack sounded very good, with clear limits and firm boundaries, and it worked. Why did Mr C going away and school starting throw such a spanner in the works? What changed, specifically, in the cue-behaviour-reward pattern? What do you do differently to Mr C? Why didn’t you do the 15 minutes that worked so well? Take a book, be boring to them, refuse to engage, just be there….

    To be totally honest, it sounds like a bit of a madhouse, and I can imagine how overwhelmed and defeated you must feel, especially on days when you are tired yourself. I hope someone brilliantly clever can come up with a suggestion that works, or that you can find some help to get this sorted. Being tired is awful.

    • Reply Kelly December 7, 2015 at 10:12 am

      Thank you for all your comments and suggestions. We have been working on it and have seen a little improvement, and wwe are all trying to be strong and consistent and I feel it is having an effect.

      • Reply D December 8, 2015 at 2:24 am

        yes, strong and consistent would be the summed up gist of my suggestions. Caving in (even at the end of your rope (and yes, I have been here. I single parented from day 1, and have no close family, and sleep became a huge huge issue)) just makes the entire process drag on and on and wears you down in a deep way. Short burst of fortitude, with perhaps some schedule adjustment to help you stay strong and focused (now’s not the time to also take on an exercise program or a new job….)

        I believe you are on the right course, and it will pay off in spades if you can hold on and see it through!

        I know it’s so very difficult. Zen-like disconnect!!! You’re not a bad mum if you don’t respond once your limits are set, and they’re trying to break your resolve…I don’t know why the government has overlooked the intense negotiation skills of the average primary schooler – they’re pretty much world-class.

        Massive virtual hugs to you, mark another cross thru today’s date and battle on!! 🙂

  • Reply D December 1, 2015 at 4:33 am

    (whoops, I see it was your kids that were angels for the week away….can you ask what was done differently there?)

    • Reply Kelly December 7, 2015 at 10:11 am

      Reckon that is my mum’s rose tinted spectacles. Also, she wanted to make sure we didn’t feel bad for going away.

      • Reply D December 8, 2015 at 2:53 am

        well, fair play to her I suppose and she’s not got to deal with it long term, nor have any emotional sense of failing (because we do, don’t we mums? Even when it’s not down to our fault, we in our sleep deprivation tend to picture the worst. Or at least, I assume it’s not just me….)

  • Reply Tammy happy is December 2, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    I didn’t want to read and run either! Sleep deprivation is a well known method of torture used in warfare!

    But I’m no expert either, other than a mum if two and an early years teacher. I have had friends that seemed help successfully with outside help, one got a referel to a local nhs sleep clinic and the other went private. Both were given firm routines to follow.

    My instinct would be to simplify your routine -upstairs to bath/shower then stay upstairs, not all the up/down stuff you are doing now. Do you have a very early dinner? Why do they need a snack? I would skip this or do before bathtime. My kids get a choice now there a bit older between reading time (they read independently)/quiet play in their room or a story read by one of us, we don’t do both on a school night or it would be midnight before lights off!

    When they were smaller and played up we recognised their emotions by saying something like , “I know you’re upset, I know you’re angry, I know you want to stay up/mummy to read BUT it’s bedtime now” then the next time id put them back saying “bedtime” then if they got up again, i would put them back to bed without talking or even making eye contact and then left them to “cry it out” but I can cope with them crying (from temper but not with pain) and my husband is even more heartless than me lol, so he would stop me going to them. But it worked really well for us, they sleep from 730 to 7 every night now but my youngest (6 1/2) was a nightmare till he Turned 4, took ages to settle, woke in the night and would be up from 5 am. (Not good when he shares his room with his brother) Tough love and consistency was only thing that worked with him. My husband and I said and did the same and put on a united front.

    Also be wary of making any threats as they really do have to be followed through (this applies to all aspects of child rearing)

    I hope you find a solution soon x

    • Reply Kelly December 7, 2015 at 10:10 am

      Thank you for sharing and your suggestions. We have had a bit more luck recently, just trying to stay a) strong and b) consistent!

  • Reply Tammy happy is December 2, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    Sorry it’s really late and I should of proof read my post

  • Reply Gill December 7, 2015 at 6:47 am

    Coming to this late, and didn’t want to read and run.
    I can only offer hugs and the knowledge that it will get better. I know, I’ve been there. But what worked for J wouldn’t necessarily work for yours. He went from a toddler who would tell babysitters off if they didn’t stick to the rules, to a terror. For many a night, I just took the view that so long as he was in his room, he was resting, and I didn’t care. That gave me the space and the energy to deal with it better.

    • Reply Kelly December 7, 2015 at 10:09 am

      Thank you. Yes if they are in their rooms I stay away, sometimes they get a bit noisy but I still leave them and they sleep eventually.

  • Reply Martha December 17, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    It’s not easy (I’ve only got one child and don’t know what would happen if I had two!) Moreover, I think that if we didn’t have a wonderful nanny who imposes some discipline, and has taught us to impose some in turn, things would be anarchic in our household! However, having said this, and having read your (very entertaining) article in a rush, it seems that it’s your children who decide how the house is run rather than you or ‘Mr C’. I don’t think it’s their fault, as you should be able to tell them if and when they eat biscuits, watch TV, etc. And if they don’t obey, well, you simply need to make sure one way or another that things are done the way you want them to be done because you’re the adult and they’re the children (plus you’re imposing these rules for their own good). In my view, paradoxically, if children are not given clear boundaries, which they need, they then become confused and insecure. But enough of this (I need to go back to work). I hope my reply isn’t too mumbled and doesn’t come across as madly rushed. At any rate, you write a great blog!

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